LESBIAN and gay members of the community feel that the Borders still harbours a homophobic culture, according to a new report.
Safety in the community was another concern, not just for those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups, but also for members of ethnic minorities, the disabled, elderly and other communities.
These were just two of the findings to come from a series of focus groups held between June and September of last year as part of work by Scottish Borders Council to formulate its new equality scheme.
Councillors approved recommendations for an equality scheme to address the requirements within the Equality Act 2010, as well as meet the needs of other equality and diversity work being undertaken within the council.
Over 50 people participated, including representatives from the Borders Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Forum (BLGBT), Borders Disability Forum, Borders Voluntary Community Care Forum, Borders Chinese Society, Borders Islamic Group, Borders Equality Forum and the migrant community.
Community tensions were raised by all of the community groups involved, with concerns about hate crime by people from the ethnic minority community, those with learning disabilities and the LGBT community. Within the household survey, women, older people with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities all felt less safe to walk alone in their local area after dark. Many groups highlighted isolation and poor integration, and there were also issues raised around education, income, political representation and employment opportunities.
Councillor Michael Cook, SBC executive member for HR and corporate improvement said the Borders was no different from other parts of Scotland in the need to undertake further work to improve equality, albeit with different emphasises.
“The population is becoming more diverse and we need to recognise and respond to this as a public organisation,” said Mr Cook.
SBC was praised for its engagement efforts by Borders LGBT youth worker Karen Wilson. She said: “There is still a stigma – I think for the older members of the LGBT community it is probably worse as the Borders remains a very traditional area in many ways. But this report is a big step in the right direction to help address such issues and the council has to be commended for such a positive and proactive approach.”