Robert Aldridge, who became the capital’s ‘First Citizen’ last month amid resounding support from all politicians, said in his early days as a councillor it was unlikely a gay person would have been elevated to the historic role.
The 66-year-old said: “I don’t think it would have happened in the days of back to basics and all that.”
And he insisted it’s “not a gay crusade by me or anything like that”, adding: “It’s just a part of who I am.”
Mr Aldridge said: “And I hope that if there are young people who are at school at the moment who are worried about their sexuality that they just are able to be themselves and be confident and get on with life.
“Try and be confident, certainly my family was hugely supportive and I know some people have more difficulties with their family but talk to people, your real friends will support you and it really is a great relief when you are authentic about who you really are.
“I suppose everybody hopes in the back of their mind that they might actually get the enormous privilege of being the Lord Provost.
“It wasn’t something I had planned for, it was just really overwhelming that people put that trust in me – I just hope I can live up to it.”
Confirmation of his appointment as Edinburgh’s 258th Lord Provost came at the first full council meeting following the local elections last month.
“I could barely speak I was so overwhelmed,” he said.
“The moment the chain was put on was just an incredible feeling of responsibility and privilege. It’s quite heavy, I think it’s about three kilograms – I feel the weight of history on my shoulders, literally.”
The Lord Provost is known affectionately by his peers as ‘Dobby’, a moniker which he was given aged just two.
He joked: “I really need to get in touch with J. K. Rowling because I’m sure that the house elf (in the Harry Potter books) came from having overheard about me.”
Aside from his lengthy career as a local politician, Mr Aldridge was previously chief executive of the Scottish Council for Single Homeless and the president of the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless.
He said: “People can make bad decisions in their lives and things can just get out of control and what we’ve got to do is try to find a way to try to help them back on track. I’ve worked with a number of homeless people who have got through homelessness and are out the other side, they’ve got jobs, they’ve got families, they’ve reintegrated and that’s fantastic.”
The Lord Provost said that he sees the soaring cost of living and its impact as the biggest challenge for Scotland’s local authorities over the next five years.
He added: “It’s how we deal with the cost of living crisis. There’s a lot of people really struggling and that all links in to the rest of these issues. The council has limited powers but what we can do we should do.”