Despite over 25,000 complaints about Jan Moir’s insensitive article in the Daily Mail after the death of Boyzone star, Stephen Gately, it is the Scottish Daily Mail that remains the real champion of homophobia, not its English sister - homophobia by stealth, that is, since its articles, by a plethora of hand-picked moral conservatives, are not published online. Penned by Eddie Barnes, a former Catholic newspaper editor; Gerald Warner, a Catholic, Conservative activist who once wrote that condoms offered no protection against HIV; Mrs Katie Grant, a Catholic mother who believed gays were trying to flood schools with gay propaganda and John MacLeod who was snapped up by the Scottish Daily Mail after being sacked as columnist from The Herald, not because he wrote gays were “unnatural… dangerous…” and “evil”, or because he linked homosexuality to “promiscuity, instability, neurosis, substance abuse, suicide, untold depths of degradation, misery, self-loathing”, or even because he found homosexuals “simply not equipped to live”: But because he wrote that Soham schoolgirls Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells would’ve been alive today had they been in church on the fateful day of their murder.
During October, the militantly religious Scottish Daily Mail felled a rainforest in its enthusiasm to spark outrage at Glasgow’s annual festival of queer culture, GlasGay! Journalist Graham Grant turned on a fascinating exhibition of gay art called ShOUT at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA). The open Bible inviting anyone “excluded” from it to “write yourself back in” had the Scottish Daily Mail frothing about a “notorious anti-Bible exhibition” where “…visitors were urged to vandalise the Bible in the name of gay rights”. Eventually it was “covered in offensive gay rights graffiti”. Gordon Macdonald of the evangelical religious organisation, Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) demanded, in a fairly predictable Mail fashion that “heads should roll” and controversial Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre told the paper: “This is symbolic of the state of our broken and lawless society”. In a testimony to the outrage felt by organisers and the Scottish gay community towards the incessant homophobia exhibited by the Scottish Daily Mail, six of the offending articles – all by Graham Grant - were eventually collected together to form part of the exhibition.
With the aid of ‘scare quotes’, Graham Grant and his paymasters, Associated Newspapers have provided the Church a conduit to express their homophobia with impunity. It is not just homosexuals. Over a proposal for school nurses to provide teenagers with an emergency contraception pill, it was the women who were left to deal with the pain while Grant and his male cronies did the screaming. “It undermines the family and is a huge backward step,” his friend Gordon Macdonald from CARE squealed.
There was an untrammelled use of ‘children’ in emotive and evocative language throughout most of the stories aimed at trashing the exhibition in Glasgow. The Mail “exposed” so-called “plans to let children go on school trips to see lurid gay pornography”, explaining that: “Children as young as 11 were to be offered visits to a taxpayer-funded art exhibition aimed at ‘celebrating’ gay culture and tackling homophobia” and “after the Scottish Daily Mail revealed that police were preparing to question organisers about the initiative…” they were able to brag about an “embarrassing U-turn by council chiefs” when The Mail claimed “they were forced to abandon their proposals”. While the Scottish Daily Mail used one of the exhibition’s 1979 Robert Mapplethorpe’s prints of a leatherman and his dog-collared ‘slave’ entitled, ‘Brian Ridley and Lyle Heeter’ for their story, they passed a copy of his 1977 print of a guy pissing in the mouth of his ‘slave’, entitled, ‘Jim and Tom, Sausalito’ to the police, describing the highly acclaimed artwork only as an “obscene act between two men”. Readers were directed to John MacLeod’s column where he tore into Jacqui Smith for using taxpayers’ money to buy porn and Richard Timney for watching it. MacLeod cast a cynical eye over “an extraordinary filthy society – from the vilest DVDs and the pitiable seediness of TV porn channels to the horrors of the web”. Of the bucket-loads of erotica he imagined might’ve been available to Timney, he even found “one aggressively secular, self-righteous ‘quality’ national newspaper for ‘dating by Phone. Text and Online…” and this ad: “‘Mature couple, late 50s, seek seductive besexual F to introduce them to the world of shared adult film. Huddersfield/Wakefield”.
In another story, under the headline: “Operation Gaylord” and beside a picture of Paul O’Grady as Lily Savage, Grant reminded readers how “council ignores 60th anniversary of D-Day sacrifice… but lavishes taxpayers’ cash on Transgender Day and funds gay porn exhibition”.
Over an exhibition on gay sailors on a Tall Ship anchored in the Clyde, Grant once again lambasted the organisers for squandering “… taxpayers’ cash”. Adding: “Children as young as 14 are to be invited to an exhibition… to learn about the sexual practices of gay merchant seamen”. (The exhibition – with entry prohibited to unaccompanied children under 16 – displayed photographs that wouldn’t disgrace any children’s pantomime: Men singing, dancing and dressing-up in women’s clothes). Under a heading of ‘debate’, only comments of outrage from the public supporting Grant’s story were printed. Grant added: The event “fuelled concerns that arts chiefs in the city are intent on promoting gay rights at the expense of traditional family values”. Despite his own penchant for colourful frocks and without having seen the exhibition, the Pope was reported finding it “disgusting”.
Even over a story of cutbacks in the study of history in schools, Graham Grant managed to attack gays: “The decision to celebrate gay issues and invest in researching their history comes as some Scottish head teachers scrap the study of history”.
Finally, following a demonstration by militant religionists outside the GoMA, the Culture and Sport Glasgow (CSG), the body running Glasgow’s museums and galleries, caved in and censored one of the exhibitions by Dani Marti which contained nudity and references to drugs and sexual acts.
After the City of Edinburgh “lavished” £150,000 of “public cash” on LGBT Youth Scotland, the Scottish Daily Mail’s Graham Grant reported how Christian organisations “condemned the award”, suggesting “the council concentrate on providing basic services for the whole community instead”. Gordon Macdonald from CARE was reported demanding LGBT Youth Scotland be “deprived of public funding”. After an equally damning quote from the Catholic Church, the report accused LGBT Youth Scotland of helping “devise lessons on gay rights now being introduced in schools by the Executive Learning and Teaching Scotland quango”, adding: “Pupils as young as 13 will be taught to support events such as Gay Pride marches. Children will also be urged to challenge their parents if they express doubts about the gay agenda…” Fergus McMillan, executive director of LGBT Youth Scotland said: “The article missed the point about the work that LGBT Youth Scotland delivers in Edinburgh and across Scotland. There is a proven need for the work which LGBT Youth Scotland does with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people, many of whom still experience isolation and discrimination at school, at home and in their own communities. LGBT Youth Scotland is grateful for support from Edinburgh City Council. The funding received from 2004-2009 has been used to run youth groups and provide advice and support to LGBT young people in Edinburgh. This has had a proven impact on young people’s lives. A recent survey of around 200 young people who use our services found that they gained in confidence, made new friends and learned new skills. LGBT Youth Scotland is not a lobbying organisation. Our work is based on young people’s needs and it is our job to communicate young people’s priorities to professionals who can make a difference. Our toolkit resource is not a “gay rights” lobbying tool. It is a resource for local authorities and teachers to help them make school a better experience for LGBT young people and a resource that teachers have called for themselves. One young man who spoke powerfully at our Challenging Homophobia Together schools conference in February, told delegates that, “LGBT Youth Scotland is extremely important to me. The staff there have helped me no end, they've helped me to work out who I am. One of the most important things they did for me was to give me a safe environment where I could go to be myself and feel normal”. LGBT young people deserve inclusion and support rather than greater misunderstanding. Media coverage which stirs up needless controversy over work which improves young people's lives is simply misleading”.
Green MSP, Patrick Harvie is no stranger to the Scottish Daily Mail. He says: “My own experience of them is typical – denounced as “Green Threat to the Family” in big black letters on the front page just after entering Parliament, I was described as a “militant gay activist turned MSP”. Not ‘elected’ of course. ‘Turned’. A few years later in the run-up to the 2007 election, I was described in their pages as the “voice of the irresponsible, left-led, anti-family, anti-Christian, gay whales against the bomb coalition”.