Gay News Issue 48 6 June, 1974


Scottish students meet on gay rights
EDINBURGH: This day meeting was arranged by the Scottish Office of the National Union of Students as the result of a regional conference resolution in Dundee on the question of gay rights and the NUS campaign. The venue was Heriot-Watt Students’ Union, Grindlay Street, Edinburgh.
Perhaps the sharpest disappointment for the organisers was the low turnout--at its peak only 25 people were present. This was due mainly to the time of year (May is exams month), and partly due to what can only be described as ‘low prioritisation’. In other words, people just don’t see gay rights as a very important issue just now, at least as far as Scotland is concerned.
Because of the small numbers, it was widely decided to adjourn to the nearest coffee house for a more informal start to the seminar. Stuart Paul, Deputy President, NUS, opened discussions with a description of the NUS gay rights campaign. Stuart, well-known as a student politician here in Edinburgh (he was President of Heriot-Watt Students 197 11972), told his audience: “I don’t know as much as you do about the-situation of gay people.” In saying this, Stuart was only speaking the truth--he is not gay and is only obliquely connected with the gay rights campaign. - - -
Mike Foreman, President of Edinburgh University Gay Group, described the particular problems encountered in setting up a Gaysoc in Scotland. The Edinburgh Students have persuaded their Students’ Association to hand over the brief of the NUS gay rights campaign to the local group. It is to be hoped that this move will not lead to massive apathy on the part of the Students’ Association. After the seminar, gathered from Mike that he is considering a draft of an amended version of the NUS ‘How to Set Up a Gaysoc’. Mike wants to concentrate on how to keep a Gaysoc alive and self-sustaining.
I stepped in to speak for Ian Christie on the topic o. ‘The Law’. I hope I managed to avoid a tedious resume on ‘How SMG Drafted Its Bill’. My main aim was to outline some of the tactics we in Scotland are using in order to win measurable social and legal advances. Stuart Paul and David Dancer contributed to the following discussion. There was a natural bias towards young homosexual men at this part of the seminar. - David Dancer covered a great deal of
ground. He is waging an almost single-handed campaign, it seems. As Coordinator of the National Colleges of Education Gay Rights Campaign, he sustains a most pleasant approach, though one or two present thought his hopes were perhaps pitched a bit too high. But then David is one of a still relatively small number of gay activists in Britain who have come out the tough way, and this has naturally led to an optimistic frame of mind about what social and structural changes are immediately possible. David also mentioned that there had been a shake-up in some of the Church of England Colleges as a result ofthe Archbishop of York’s statement about the numbers of priests who were homosexual. At the colleges in question, there had been as many as 25% of trainee priests who had been refused ordination.
Bob Thomson, the final speaker, gave a more or less personal statement on the position of minorities in Scotland. Bob is the tireless secretary for the Council of Civil liberties in Scotland. It was a great pity that most people had drifted away by this time.
In short, this was a most worthwhile attempt by NUS in Scotland to further their gay rights campaign. The small attendance should only spur NUS to hold a follow-up seminar, possibly in Glasgow., next year, and at a more appropriate time of the year. Unless NUS circulate all Scottish Unions with a report on this seminar, colleges will remain in ignorance of what was discussed. I noticed Neil Robertson, Vice-President of Strathclyde Students, Yvonne Strachan from Aberdeen, Margaret Wallace from NUS Staff in London, a representative from Notre Dame College of Education in Gflisgow and someone from St Andrews. Well, big trees from little acorns grow.. . provided NUS willhelp to till the soil!
Ian Dunn

Equal means sixteen
MALVERN: At this years 750-strong annual gathering, Campaign for Homosexual Equality members stamped and cheered their wholehearted support for demands to lower the age of consent to 16.
But lowering the age of consent was only one of several sweeping changes proposed by the organisations Law Reform Commission. Recommended reforms of nineteenth-century Irish and Scottish laws were just as enthusiastically received. And members pledged themselves to fight for the repeal of criminal laws against gays in the Armed. Forces and Merchant Navy.
Only twelve months ago delegates had seemed hopelessly at odds with one another over their priorities. Many came to Malvern this year fearing that nothing would be resolved and that law reform would be shelved for another year.
“But as it turned out,” said one member of the law commission, “everyone was determined to get agreement and to work bloody hard to get it.”
CHEs Executive Committee now has to get a reform bill drafted in proper legal form so that the political
battle can start in earnest.
Entering into the spirit of the rally, the EC deleted the clause asking them to prepare the bill by October 31 this year and promised conference instead to have it ready by September.
Members of the Scottish Minorities Group had been amongst those last year who had been bitterly disappointed by the law reform vote. They had seen it as a failure on the part of CHE to give practical support to the hard fight Scottish gays had been putting up. But they were delighted by the way things had gone this time. In a gesture of solidarity, it was SMG’s Michael Coulson who introduced the detailed proposals to conference on behalf of the Law Reform Commission.
When conference was asked to vote on the report, there was not one single vote against it, and nobody abstained.
With this unanimous mandate, CHE Chairman Michael Steed promised that all the proposals for immediate legislation would be included in the draft bill, and that CHE would carry out a fierce and determined campaign on the basis of the bill.
He pointed out that in introducing any bill into Parliament it was often necessary to make changes here and there in the light of negotiations with sponsoring MPs and other interested groups. But he drew thunderous applause from delegates when he said that the case for law reform in Ireland would be pressed as far as constitutionally possible, and that there could be no compromise whatsoever over demands for Scottish reform and consent at 16.
“We will never support the age of 18,” he promised. “Neither will we accept dirty deals in the middle of the campaign.” These particular demands were simply not matters for negotiation.

For details of the proposals, see story page 5 — New Sex Laws.