1919 – 2019: A century of women’s success

In celebration of International Women’s Day, and to reflect on Women’s History Month, this timeline highlights ten major changes which have made the world a better place for women over the last century.

1921: Edith Wharton becomes the first woman to win Pulitzer Prize

Wharton’s novel The Age of Innocence examined the narrowness and bigotry of the upper class in turn-of-the-century New York. Wharton rewrote history as she became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for her novel. She followed this success by becoming the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Yale.

1932: Amelia Earhart flies solo across the Atlantic

Earhart became the first woman to fly non-stop across the Atlantic and is the only person since Charles Lindbergh to do so. In her famous red Lockheed Vega, she flew from Harbor Grace in Newfoundland, Canada and landed near Londonderry in Northern Ireland 15 hours later. Proving she was both a brave and capable pilot, Earhart became an overnight worldwide phenomenon.

Amelia Earhart in airplane

Amelia Earhart in airplane (Credit: Wikipedia)

 

1941: Women serve in the armed forces for the first time during World War II

As most British men were defending their country on foreign soil, the women back home took on a host of jobs traditionally done by men during the Second World War and many ended up in the armed forces. By 1943, there were over 640,000 women in the army which included The Women’s Royal Naval Service, the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus to a white man

When Parks, a black seamstress, refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus in 1955, she set in motion a course of events that would change history. Through this spontaneous act, she sparked the civil right movement in the United States. Leaders of a local black community organised a bus boycott, which eventually lasted 381 days, on the same day Parks was charged with violating segregation laws.

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Rosa Parks (Credit: Wikipedia)

 

1963: Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman to fly to space

Tereshkova was a Soviet cosmonaut and was the first woman to travel into space in June 1963. During three days, she orbited the Earth a total of 48 times. It was her only trip to space and she later toured around the world to advocate for Soviet science. Inspiring women everywhere, she once said: “If women can be railroad workers in Russia, why can’t they fly in space?” Tereshkova still remains active in the space community.

A protrait of Valentina tereshkova

A protrait of Valentina Tereshkova (Credit: Wikipedia)

 

1979: The United Kingdom elects its first female Prime Minister

Margaret Thatcher was the first female Prime Minister in Britain and served from 1979 until 1990, making her the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century. However, Thatcher was a controversial figure, often criticised as she reduced the influence of trade unions, changed the terms of political debate, scaled black public benefits and privatised certain industries.

1988: Julie Hayward becomes the first woman to win a case under the amended Equal Pay Act

Hayward was a canteen cook in Liverpool whose work was valued less than her male colleagues and was paid less. Supported by the GMB union and the Equal Opportunities Commission, she took her case to the House of Lords and eventually claimed equal pay for work of equal value.

1994: The United States Congress passes the Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Act is a landmark piece of legislation brought in by Bill Clinton that expanded the juridical tools to provide protection to women who had suffered violent abuses. It improved criminal justice responses to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking in the United States, passing with an exceptional $1.6 million budget.

2010: Kathryn Bigelow becomes the first women to win an Oscar for Best Director

The 2008 film The Hurt Locker picked up a total of six Oscars in March 2010 as well as the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director. But it was the American director Bigelow winning an Oscar for Best Director for the film that made the headlines. She was the first woman to take home the award and triumphed over her ex-husband, James Cameron.

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Kathryn Bigelow (Credit: Wikipedia)

 

2018: Corinne Hutton becomes first female quadruple amputee to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

At 48, Hutton completed her ascent of the highest free-standing mountain in the world and is believed to be the first quadruple amputee to do so. After losing both hands and feet to sepsis in 2013, she set up Scotland-based amputee charity Finding Your Feet to offer peer support to all amputees in all stages of their life. Through her climb, she raised nearly £40,000. Hutton became the first Scottish double hand transplant recipient at the start of 2019 and now has two hands.

 

Entertainment weekly round-up

Olivia Hill takes you through this week’s entertainment news including the latest movie releases.

 

You can check out the full trailers for the films discussed in this video below:

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Toy Story 4

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Velvet Buzzsaw

Morayshire’s Alternative Reality

Spiritualism and Green living in the Northeast of Scotland

For the conscious individual, living in today’s materialistic Western society can be tough and, at times, rather depressing. It is bad enough that Donald Trump is the elected leader of the free world, and even worse is that a small proportion of the human-race has decided to wage war against mother Earth. Nature is destroyed, animals are killed and humans are poisoned on a regular basis – all in the name of profit.

For some “Ignorance is bliss,” and at times I am almost envious towards those who are able to shrug their shoulders, distracting themselves with television-shows and social-media. But, some of us dare to dream – hoping that maybe, just maybe, there more to life than Instagram-likes and Tesco meal-deals.

In bleak times such as these, many dreamers decide to jump the depressive UK-austerity-ship: waving goodbye to capitalism and careers, as they run away to live with Nepali goat farmers and ‘find themselves’ – or something along those lines. Is our country, and the Western World, so inevitably screwed that to find happiness, we must run away?

What if I told you, that an alternative reality does exist? What if I told you, that it lays in the Northeast of Scotland…

Nestled in a corner of the Moray Firth resides the Findhorn Foundation, a 40-year-old spiritual community and eco-village. To walk through the community one would dander through charming gardens, past a stonewalled mediation chamber, a purpose-built art-gallery and the architecturally stunning Universal Hall (which houses many theatrical and musical performances). Perhaps you would notice the community’s own solar panels and wind-turbine, or walk through the cluster of ‘eco houses’ – beautiful creations assembled from local and sustainable materials, such as old whisky barrels. After spending a few hours in Findhorn, it would be hard to deny that the place is somewhat magical.

But for sceptics, magic simply does not exist.

Now before you roll your eyes and presume that Findhorn-dwellers are a bunch of disillusioned old hippies, here are the facts: Findhorn houses over 40 community businesses and studies have found that Findhorn’s initiatives contributed 400 jobs and £5 million to the North of Scotland’s economy. Meanwhile, the community manages to have an average carbon-footprint of less than half the UK average.

“Findhorn provides a model of an alternative lifestyle. People may say communities such as these are secluded, but Findhorn itself has had an effect on the whole bio-region of the area. Amazing initiatives have started in Findhorn, such as ‘Trees For Life’ a charity restoring the Caledonian Forest, and ‘Biomatrix’ cleaning up water in cities all over the world” explained Tara Gibsone, a Findhorn native, and daughter of one of the community-elders.

However, Findhorn’s objectives and core-principles are far more complex than to simply live greener. To gain a better understanding of the community’s spiritual element, people travel from all over the world to engage in Experience Weeks, as well as many other courses in a range of subjects from permaculture to meditation. Tara explained that these weeks can deliver individuals a “profound experience,” Tara has also helped run the Youth Experience Week, and tells me “I have witnessed it myself, the change that people go through, to learn there is a different way to live.”

Perhaps, you are sitting there assuming that this place would not be your cup of herbal tea, or that you would never fit in, but Tara tells us the best bit about Findhorn is “the diversity – how open it is, it is not secluded to one belief system or practical dogma. It houses a number of different types of people. It is open to anybody.”

I am not saying Findhorn is a paradise or utopia – but Findhorn does show that there is working alternative to the status quo of modern-day life. Surely, this is enough for it to be used as a reference point to guide us towards a better-functioning society in the future.  It is not a dream – it is reality. Perhaps, there is hope.

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Houses created from recycled whisky barrels in Findhorn. (Photo credit: Tara Gibsone)

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Craig Gibsone, a Findhorn Elder, with his pottery.  (Photo credit: Tara Gibsone)

Callander – a town of mysterious beauty

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Found on the easterly outskirts of the Trossachs National Park, the quaint little town of Callander is nestled comfortably in between the Bracklinn Falls to the South and the wide expanse of farmland on the other side of the River Teith.

Callander is home to one of the best bakeries Scotland has to offer, where you can indulge in delicious homemade pies, mouth-watering artisan breads, scrumptious chocolate tarts and luscious apple pastries.

To recover from the inevitable food-induced coma from the bakeries smorgasbord of temptations, take a hearty stroll through the town centre- making sure to pop into the various charity shops along the main street, following the main path that snakes its way up towards the mountain tops to see some of the most picturesque views in Scotland.

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Climbing through forestry to the quiet upper glen, you find a narrow footpath that is hidden amongst the woods behind the town. Following the mossy overgrown pathway you feel yourself become a part of a fantastical world, similar to that of Tolkien’s fantasy adventure.

As you tread through the damp yet brightly lit undergrowth, you find yourself in a clearing that leads to a bridge. The spectacular wooden structure arches over the Bracklinn Falls where the bubbling stream cascades over the rocks, catching the sunlight perfectly to reflect on the leaves of the trees- creating a gold and auburn glow. The colour of the peat-tinged water seems mesmerising and many a passerby has spent a long time standing on the bridge, gazing into the murky depths of the gorge below.

Ensnaring hundreds of tourists from around the world, the stunning scenery and awe-inspiring landscapes mesmerises all who pass by. Formed 390 million years ago, the remarkable rocky ledge of the Callander Crags stretch right across Scotland, but it is from the Bracklinn Falls that its beauty can be observed from the best.

Following the circuit trail through the vast, misty lands of Stirlingshire, you walk through swampy undergrowth until you reach back around to the car park located on the edge of the idyllic town centre. From here your journey will snake its way through the park, past Loch Lomond and some peculiar little villages dotted along the waterfront, looking north towards Glencoe and Spean Bridge, its hard not to lose yourself in the natural beauty that the Scottish countryside has to offer. Callander may not be one of the most well known destinations on the map, but it certainly is one of the most beautiful.

The Hairy Coo Tour – a freely good way to explore Scotland

Lily Baker takes the scenic route

 

I have lived in this glorious, rich with history country for nearly four years and I am somewhat hesitant to admit that I have scarcely explored it, only leaving the capital a handful of times. However, I am swiftly expanding my horizons and have booked a trip to Lochinver, a idyllic village on the West Coast of Scotland and home to the world famous pie shop, Lochinver Larder- after all, I am now a sucker for a mac and cheese pie. In the meantime, I recently went on ‘The Hairy Coo’ tour; a free Edinburgh based tour service which runs on tips and donations.

As the Sunday sun rose over Edinburgh Castle, I set out to meet my quirky driver-guide Paddy on the Royal Mile, intrigued and anxious to see what a free tour of the Lower Highlands had to offer. He wasn’t hard to miss and was leaning on a vibrant orange and lime green hairy coo tour bus checking in his passengers as they stepped on one by one.

Paddy knew the winding roads like the back of his hand and had an outstanding wealth of Scottish knowledge to share with the bus full of eager learners. He was a true Scotsman and his charismatic tone told the tales of the land in a gripping and humorous way. Between his bursts of wisdom, he would play songs from famous Scottish artists such as Belle and Sebastian and The Fratellis, staying true to his roots. As we rode through Scotland’s lower towns and trails, ultimately in search for the countries most iconic animal, the highland cow, we stopped at a number of destinations.

First, the world famous structure ‘Forth Bridge’, which towers over the Firth of Forth estuary. Next the National Wallace Monument near Stirling which stands on the summit of Abbey Craig. The outstanding views of the surrounding landscape were photographed by stunned tourists. After Paddy took us to Doune Castle, home to a Game of Thrones set. I took an enjoyable walk around its quaint, historic village peering into the tiny windows of pebbledash houses merely twenty-five feet off the ground. I had lunch in Callander where I tasted my first mac and cheese pie- love at first bite, washed down with a pint of Tennent’s, of course. The mountains and glens of Trossach were perfectly reflected on to the lochs still waters, like a sheet of mirrored glass sweeping over the land. My surroundings looked like a watercolour painting in Autumnal shades. Around the next bend we caught site of the highland cows, lying majestically in their muddy home. They too saw their fellow orange sister roll and park up behind the wooden fence, hurled themselves up and stampeded towards us. Paddy dished out slices of brown bread and we fed our new hairy friends.

I had spent my day immersed in Scotland’s culture and I am fascinated and hooked by its beauty. To end the enthralling day I took a walk around part of Lake Katrine, pondering over the charming and delicate places I had explored. Scotland is one fine country and I am thankful for Paddy, and the fellow Scotsmen who established the wonderful ‘Hairy Coo’ tour company, for guiding me through the Lower Highlands. We arrived back to the Royal Mile at dark and as I stepped off the bus to the sound of bagpipes, I felt proud to live in Scotland.

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Feeding a highland cow

 

Visit the page to book a tour http://thehairycoo.com

200 years of Scottish history

The Scotsman was launched on the 25th of January 1817 – the birthday of the great Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns – by William Ritchie, a solicitor and Charles Maclaren, a customs official. They created what Lord Cockburn described as, “the first Scotch newspaper that combined independence with intelligence and moderation with zeal.”

In 1820 the ‘Radical War’, a bid for electoral reform in Scotland saw week long strikes in industries across central Scotland, with the proclamation calling for the people to “assert our rights at the hazard of our lives” by “taking up arms for the redress of our common grievances”.  Three of the leaders were executed for their part in the war.

1842- 1867

Beginning in 1846, the rural communities of the Hebrides and the Highlands saw the potato crop on which they relied heavily, devastated, leading to widespread famine across the areas.

In 1865, Scottish physicist and mathematician, James Clerk Maxwell published ‘A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field’, demonstrating that electric and magnetic fields travel through space as waves, at the speed of light. The work was later described by Albert Einsten as “most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton”

1867 – 1892

In 1890 the iconic Forth Rail bridge was completed to become the longest single cantilever bridge span. To this day it remains symbolic of Scotland and one of the country’s well-loved UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

1892 – 1917

In 1896 another iconic piece of Scottish infrastructure was built, with the Glasgow Subway becoming the world’s third underground railway system. The six and half mile long system has stood the test of time that trams could not, undergoing modernisation over the years.

1917-1942

1934 marked the inception of the Scottish National Party, winning their first parliamentary seat in Motherwell, 11 years later. Today the SNP holds 56 parliamentary seats at Westminster.

Described by historian Les Taylor as “the most cataclysmic event” in war-time Scotland, the Clydebank Blitz of 1941, aimed at destroying the ship building industry of the town, killed 528 people and left only seven of the town’s 12000 homes undamaged.

1942 – 1967

1947 brought the first edition of the Edinburgh Festival, in a post war effort to lift spirits. The first festival boasted performances from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and continued to grow with the first Military Tattoo being staged in 1950, an integral part of the festival that remains to this day.

In 1967 Celtic F.C. brought glory to Glasgow by winning the European Cup and becoming the first British club to win the competition, and the only Scottish club to this date.

1967 – 1992

On December 21 1998, Pan Am flight 103 was blown up in a terrorist attack over Lockerbie, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crewmembers, as well as 11 people on the ground. Libyan intelligence agent Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of 270 counts of murder following a trial and was held in Scotland until being released on compassionate grounds in 2009, dying three years later.

1992 signalled the end of the large scale steel industry in Scotland when the decision was made to close the Ravenscraig steelworks in Motherwell. The closure of the largest steel mill in Western Europe caused 770 jobs to be lost directly and it has been estimated a further 10000 were lost as a result.

1992 – 2017

In 1996 researchers Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh were the first people to successfully clone an animal. Dolly the sheep was born on 5th of July and lived for nearly 7 years. She remains on display in the National Museum of Scotland.

In 1999 under the leadership of First Minister Donald Dewar, the Scottish Parliament sat for the first time in 272 years, after the people of Scotland voted in the 1997 referendum that power be devolved to a Scottish Government

At the London Olympics in 2012 Sir Chris Hoy became Scotland, and Britain’s greatest Olympian with wins in the team sprint and the keirin. The velodrome in Glasgow, built for the 2014 Commonwealth games, was subsequently named the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, and Sir Chris to this day owns locker number one in the track centre.

The End of the Road

cromarty

Nestled in the crook of a peninsula, harboured from the North Sea like a babe lying in the safety of protective arms, is a little fishing town called Cromarty. The guardians against brutal waves and unforgiving winds that howl in from Northern lands are a pair of hills, The Sutors, from the top of which you can stand and look across to five counties with your naked eye. Inverness-shire, Moray, Nairn, Caithness and Sutherland stretch out in purples, golds and greens, so intense they seem to only last for moments before the colour seeps into another.

There is common acceptance by its dwellers that this town does not operate on GMT, as ‘Cromarty time’ is the replacement recognised by locals; ‘The other day’ can be last Tuesday or one day in August 1997. ‘Let’s meet at the pub this evening’ will have folk tumbling into The Royal any time between three in the afternoon and 11pm, just in time for last orders. This pace of life captures even the most frantic bodies – you leave Cromarty with a sense of quiet that in this roaring, racing life is hard to find.

That might give the false impression there is not an awful lot of chatter among the streets. Cromarty has its own fisherfolk dialect. The last fluent native speaker, Bobby Hogg, passed in 2012 so it is down to the loons to practice the native tongue. Walking home from the pub a wee bit moppach is usually where they are brave enough to practice the words of their forebearers.

Cromarty is not just a comfort to its inhabitants: the name familiar to those on far off shores from the shipping forecast, a constant that binds us together when so much divides. ‘Forties Cromarty Forth, 4 or 5, occasionally 6 later. Mainly fair. Good.’ A calm yet deliberate voice wishes the listeners a “peaceful night” in the wee hours when everything else feels fragile and the weight of the world’s worries are forbidding you to sleep.

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What marks this town different from others is hard to say. Its own language? Its own time? But irrefutably, the cross-section of society you find there – and who will give you their time should you stumble upon it – is quite remarkable.

Take a stroll down Bank Street with your eye firmly on the horizon, the harbour is your destination and you can taste salty sea air as it laps at your face. You will pass The Cheese House, which makes use of the bygone police station – once collecting criminals, now Camembert and Caboc. Bounce over the road for a chinwag with Baker Dave, 40 years at the trade and never losing his knack. A packet of his Cromarty oatcakes will pair a treat with your authentic cheese. Now you are certainly on your way, ever closer to the ocean. But there is dear Cath and her dog, Maggie, with her ginger eyebrows and whiskers, you have got to give her a wee treat. Cath is pushing 80, but her daily constitutional is never dreamt of being skipped.

This is barely a glimpse into the lives of those who call Cromarty home, it is a town that pulls folk from every walk of life and once you have encountered it there is no going back. Cromarty weaves its way into your very core and no amount of city life could unravel it.

Stories We’re Made Of

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A kelpie as portrayed by Theodor Kittelsen in Bairn on White Horse

Scotland has a rich history of folklore and mythology. From the iconic Loch Ness Monster, to the grim stories of Sawney Bean, here is a look at some of the most famous tales to come out of the country.

No piece of Scottish folklore is more iconic than the Loch Ness Monster. Also known as Nessie, the monster is referred to as having a long neck and multiple humps. Its iconic appearance was solidified in pop culture with the famous “surgeon’s photograph,” published in the Daily Mail in 1934 and proved to be a hoax 60 years later. Although this is the most famous “sighting” of the monster, tales of its existence date back to the sixth century. The first mention of the creature can be found in the Life of St. Columbia by Adomán, although that version of the monster resided in the River Ness, not the loch.

Although it is the most famous example, the Loch Ness Monster is far from the only creature said to be hiding in Scotland’s lochs. Other supposed water dwellers include the Lomond Monster of Loch Lomond, Loch Lochy’s Lizzie who has been sighted sporadically since 1929, and a water horse said to reside in Loch Arkaig. However, none of these creatures have become fixtures of pop culture like Nessie. Throughout the years, many expeditions have tried to find evidence of these sea creatures, but none have been successful.

Few tales in Scottish folklore are more gruesome than that of the notorious cannibal Sawney Bean. Alleged to exist sometime between the 13th and 16th century and residing in a cave between Girvan and Ballantrae, he and his incestuous family of 48 reportedly murdered and ate over 1000 people. Despite mounting fears, they stayed hidden by only attacking at night, meaning it took years for them to be caught. Today the legend of Sawney Bean is a popular part of the Edinburgh tourism industry.

While, many believe it to be a true story, there is little evidence that Sawney Bean and his clan existed, with newspaper articles from the era making no mention of him. Because of this, most historians believe the tale to be a work of fiction. Despite this, it has earned its place as a staple of Scottish folklore, being adapted and retold many times throughout the years. Most notably, it served as the inspiration for Wes Craven’s 1977 horror classic, The Hills Have Eyes.

One common thread throughout Scottish folklore are the many mythical creatures said to roam the country. Among the best known are Kelpies, water-dwelling shapeshifters who often took the form of a horse. In their human form they were said to retain their hooves, and many believed they partook in human sacrifices. Another group of creatures called the Blue men of the Minch, were often referred to as “Storm Kelpies” These human-looking creatures were said to sink ships and drown sailors, although many today believe they originated as a personification of the sea.

The history of Scotland’s folklore is vast and varied. Tales of monsters, cannibals and mythical creatures have dominated our stories in the past. As we have moved into the information age, it is unclear how our folklore will advance with it. Who knows whether children of the future will be spreading these stories as truth, or if a quick online search will debunk any future myths.

A Q&A with Scottish Slam Poetry Champion, Iona Lee

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Photo by Maddie Chalmers

With Burns night fast approaching, we prepare to celebrate one of the country’s most revered poets and historical figures. Burns’ influence continues to permeate the poetry scene, but today Scotland is home to a new array of wordsmiths and mavericks. Scottish slam champion, Iona Lee, is at the forefront of this new generation of artists.

Why do you write poetry?

I have always loved stories and the different ways that they can be told and I suppose I am trying to tell the story of “me”. I am a narcissist and also somewhat insecure, as I think most poets are, and if you turn a memory into a poem you can decide what happened. You get to frame it, you set the lighting and the tone. I am nostalgic and obsessed with reflecting and figuring things out. I often say that writing a poem is like a puzzle that you are trying to solve: When you put that line in what solves the puzzle, to me, is the most satisfying feeling.

What themes are present in your work? 

I’ve always tried to write about what I know, I would hate for anything to seem unauthentic. I like to work with the confessional and I love to tell stories. Being a 20-year-old woman that has been writing primarily since the age of 17 means that most of my writing focuses on the themes of being a 17 to 20-year-old woman-girl-child. Deceptions and self-deceptions and maturing and sex and confusion and trying on all the different youse that you might become.

How can we best support our local talent?

Pay for the art you consume! Caitlin Moran once said something very wise about how Topshop does not have to give away clothes for free just because they have a website. Artists, makers and thinkers have to give away so much of their work for free. It is work, and should be reimbursed so that we can make more of it. With regards to local talent, there is so much word being spoken out there at the moment. There really is something for everyone. Get involved in the movement. Go to gigs.

Who do you admire on the current scene?

A new voice that I am loving at the moment is Katherine MacFarlane. We both share a love of folklore and Scottish fairy tales and her work is gentle and painful.

You have done some great projects so far, even working with the BBC. How did you make a name for yourself?

As with all things there was a certain amount of luck involved in my early success. The Scottish poetry scene is a very supportive one, so that helped. I have had a lot of good contacts and friends and mentors over the past four years. Winning the Scottish Slam Championship last year certainly helped on the success front.

What can poetry achieve that other art forms cannot? 

Nothing is original. Everything has been said. What poetry does though is find new ways of saying what has been said and felt and thought before.

Connect with Iona on Facebook

Scotland: the leading light for LGBT voices in politics

“The gayest parliament in the world” is how Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale once put it, two days after coming out as gay in a touching column last April. Dugdale is part of a quartet of the six Scottish party leaders that identify themselves with the LGBT community, along with Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson, UKIP’s David Coburn MEP and Patrick Harvie of the Greens.

Ruth Davidson, Scottish Conservative leader, lesbian and political rival to Dugdale, put her differing politics aside to congratulate Dugdale on: “being open about [her] sexuality in the public eye”, adding it: “can be daunting [coming out], but worth it.”

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the LGBT community in Scotland, who have undertaken many legal battles in the past. The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 was passed in Westminster, decriminalising homosexual acts between two adults in Scotland over the ages of 21, eventually becoming on par with the national age of consent at 16 in 2000.

It wasn’t until the turn of the millennium that LGBT rights in Scotland were greatly improved. Along with the equalisation of the age of consent, same-sex identifiers were also allowed serve in the military. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 was passed which gave transgender people the right to change their gender legally. The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 passed through Holyrood, giving the same-sex couples of Scotland the right to marry.

Very little commotion or uproar was heard after Dugdale’s coming out column in the Daily Record, mainly down to the fact that it simply isn’t a big deal north of the border but rather “business as usual” from the media and the public. Quite a contrast from when she first joined Labour: “When I joined the Labour Party in 2003, gay people couldn’t get married or enter into any sort of civil union,” she says. “That’s probably the most significant change, although a lot of other great progress has been made on school education, tackling hate crime and stigma and creating opportunities for gay couples to foster and adopt.”

While she has been very positive regarding LGBT rights in Scotland, the Scottish Labour leader identifies certain issues that need to be addressed: “We need to strive for a truly inclusive education system and the TIE campaign in Scotland are currently doing tremendous cross party work to make this happen.”

She added, “We also need to guard against any complacency. Being young and LGBT in our inner cities might be safe or even celebrated but I’m not convinced you are guaranteed the same experience in every community across Scotland. So doubling down on the root causes of intolerance and promoting a respective, inclusive and diverse country has to be the goal.”

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Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.

Since April, the Scottish Parliament has increased LGBT awareness further, as in October of last year, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson proposed a move to pardon men who were convicted of same-sex ‘offences’ before the 1980 Act came into effect. Speaking in Holyrood in October, Matheson added, “Such laws clearly have no place in a modern and inclusive Scotland. However, there are people with criminal convictions for same-sex sexual activity that is now lawful and we must right this wrong.”

It has dubbed it the ‘Turing Law’, after British World War II codebreaker Alan Turing who was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ in 1952, resulting in chemical castration. He was posthumously pardoned in 2013. Hopefully, a lot more wrongly convicted men pre-1980 will receive a pardon from the government as a result of this Turing Law.

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