Concerns flagged up in Lauder after show of pride

The pride flag was flown at the town hall last month.
The pride flag was flown at the town hall last month.
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The flying of the rainbow flag at Lauder Town Hall last month caused consternation among townsfolk there, a meeting of the community council heard this week.

An application from a local resident to fly the flag at the town hall, in Market Place, between June 21 and 24 was granted by the Lauder common good fund committee at its last meeting on June 19.

Lauder Town Hall.

Lauder Town Hall.

And although that move was supported by many residents and businesses, Lauderdale Community Council chairwoman Irene Thomson told members at its meeting in Blainslie Village Hall on Monday night that the response had been mixed.

“As well as messages of support, I have had a number of concerns raised around the flying of different flags at the town hall,” she said.

“There have been members of the community disappointed by the lack of flags flying as well as some flags flying that perhaps not everyone believes should be flown.

“A lot of people did not want to object to the rainbow flag because they did not want to be seen as anti-LGBT. That’s not what their objection was.”

David Miller said: “This is not about the flag itself. It is about the way it has been done. It is about individual people trying to take things on for no other reason than agitation and personal gain, and it has caused consternation in the community.”

Lauder resident Lesley Wilkinson said that she had expected to see the Union Jack flown at the town hall on the 75th anniversary of D-Day as a mark of respect.

“I think people did not realise until they saw a flag there that there was the opportunity to do that,” she said. “It kind of went viral through Lauder, and people said we should be supporting other things as well.

“It’s a very delicate thing because if you stand up and say anything about the flag people think they are being persecuted, when actually we are being persecuted for questioning it.

“It’s not about that, it’s about encompassing the whole community and everyone getting an opportunity to promote what they are passionate about.”

Mrs Thomson said that the Common Good committee had been advised that legally it was difficult to decline a request without a policy in place.

“Lauder is in a unique situation because, unlike other places in the Borders the town hall and flag poles don’t belong to the local authority, they belong to the Common Good,” she said.

“Part of the problem is that we don’t have a policy. On that basis I’m going to propose that we develop our own as a community council.”

Leaderdale and Melrose councillor Kevin Drum, who sits on the Lauder Common Good fund sub-committee, said: “It came up at the Common Good and that was basically the lawyer’s advice. In the past we have gone along the same lines as the council policy which is pretty vague – it is just ‘as long as there’s an agreement’.”

He added that a new policy going forward could include that flags should only be flown on national days.

“I believe this one has been flown to coincide with Edinburgh Pride, but this is Lauder,” Mr Drum said. “Maybe they should only be flown on national days, otherwise, where do you stop?”

It was agreed that Mr Miller would lead a subgroup which would pull a draft policy together for approval by the committee.

Photographer Craig McBeath, who first applied for the Pride flag to be flown at the town hall last year, said support for flying the flag had been “almost universal”.

He said: “I’m pleased that we have flown the rainbow flags again this year. It has been great to see support from so many local individuals, businesses and organisations including Lauderdale Scouts, the primary school, the parent council, the football club and the common riding. There has been almost universal support from the community on social media.”

Mr McBeath insisted that he had no personal gain from flying the flags, and said that anyone with a negative view had been at pains to assert that their issue was not with the rainbow flag, but more that if the pride flags were permitted then others should also.

“Perhaps the community council can provide details of any similar complaints relating to the Tour de Lauder flags which have flown for a number of years,” he said.

“When I had this idea last year, my aims were to show support to local people and visitors, to give businesses a chance to promote themselves, to promote the town and to challenge prejudice.

“The rainbow flag has long since stopped being an unusual sight. It is part of daily life and a beautiful representation of love, acceptance, peace and the rejection of bigotry. June is pride month and thousands of civic buildings throughout the world are flying the Rainbow flag.

“There seems to be a groundswell of support for what is fast becoming an annual event to fly the rainbow flag in Lauder.

“It’s excellent that we’re looking to make best make use of the flagpoles all year round, demonstrating the values of Lauder to all who pass through our village. I would suggest a daily fee be payable by those who want to use the poles and who meet the criteria set out by the sub committee. This fee can be used for the upkeep of the poles and for good causes within the village.”