First Pride Scotland march in Edinburgh recalled by organisers 25 years on

Thousands attended march along Princes Street in huge leap towards equality

The first Pride Scotland march took to the streets of Edinburgh in June 1995.
The first Pride Scotland march took to the streets of Edinburgh in June 1995.

History was made a quarter of a century ago this week, as thousands triumphantly came out together in Edinburgh for the first ever Pride Scotland march.

While there had been a string of gay pride rallies and marches in the eighties and nineties, never before had Scotland’s LGBT community been united in such a way and in such large numbers.

On the afternoon of June 17, 1995, Scotland’s capital city was awash with all the colours of the rainbow.

A crowd estimated at more than 3,000 people coalesced near the LGBT Centre at Broughton Street, then proudly made their way via Princes Street and the Mound towards the festival site at the Meadows.

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The landmark event, which as of last year had grown into 27 different Pride marches all over Scotland, was the brainchild of Edinburgh University students Laura Norris and Duncan Hothersall, who were keen to emulate the incredible success of the Pride movement south of the border.

Homosexuality had remained a crime in Scotland until 1980 - a full 13 years after the Sexual Offences Act was updated in England and Wales, and this was Scotland’s chance to show how far it come in achieving equality.

In a recent article published on the website of LGBTI equality group, the Equality Network, Laura and Duncan explained the great difficulty they faced in making the first Scottish march a reality.

They wrote: “We’ve said this many times since, but the honest truth is that the small band of people who set up Pride Scotland in 1994 and ran the first march and festival in 1995 only managed it because we were too stupid to realise it was impossible.”

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Gillian Will Vaughan was in an all-lesbian soft rock band at the time and were invited by Pride Scotland to play their first ever gig at the Meadows.

Describing the electricity of the day, she said: “The march was like a huge outing, literally. All sorts of lesbians and gays and colourful folk from every corner of Scotland, like a huge family reunion but with so many strangers. There was drumming, chanting, banners, a lot of eye contact and even tears, it was electric.

“There were people hanging out of office windows uptown and i could feel them gazing down on us but i felt so safe and excited, I just chanted louder, waved and blew kisses up at them.

“I moved to Leith as quick as I could after that, and I remember the late ‘90s gay scene in Edinburgh as electric, relaxed, so much fun. I'm sure that massive Pride outing of 95 played its part.”

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One of the figures who was instrumental at the march, was Tim Hopkins, now Director of the Equality Network, which was formed in 1997.

Tim had been a champion of the LGBT movement for years and had enjoyed great success organising Lark in the Park in West Princes Street Gardens, which had attracted guest speakers including actor Ian McKellen and leading gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Speaking to the Evening News, Tim Hopkins, who was designated the role of March Co-ordinator, said Pride Scotland 1995 was a huge step forward that attracted a far more positive response from the public than had been anticipated.

He said: “It was crucially important and it got a better response from the general public than we thought it would.

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“We had asked shops on the route if they would put out rainbow bunting and a big proportion said yes. All of that was quite a big surprise to me at the time. “The positive response the event received was quite heartening.”

A special Pride Scotland march had been planned to take place last weekend to mark the 25th anniversary, but has been cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown.

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