A former footballer has called for an end to homophobia in Scotland’s schools as he backs calls for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) issues to be taught in classrooms.
Derek Ferguson – who played for Rangers, Heart of Midlothian and Scotland – has endorsed the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign, which is currently lobbying the Scottish Government to introduce LGBTI education into schools in order to tackle high rates of homophobic bullying.
TIE’s research found nine out of ten LGBTI people experience homophobia at school, while over a quarter have attempted to take their own lives as a result of bullying.
Ferguson said: “We have been educating against racism and sectarianism in Scotland for over ten years and we passionately believe raising awareness amongst young people about the issues some of their peers may be facing helps build empathy and breaks down barriers between young people.
“Tackling LGBTI bullying is just as important, young people need to understand the consequences of LGBTI bullying and learn to develop good relationships and respect the differences between people, regardless of what those differences may be.”
Ferguson is the latest in a list of sportsmen to support the campaign, joining former players Dougie Bell and Pat Nevin, as well as welsh international rugby union referee Nigel Owens.
A TIE spokesperson said: “We are delighted Derek Ferguson has backed our campaign. It is important diverse voices from all corners of our society – including within Scottish football – speak out against the exclusion, bullying and prejudice that many LGBTI young people face within our schools.”
His endorsement comes after Nicola Sturgeon committed to implementing the group’s proposals during First Minister’s Questions recently.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “As the First Minister has made clear, there is a commitment in the programme for government to take forward the issues that TIE has raised and we will do that in consultation with TIE.
“The Deputy First Minister met TIE in October 2016 to discuss how LGBTI issues are addressed in schools. We continue to engage with all stakeholders, including Stonewall Scotland, LGBT Youth Scotland and the TIE campaign, to ensure schools address the important issues LGBTI young people face.”