After reading Paul Hutcheon’s interesting interview with Tory MSP Annie Wells on her experiences of homophobic bullying I felt both sympathetic and angry simultaneously (Meet the working-class girl from Glasgow who was bullied at school for being gay and became the nicest Tory in Hollywood). I can understand and relate to some of the torment she endured at school as I too am a gay person. I was lucky not to experience homophobic abuse and bullying to the same extent but have some LGBTIQ friends who had similar experiences to her. Like Annie Wells, I did feel confused; I had that feeling of being different from the “typical” boys.
I share her enthusiasm for the TIE (Time for Inclusive Education) programme and hope this brings about change for all LGBTIQ students and improves their experience in the Scottish education system. I do however find Annie Wells’s political alignment with the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party mind-boggling. During the 1980s, the attitude of the UK Conservative Party towards the LGBTIQ population at large was disgusting.
Yes, the Conservatives often bleat about being the “party of equality” and they did introduce the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 under the coalition with the Liberals Democrats under David Cameron. However, the demonisation of the LGBTIQ community during the time Annie Wells was experiencing dreadful treatment at school was essentially being facilitated by the Conservative Party. Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s government, banning any local authorities, such as schools, from “promoting homosexuality”. This silenced any discussion of the LGBTIQ community in the school curriculum and alienated any students who may feel confused or identified as LGBTIQ. The Conservative Party’s attitude towards the “promotion of homosexuality” was not liberal or accepting during the whole of the 1980s.
I understand parties can change and develop but when the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 was debated and voted for in The House of Commons, around half of the Conservatives, including some Government ministers, voted against the Act. In Scotland, around half of Conservative MSPs voted against the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill, including some who sit alongside Annie Wells in the chamber today; namely Murdo Fraser and Liz Smith. Moreover, just three months ago, her party went into a supply and confidence deal with the DUP, who refuse to allow LGBTIQ individuals to marry the person they love, where they hold the balance of power, in Northern Ireland. I find it astonishing that Annie Wells would even want to vote for the Scottish Conservatives and Unionist Party let alone represent them proudly within the Scottish Parliament. I respect her position on the Union, her driving force for getting involved in politics, but does that really outweigh her priorities and make her simply accept that the party she represents essentially contributed to her horrific experience as a young LGBTIQ individual?
Originally printed in the Sunday Herald -13th of August 2017