The following article by Eilidh Cameron-Sykes was first posted by bella caledonia. It shows how Kate Forbes holds deeply reactionary views extending way beyond transphobia to homophobia. She covers this up by articulating concerns for other issues which concern people living in the Highland and Islands, although more often in words than meaningful action. 


It’s the 2020 election and as a young Gaidheal, it’s the first election I have voted in since returning to the Highlands. Like many, I’m reading the Daily Gael, memes and comments flooded with an air of celebration as new Gaelic-speaking candidate Kate Forbes is elected. A meme of Kate raising a paper with a reference to Gaelic medium schooling is going viral.

But I’m not celebrating, sitting aghast as my own community celebrate an opposer of my own rights.

You guessed it, I’m a queer woman.

I first became aware of Kate Forbes when she made the first speech in Gaelic to the Scottish Parliament. As an impressed independence voter, it was heartening to see. Following her speech, I took to the Internet like many to find out more about her background and policies. An initial impression of Kate was positive. She proposes making improvements to ferry networks in the Highlands a priority and she is vocal about the challenges faced by young people finding housing in the Highlands acknowledging the rise of Airbnb. All massive issues for both young highlanders and Gaelic speakers fighting to keep a language in an area where Indigenous speakers are struggling to stay. You could be forgiven if before her run for first minister her free church background went above your head. I myself was first alerted to her attitudes on LGBTQ+ people when a friend in the Gaelic circle alerted me to her Abstention from a vote on gay marriage.

The red flags start to mount.

Forbes has made her position clear. Starting with various Abstentions from various LGBTQ+ In a reply to Stonewall during the campaign to ban conversion therapy Kate sighted that Christian views should be protected. It would seem harmless if Lewis within her constituency wasn’t one of the places sighted during the campaign by Stonewall as having conversion therapy still taking place in the UK. Since then she has been quoted on numerous occasions with highlights ranging from making it clear she would not have voted for same-sex marriage if she had been a politician in 2014 to openly opposing her own party’s gender recognition act claiming she was persuaded to vote for it by Nicola Sturgeon and arguing against its continuation in court. Ms Forbes said when the law passed. Aside from LGBTQ+ issues she has also made her pro-life stance clear.

It raises the question, should representatives be required to support the policies of the party to which they belong? Kate would surely argue her faith allows it. It is also interesting that her commitment to independence is never questioned when such a stance is taken opposing her own party? Perhaps this is a sign of a wider albeit unconscious bias within the SNP when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues.

Kate has not been the only free church member to cause a setback for LGBTQ+ rights In the Highlands in recent years. In a meeting of all free church councillors on the isle of Lewis a decision was made that the islands would not be upholding the Scottish government’s commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusive social and sex education in schools. Meaning that LGBTQ+ teenagers already in an area off vulnerability would not receive much needed Support from schools.  The social and sex education in schools exclusion and the Hebrides could be seen as an isolated issue or perhaps just a group of small-minded independent acting locals but it showed a level of homophobia still runs through the Gaidhealtachd. The exclusion has however since been repealed.

I would also forgive you if my prior typing’s had led you to believe I felt the highlands were simply homophobic. A backwards isolated area with still locking up the play parks on a Sunday.. luckily you’d be wrong.

It hasn’t always been this way.

Charles Kennedy, former head of the liberal democrat party and Lochaber MP from 1983-2015 had a close to immaculate voting record on LGBTQ+ rights. Almost unrecognisable in comparison to today’s liberal party Kennedy campaigned actively against the infamous section 28 and in his long time in government turned up to vote for all but one LGBTQ+ vote citing illness. Overseeing the act to protect LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, reforms of blood donation policies of course voting for gay marriage, even the original gender recognition act and leaving the highlands itself with a progressive voting record on human rights.

As Alistair Jack (incidentally holding the same position as Lord Stair at the time of the Glencoe Massacre) contests devolution over an LGBTQ+ subject it’s important to take a moment to look at queer rights within the Scottish parliament. At the end of the day, Forbes has a choice in the party that she chooses to be a part of,  she has a choice in the religion that she follows and a choice to represent the people of the Highlands. Queer people do not have a choice but to exist.

To be an LGBTQ+ plus member of the Gaelic community is to battle with cross-community issues. Based in the Highlands Gaelic events are an important part of my social calendar. LGBTQ+ events in the Highlands are low on the ground. Also Gaelic events provide a much-welcomed network. As a queer woman in the Highlands it feels deeply personal to have people around you vote against your own community. With scarcely little time since we were given a voice as a community in the first place to have our representation dismissed, or worse, dangerous it’s hard to stomach particularly at a local level where it can feel  as though homophobia is all around us in our politicians, our local likelies or even our friends.

I urge highland voters, particularly the Gaelic community, to have a long hard think Forbes represents our community in the modern world. Do we want to be seen as the backward old fashioned little village in the middle of nowhere? Are the modern thriving community that is a place for everyone regardless of sexuality or gender.

Yes it is true that these issues are not isolated to the highland or the Gaelic community and do effect Scotland as a whole, however, as an LGBTQ+ Gaelic speaker it as hard to see policies such as this so directly affecting the islands as it is to see a Gaelic speaker so regaled by the Gaelic community openly speak out against my other community. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what she does for Gaelic it is impossible for me to support someone who opposes my very own human rights. Furthermore, I have seen very little from Kate by way of direct support for Gaelic more than a short speech.

I urge the Gaelic and Highland community to consider who we are as a group. There is a responsibility amongst us not only to protect the area and language but its people,  and like every community LGBTQ+ people deserve a place where their lives are not politicised.




also see –

 Homophobia in Uganda is a horrifying demonstration of colonialism and evangelism at work – Alex/RoseCocker, The Canary

“The Sturgeon era is over: Now what?” and “What we have learned from the SNP leadership election” – Mile Small and Sean Bell, bella caledonia

 ‘Love is love’: LGBT lives and the fight to become Scotland’s First Minister, Kevin Guyan – bella caledonia

Kate Forbes’ economic agenda is just as dangerous as her conservative views, Adam Ramsay, openDemocracy