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BBC Scotland reporter David Nisbet
"Many attacks happen new gay venues"
 real 28k

Tim Hopkins of the Equality Network
"I am sure things are getting better"
 real 28k

Justice minister Jim Wallace
"These are very disturbing figures"
 real 28k

Monday, 7 February, 2000, 10:37 GMT
Gay men 'more at risk of attack'

Gay march Gays in Scotland face intolerance

Gay men in Scotland's capital are four times more likely to be victims of violent attacks than heterosexual men, according to a new survey.

A total of 246 homosexual men were questioned in Edinburgh, with 26% of those surveyed saying they had experienced violence over the past 12 months, a figure four times higher than the national figure for heterosexual men.

Scottish Justice Minister Jim Wallace has promised to act quickly in the wake of the findings, and will raise the issue at a meeting of an executive working group on discrimination.

I think there are problems with both attacks on the gay community and with regard to racist attacks as well
Justice Minister Jim Wallace
"I think these are very disturbing figures. I think that in any decent society discrimination and ignorance has no place," he told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme.

"It's even more unacceptable when it turns to violence directed at one section of the community. These are figures which must give rise to concern."

Mr Wallace, who is chairing a group to co-ordinate the Scottish response to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report, believes there is a link between intolerance of gays and racism.

He said: "I think there are problems with both attacks on the gay community and with regard to racist attacks as well.

Jim Wallace Jim Wallace says the attacks are unaccaptable
"Neither are acceptable and that's why I'll be chairing the working group. It's not a group of the establishment, the usual suspects, it's one which involves a lot of people who have first-hand experience, and I expect they'll give the executive a hard time in holding us to account and so be it."

The report, commissioned by the Scottish Office Home Department and undertaken between September and December 1998, also found that only one in three of those attacked had reported the incidents to the police.

Many of the men interviewed said a continuing negative perception of the police was to blame for the under-reporting of violent incidents.

Most of the attacks were carried out by strangers and took place near gay venues or on the city's streets, according to the survey carried out by Edinburgh-based TASC agency.

Lothian and Borders police have put a lot of effort in the last eight years or so into building up trust with the gay community
Gay campaigner Tim Hopkins
A similar survey carried out in Edinburgh in 1996 and published in October found that almost 40% of gay or bisexual people interviewed had been the victim of a physical assault.

Gay rights campaigners welcomed the Scottish Executive commitment to cracking down on discrimination.

On relationships with the police, Tim Hopkins of the gay and lesbian rights organisation The Equality Network said while there were still problem areas, the situation in the capital was good.

"Certainly in Edinburgh Lothian and Borders police have put a lot of effort in the last eight years or so into building up trust with the gay community and I would certainly encourage anyone who is attacked in this way in Edinburgh to report it," he said.

But he said the campaign to stop abolition of Section 28, the controversial clause which stops the promotion of homosexuality in schools, was likely to lead to a climate of prejudice.

Mr Hopkins added: "I think it's clear if there is a law which singles out a certain minority of the population and says that we are unacceptable in some way - as Section 28 does - that that is a green light to that minority of the population that thinks gay people are a legitimate target for attack."

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See also:
29 Oct 99 |  Scotland
Gays and lesbians 'face violence'
15 Oct 99 |  UK
'82% of attacks on gays unreported'
27 Sep 99 |  UK
Gays struggle for workplace rights
29 Oct 99 |  Scotland
Schools' gay ban to be lifted

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