Guest house loses listing in gay row in Scotland

A guest-house in one of Scotland’s beauty spots has lost its listing with VisitScotland in a row over accommodating gay couples. Two men planning a walking trip in the Highlands complained to the tourist authority after they were refused the use of a vacant double-bedded room. But it was the rudeness of the emails from the owner which caused greatest offence.

Officials at VisitScotland wrote to warn the guesthouse owner not to discriminate against gay visitors, but he refused to back down.

Stephen Nock, a campaigns organizer with Voluntary Service Overseas in London and his partner, Jean-Paul Martinon, had wanted to share a bed as is their custom, on their four-day visit to Scotland. In an email, Tom Forrest, owner of the Cromasaig bed and breakfast in the village of Kinlochewe in Wester Ross, wrote: “Hi Stephen, we do not have a problem with your personal sexual deviation that is up to you. You are welcome to our twin room if you wish but will not condone your perversion.”

Mr. Forrest denied he was being homophobic but wrote, “I have no hatred of poofs etc, I just do not approve of unnatural acts being performed in my home.”

Mr. Nock said he was shocked and appalled that such attitudes still existed. “You do not expect it from someone who is running a public service to discriminate a person’s sexual preference.” The tourist authority agreed, and demanded an end to discrimination against guests on the basis of sexual orientation.

Mr. Forrest’s response was blunt. “I stand by what I said. I called them ‘poofs’ and will continue to call them that. I will not have the tourist board telling me that I should welcome these people into my house to share a double room.”

Barbara Clark, of VisitScotland, said, “We are confident this kind of attitude is not mirrored across the vast proportion of Scotland.” The board has removed the Cromasaig guesthouse from its database and no longer has it listed as ‘recommended’ with three stars.

The web site of the Cromasaig now carries a warning, “NB: We will only allow heterosexual couples and singles to occupy our double bedded rooms.”

This approach is not shared by the nearby Kinlochewe Hotel, run by Roderick McCall and Lorraine Reynoldson. “We have had plenty of gay couples here, both men and women. They tend to be people in long-term relationships and they are never a problem,” said Lorraine. Mr. McCall added: “They are good fun and for every £1 other people spend, they spend £1.50,” confirming that the pink pound has arrived in the remote Scottish Highlands.

United Kingdom law makes it an offence to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation in matters concerning jobs. Neil Stevenson, deputy director of Legal Education and head of Diversity at the Law Society of Scotland, told the Glasgow Herald newspaper: “Although new regulations came into force in December 2003 to protect people from discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation, the rules only apply to employment and vocational training. While people would be protected in most cases from being refused goods and services on the grounds of gender, race and disability, in the case of sexual orientation people are left with little recourse in the law.”

The UK government has since announced plans to extend this to the provision of services – including tourist accommodation – in the next session of Parliament.

eTN London
author: David Browne

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