Raising a glass

I didn’t blog anything yesterday because I was away at a wedding. One of my oldest friends married her girlfriend in a simple and beautiful ceremony, and then we celebrated over lunch. It was a little romantic tale of modern Scotland, remarkable and memorable only for the happy couple and those of us who had the happy privilege of being their guests. It wasn’t always like that.

I’ve known my friend since we were both in our late teens. Back then the possiblity that lesbians and gay men could live normal lives in the open was fraught with difficulties and struggles to assert yourself and a constant battle against prejudice and hate, a beautiful dream which all too often turned into a nightmare reality. The notion that we might be able to participate in a legal marriage was a fantasy.

The world has turned, the world has changed, and Scotland is no longer the same country that it was way back in the early 1980s when my friend and I pondered the shape our lives might take and wondered if we’d ever be allowed the normality that our straight friends and family took for granted. Yet here we are forty years on living in a Scotland where four Scottish political party leaders are either lesbian, gay, or bisexual, which was recently voted the country with the most LGBTI friendly legislation in the world, and whose government has pledged itself to adopt legislation protecting transsexual people and allowing them to define their own gender identity.

The Scottish government has recently been criticised for not doing more to challenge homophobic bullying in schools. It’s a serious problem, and the TIE campaign must be congratulated for all the hard work they’re doing in order to publicise an issue which blights the lives of untold numbers of young people in Scottish schools. It’s a far cry from my school days, back in Coatbridge in the 1970s homophobic bullying was normal, because homophobia was official policy. Homophobia was the law.

Not long after realising that I was gay, around the age of 13, terrified that anyone might discover my secret, two older boys in my school were caught by a teacher having a wee kiss under a stairwell. If a boy and girl had been caught kissing in similiar circumstances they’d have been told to move on, and little more would have been said. But this was two boys, and that’s not what happened. They were removed from the school and were never spoken of again. At the age of 13 my school taught me that what happened if anyone found out you were gay was that you would be disappeared, you’d vanish into the maws of public disapproval and disgust, never to be heard of again. That was the price of an innocent kiss in 1970s Scotland.

The TIE campaign must be lauded and supported, but it operates in a very different world from the bigotry and fear of a Scotland that remains well within living memory. Problems and issues remain, but we are a better place and a better country than we were just a few decades ago.

It’s not just around issues of sexual orientation and gender identity that Scotland has made huge progress. The rampant sectarianism of my youth is also a thing of the past. In the 1960s and 70s everyone of Catholic Irish descent in the West of Scotland knew that there were many places of employment where you could forget about applying for a job. Left footers were not welcome. Sectarianism defined you, defined your employment, defined who you could marry and how you lived your life, defined who you voted for. It was all encompassing and all pervasive.

Nowadays the discussion about sectarianism centres on offensive songs at football matches and the marches of marginalised bigots. Sectarianism no longer has the power it once did, it’s a shadow of its former self. Problems and difficulties remain, no one is denying that, but in this issue too, Scotland is a much better place than it was. We have made enormous strides towards a Scotland where a person’s religious background is not an issue, and for most people, in most circumstances, we’ve already got there.

But of course we’re Scottish, and being Scottish means that you’re not allowed to acknowledge your achievements, you have to keep beating yourself up over the injustices and inequalities that still exist. No one is denying that problems still exist, that there are challenges still to be faced and obstacles to overcome, in tackling homophobia or sectarianism as much as in other areas of Scottish life, but if we don’t acknowledge the achievements we’ve made and how far we’ve come then we lose all sense of perspective.

Scotland is too used to seeing itself reflected through the distorting mirror of the Union. That’s a view that portrays us as the poor backward northern relative of the cosmopolitan and sophisticated south, and because of that we lose sight of the achievements that we’ve made for ourselves, the changes for the better that we’ve wrought in Scotland. We risk losing sight of the fact that Scotland is a much happier country than it used to be, and it is so because of the increased confidence and self-assuredness of ordinary Scottish people.

The changes in Scotland have little to do with our political classes. Politicians follow public opinions, they don’t shape them. The credit for the positive changes in Scottish society is due to the people of Scotland. We’ve achieved so much, we can achieve so much more. Our potential is endless and our future is a vista of great possibilities. We did that. You, me, the guy next door, the woman on the bus and the auld guy playing bools in the park, the people of a Scotland that is open to change and is increasingly aware of its own potential.

And as we celebrated the beautiful wedding of a loving pair of women, I raised a wee glass to toast the Scotland that made it possible.

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46 comments on “Raising a glass

  1. Lewis Thomson says:

    That’s a wonderful piece of celebration. Well done and thank you!

  2. thomaspotter2014 says:

    Aye Paul another Scotland is possible.

  3. […] Wee Ginger Dug Raising a glass […]

  4. Janet Russell says:

    What a beautiful post 🙂 xx


    Sent from my iPad


  5. G says:

    thanks for that

  6. […] Source: Raising a glass […]

  7. diabloandco says:

    Your turn next?

  8. Sandra Stewart says:

    Fantastic piece. Here’s to an even better Scotland, one where people can feed and clothe their weans, where people don’t have to beg on the street and everyone has a roof over their head. Our people deserve more.

  9. What everyone else has said, Paul. Thank-you, I raise a glass, and I don’t believe in long engagements.

  10. Marconatrix says:

    What is so wonderful about marriage as an institution, and why should it be recognised by the state? Is it not simply another way of forcing people to conform to a one-size-fits-all arrangement (an arrangement they´ve had no part in devising), just another mechanism whereby dominant individuals and society at large exploit the weak?

    If people wish to voluntarily make commitments to one another, even legal agreements, then so be it. But why should it be any different from setting up a business (for example), why all the quasi-religious crap? How can you condemn sectarianism (essentially religion) on the one hand, and promote marriage on the other?

    I honestly find it hard to see the point of gay marriage in particular, but any sterile marriage in general. Perhaps it all come down to tax breaks? Why not just treat everyone as an individual who may or may not be responsible for children … and leave it at that?

    • Christ, at your wedding, instead of saying, ‘I do’, you’ll be saying, ‘You’ll do’.

      Sterile marriage? FFS.


      Taxi for ‘The Stone Age!

    • mccorma says:

      And right there we see there is still work to be done. We have come so far and it is something good to be proud of as a nation and feck all to do with politicians. Thankfully in Scotland your attitude is now the exception where once it was the rule.

    • 1314 says:

      I was married, took the vows – then I wasn’t. It was worse than that really. I was married in a church when I had already decided, as soon as I got to the decision age, that I didn’t believe. But I was young and said the words because, well, what herm. I’m not alone.

      Marriage can be legal, religious and legal, or just felt. I prefer felt, and I don’t have to call it anything. Seems to me that is inclusive of humanity.

      So new laws have ‘made legal’ the feelings of homosexual people – and about (eternal) time too.

      Should they get married ? Well, like everybody else, that depends on how they feel about it.

      ps Pity about the ‘sterile marriage’ above. If it means without the ability to reproduce, that’s just stupid. If it means without feeling that’s another matter.

  11. macart763 says:

    Our wee country is growing up. 🙂

  12. Tinto Chiel says:

    Funnily enough, Mrs TC and I were driving up Bothwell Street today and saw two guys walking along holding hands. I said to her that we wouldn’t have seen that even ten years ago in Ra Toon.

    Scotland is changing, and very quickly. We are the most progressive part of the UK, something the London Metrovincials would never understand.

    Our next step is to progress ourselves out of this infernally corrupt Union, for all our children’s sake.

  13. […] Source: Raising a glass « Wee Ginger Dug […]

  14. Scotland’s come a long way, even with only a fraction of the tools we could have.

  15. Shagpile says:

    Braw 🙂

  16. Jan Cowan says:

    I’m glad that those who wish can marry though I do feel that two people can have a trusting relationship without marriage. The main idea is to provide a safe and stable home for a family, one way or another.

  17. Michael Annis says:

    A beautiful piece whose sentiment I heartily concur with. Having spent nearly all my teaching career in the People’s Republic of Coarbridge, it does have its share of Neanderthals, even now, but it also has left me with many wonderful memories and friends, of many orientation and I am proud of these wonderful people growing up with the values we learnt to cherish together.

  18. fillofficer says:

    lovely, paul. modern scotland is a great country & improving rapidly under the current management, despite the yoons. couldn’t, wouldn’t live anywhere else

  19. Albawoman says:

    Scotland really needed to change attitudes. I lived in the prehistoric times where people were regularly beaten up and left lying in the street just because of their sexuality. The 1980’s were a nightmare for gay communities.

    It’s as if a light has shone on people’s minds and it is so good to see and be part of this change.

  20. Steve Asaneilean says:

    Excellent piece as usual Paul.

    Sadly the sectarianism of West Central Scotland worked both ways in the 1980s as the Monklands District Council disgrace clearly demonstrated.

    Thank goodness 99% of Scotland has finally grown up and moved on from such childish nonsense (although to be fair children would never be as ignorant and intolerant as some of the bigoted, racist and homophobic adults I have come across).

  21. Paul, a tender and heart warming piece.
    I’m slightly older than you, and attended school in the ‘fifties and ‘sixties.
    I realise that you may find it a stretch, but we hetero guys didn’t have it so good either. I cannot, nor dare not speak fro the girls.

    My whole life was mapped out for me, almost from birth by the Judeo Christian ethos which underpinned post war Scotland.

    As a man, it was expected that I would attend school, and depending upon which grade I achieved in the ‘Qualifying’ exams (the equivalent of the English ’11 Plus’), we would be separated into those who would be prepared for manual labour, the electricians, joiners, coppersmiths, turners, welders, and those who would go on to Higher Education, and ultimately University, and the professions, law, teaching, finance, journalism, and so on.

    I ‘passed my qualie’ when I was 10 years and seven months old, the only pupil in my class, and for six years, commuted between Clydebank and Dumbarton. Not for me woodwork, metal work, or Techie Drawing.
    My curriculum included English,Latin, Greek, French, German , Spanish,Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Music, Art, all sports from football to cricket, and of course History (predominantly English) and Geography.
    We were being groomed for the Establishment, while still in short pants.

    Catholics were excluded from some professions. Famously journalism, the law, and Insurance were overtly sectarian. To dispute this is tantamount to Holocaust denial. It happened, but we’ve moved on.

    Sectarianism was a given. No Laws needed in them days.

    We were conditioned to accept that we would have to earn enough money to keep our wives and children. Our wives would give up work to look after our children, with no end of this maternal duty in sight.

    Men were expected to be prepared to go to war and kill people, for Queen and country. |NO argument, it was expected of you.

    Masturbation, and premarital heavy petting, never mind sex, were prohibited and abusers would go straight to hell unless they repented and condemned their evil ways.

    We were expected to marry a girl two to three years younger than us, of the same religion of course, and start a family right away.

    The girl of our ‘choice’ usually lived in the same housing estate, and would be someone whom we had known since primary one. Our mothers were probably life long friends. Arranged marriages, Sikh style. ( I do joke about this with Sikh friends, honest. I am not being sectarian here.)

    I personally was a best man at 18, the bride and groom being teenagers. I have a 50 year old god daughter. There wasn’t the pill. Girls ‘saved themselves’ for marriage. If a poor soul ‘fell pregnat’, the lad did ‘the honourable thing’ and they were wed.

    There were no homosexuals. There were a few Mummy’s Boys. There certainly weren’t any lesbians. No, no , no.

    Our Shakespeare was the ‘abridged’ version. None of that smutty nonsense.

    Will’s Sonnets to His Love, were billet doux to a young lady. So there.

    All and all it was a shitty time.

    WE were asked to believe that a man could take bread and wine, and magically turn it into the body and blood of Jesus, and forced under pain of eternal damnation to be as cannibals and eat this ‘miraculous’ flesh and blood. That was the Kafflicks of course.
    Protestants could not hang a washing out on a Sunday,or consort with any one of another faith. Dancing was the Devils work.

    Indeed we have come a long way , Paul.

    I cannot even imagine what it must have been to be homosexual.
    I hated the ‘sixties.

    Thank the Chief we’ve left that crap behind.

    • diabloandco says:

      On reading that I am glad I am a North Easter – the west coast appears to have had it bad!
      I too was educated in the 50’s and 60s and apart from being politely asked to leave both the Latin and Physics classes quite enjoyed school. Though I am most impressed with your languages , must be almost up there with Paul.

      • Sorry, Diabloandco (what an interesting handle;- The Devil and Company. )

        The range of languages which I set out were not all compulsory. I chose the Classics and ‘only’ majored in English Latin , Greek, and French.
        The sciences were also a Pick ‘n’ Mix. After second year pupils could opt for physics and/or Chemistry, Biology , and Arts and Music became specialist subjects by Year 3.
        I have been a Life Long learning beast, picking up Italian, Spanish, and some German along the way.
        Many years ago when I was visiting my Bro in Law in Tubingen, I ventured bravely out one morning to fetch the ‘papers and the morning croissants.
        I negotiated my way well through the ‘ guten morgen’ stage, and was pleased with myself on the way back to my in law’s flat.
        A gaggle of ten year olds gathered around me playfully and fired gleeful colloquial German remarks towards me.
        In well rehearsed German, I explained that I was Scottish and didn’t speak German.
        The impeccable logic of children kicked in.
        Here was a grown up protesting in perfect German, that he was a furriner, and did not speak German. They swirled off in a tangle of running legs into the morning mist laughing their heads off at the obviously deranged man.

        This was one of the main drivers in my early polyglot ambitions: the fact that my relatives started moving away for work; Tubingen, Pisa, Lectour, Madrid, and so on.

        I am intrigued that the North East was a hot bed of Free Love, Divorce, and unbridled hedonism during the ‘fifties and ‘sixties. That would explain the ‘diablo’ in you.

        However, I do not exaggerate. The Swinging ‘Sixties didn’t happen in Clydebank.
        If a guy wore a pair of purple crushed velvet hipsters to a dance, he would have deserved all he got..if you see what I mean.
        If only I had moved to Huntly, or Keith, or Peterhead.

  22. Jill says:

    Such a cheering post at the end of a dismal week

  23. Tinto Chiel says:

    Jack: wow, what a brilliant panorama of post-war Scotland! It didn’t get much better for my teen years in the late Sixties/early Seventies, but things are much better on the sex/gender front for our own children, or so my daughters tell me. Who gives a Carmichael about sexuality now?

    What I hated most about these years was the conformity, the curtain-twitching desire for respectability and knowing your place which stalked the miserable working-class Tory enclaves of the 1950s and 1960s.

    Fortunately, we in Scotland are poised to smash everything up in UKOKia and build a forward-looking society.

    Just a few more years, guys.

    Free at last, free at last…..

    • TC:

      ‘God gave Noah the Rainbow Sign:
      No more water, the fire next time.’

      I recall James Baldwin’s ‘Going to meet the Man’, and ‘The fire Next Time’ , from the ‘sixties. Magnificent then, still moves me now.

      Referendum 2 is our ‘fire next time’.

      They can keep ‘their’ pound, we will have a Scottish Central Bank, and we shall remain part of the EU, clarification of continued membership having been established in June this year. I look forward to Lord Darling, Liar Carmichael, and The Clunking Fist, attempting to lie to and threaten us.

      See where you have taken us with your Toast to the Ladies’ piece, Paul.
      Proud to be Grey, but not past it.

  24. Bill Hume says:

    As a hetrosexual male of (early)1950’s vintage, I am truely astonished how far Scotland (and being honest, I) have come.
    I’m raising a glass to the blushing brides.

    • Black Rab says:

      Nice. There is a world of possibilities to discover. Let’s do it together, all of us…………….all of us. I raise a glass to your friends.

  25. MI5 Troll says:

    Jack that was interesting reading. I don’t recognize that country at all and I am so glad to have been born a little later. I went to comprehrensive secondary school in the seventies and we were in that first year after all that “11 plus” crap ended. I never had any hassle about being at a catholic school when training for medicine and remember many great gay and lesbian senior doctors I came across during my training. The country has moved on but its not perfect. I still hear some homphobic mince(unfortunately often from older folk.

    • MI5 Troll.
      Medicine, dentistry, GP’s and so on were admittedly open to all. I don’t want to beleaguer the sectarianism point. It has gone, finished, and we have moved on.

      Organised religion has not had its troubles to seek in the past decade, and thankfully Religion no longer has a prominent role in our society in the main.

      I repeat, my formative years were shit.

      We were suffocated by conformity, religion, the societal hierarchy, and, well, class, up until the late ‘sixties, early ‘seventies.
      I am so glad that you don’t recognise the ‘fifties and ‘sixties world of us Baby Boomers.
      WE did rail against conformity, honest. The times, they did a’ change
      I am heartened that you were in on the New Dawn of the early ‘seventies.
      It is a lifetime ago,now

      As you say there are some knuckle draggers still out there, who apply the same sinister elitist bile to others they feel, nay believe, who are lower down the social scale than they.

      Froggies, Dagos, Krauts, Sweaties, Pakies, Nig Nogs, Horse’s Hooves, Benders, Dykes, Papes, Orange Bastards, Towel Heads, Nats, and so on.

      It turns the stomach.

      They are still there, but a dying breed.
      I’ll stop now. Let’s climb out of this pit of despair and the Bad Old Times.

      3 weeks to go.

    • I replied to your post, MI5 Troll, but it seems to have got lost in the Ethernet.
      We weren’t completely suffocated by conformity.
      You may recall the ‘would you let your servant read this?’ comment from the Crown prosecutor during the Lady Chatterley trial? 1963?
      ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.’
      ‘Saturday Night Sunday Morning.’
      ‘Billy Liar.’
      ‘A Taste of Honey.’
      ‘The L-Shaped Room.’
      ‘This Sporting Life.’
      ‘Room at the Top.’
      ‘I’m Alright, Jack.’
      ‘Cathy Come Home.’
      ‘Up The Junction’.
      ‘Soldier Blue.’
      ‘Midnight Cowboy.’

      and so much more.
      The times changed, but slowly, if inexorably.

      I recommend all of the above to everybody.
      I have a notion to YouTube ‘Abigail’s Party’, from your formative years, the ‘seventies.

      Live long and prosper, bon docteur.

      • WRH2 says:

        Jack, I grew up in the fifties as well and remember it as a most dreary decade. You’re right when you talk about conformity and I remember the concern or downright fear most people had that they might be thought by others of not conforming properly. It wasn’t enough to conform but you had to be seen to conform in the correct way. And growing up in a rural area was even worse because of the very obvious class divide. The unspoken threat was always of what “our betters” would think of us. Of course, the indiscretions of “our betters” we’re not allowed to be commented on. That was the ultimate sin.
        The religion we were shovel fed at school just served to keep us in our place and those who were from the farm working class were discouraged from thinking beyond that. The farmers needed workers and the schools were there to ensure the supply. Any ambition from kids like me was to be discouraged. Of course with increasing mechanisation the workers were discarded without a minute’s thought.

        • WRH2, we were ‘kept in our place’.
          The Frost Report sketch with John Cleese, Ronnie Barker, and Ronnie Corbett, just about summit up.
          ‘ I know my place.’ A masterpiece of social comment.

          I was brought up in a shipbuilding, heavy engineering community.

          It seems that you suffered from exactly the same hierarchical oppression in agriculture.

          Yet there are still belted Earls who own vast tracts of Scotland, awarded to them by some bloodthirsty king centuries ago, for bloody services rendered.

      • chicmac says:

        Yep, there were lots of films in the 60’s which challenged the hitherto social orthodox.
        A few others that come to mind which I would add are “The Killing of Sister George”, “Brotherly Love”, “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”, “The Graduate” and “Georgy Girl”.

        One irony being that a term such as ‘Angry young MEN’ for the group most responsible for the new social awareness, would probably not play well today.

        The only one I can think of from before the 60s which I saw on TV as a boy, was J M Barrie’s “The Admirable Crichton” from the 50’s. Indeed, it is even more remarkable to think that Barrie wrote this in 1902 when it would have been incredibly daring and prescient. Although I believe his original ending where Crichton marries Mary, Lord Loam’s daughter was considered a step too far and had to be rewritten so that the social order was restored.

        Of course, one could also perhaps point to the many film adaptions of Dickens but to my mind his caricature to the point of comedy of his characters and of course the soft distance of time, diluted their potency in terms of forcing any real social change.

        • chicmac says:

          Errata, I was in a rush
          ‘as well as prescient’
          Strike the ‘Although’

          Also “Brotherly Love” as it seems to be known now, was called “Country Dance” when a couple of friends and I saw it in the cinema in Perth. It is a little known O’Toole film but as it was set in and around Perth, it stuck in my memory. It had much to say about the divisions in society which existed back then and were particularly clear to us in Perth. We almost felt sorry for the nobs then because they seemed to be bored out of their fucking minds and just perhaps beginning to envy our lives in the real world. Must say, we did not pick up on the incest hints in the film at the time, just thought he was an overly protective brother who was gradually being driven nuts by boredom.

          Back then Perth was ‘surrounded’ by estates owned by the likes of the Mansfields, Drummond-Hays, Rollos, Moncriefes etc. They virtually had their own little section of Perth. St John’s St was the nobs’ street with expensive jewellers, riding equipment shops, skiing shops and a posh department store called McEwens which had a doorman to stop the riff raff getting in. In the High Street opposite the entrance to St John’s St there existed a kind of mini Harrods, J&D Gowan which had quaint little maroon coloured, flat topped and spoked wheeled delivery trucks, like something out of the 20s or 30s, which used to deliver the shopping to the nobs.

          Of course, times have changed. J&D Gowan long gone, McEwen’s unlamentedly by me, though no longer as exclusive, went bust just recently and Kinfauns Castle, once owned by the Drummond-Hays is now in the possession of Anne Gloag, the sister of Brian Souter (they both started the company ‘Stagecoach’ with a couple of second hand buses).

          But when I were a lad, coming out of the Yorkie (dancing) on a Saturday night, queuing with my mates to get in to a popular nearby carryout you could often see nobs parked in their open topped sports cars in the car park across the street indulging in social voyeurism. It was kinda sad to think they had nothing better to do than watch the oiks and make fun of them as a cover for their unspoken envy.

          • I’m trying to imagine the sons of gentlefolk parked in their MG’s and Triumph Stags in Glasgow Road of a Friday night within sight of one of the many chippies which fed us Young Blades after a night out, watching the Great Unwashed at play and laughing haughtily at us.
            It would never have happened. Unless some of them had a Jonesville style suicide pact.
            Interesting to hear that about Perth though.
            The nobility and landowners are still there…but the cap doffing subservience of the Lumpen Proletariat ain’t.
            As I have observed before, if one of those Red Tory Peers entered my company and introduced himself as ‘Lord’ Grabalot I’d burst out laughing at his pretentiousness.

            The only person to whom I’d bow while backing out of a room would be a mad psycho wielding a machete in my local.

            • chicmac says:

              A point I was trying to make is that, in a way, they were/are as much a victim of the fucked up British class system as we were/are, maybe in some ways, more so.

              Obviously not in terms of wealth or opportunity but in other ways.

              They are, after all, just human beings like the rest of us.

              Yes, most of them who went through that upbringing ended up complete tossers but not all.

              I remember as a young boy living in the Kinfauns parish, while out playing we sometimes met Aneli Drummond-Hay on her horse. She usually stopped to talk to us and I remember at least once she hoisted me up in front of her to sit on her horse and walk on. Think – princess Anne in relation to other royals but even more down to Earth.

              Mind you, she was the only one I can think of from that local ilk which went on to achieve anything praiseworthy. She became very successful in showjumping winning many events including the European Championship, so perhaps that experience was in the exception which proves the rule category.

              However, the point is that the British class system’s main crime, IMV, is that it prevents many people from reaching their full potential as human beings on both sides of the fence.

  26. mealer says:

    Quality,Paul.Quality.Scotland has come a long way in recent years and it’s all good.Two thirds of the party leaders are openly gay or bi and I’m there.I’m keeping up.Now,how do I feel about a transexual First Minister? Or how do I feel about a First Minister who appears as a Woman one week and a man the next,but sometimes neither or both? I’m not there.Too far out of my comfort zone.Probably due to my ignorance and lack of understanding,thus far.
    We argue that LGBTI people should have the same rights as others,but we mustn’t expect the debate to confine itself only to what the general public can accept at the moment.Is there any reason why any relationship between any consenting adults should be unacceptable? Who shouldn’t be allowed to marry and why?
    As a straight man in a traditional type of arrangement this is all very interesting to me in a philosophical sense,but I am aware that their are people out there living it.

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