On 27th April 1968, 46 years ago, the Abortion Act became law, and women in the UK – except in Northern Ireland – were entitled to get safe, legal abortions. That’s half a lifetime ago. There can be few doctors or nurses still practicing who have first-hand memories of the bad old prolife days.
Every year for the past few years, on the Saturday closest to that date, SPUC stand in a line down Lothian Road, on the Sheraton Hotel side, and express their sorrow and regret for 46 years of health and wellbeing for women.
There were two big arguments going on in non-party-political politics the past two years: lifting the ban on same-sex marriage (England and Wales, 29th March: Scotland, sometime this autumn after the Commonwealth Games and this other thing: Northern Ireland as soon as they lose the court case).
Making it legal for same-sex couples to marry, matters hugely to people in same-sex relationships, obviously, but to everyone else aside from a small number of seriously homophobic fanatics, it’s no big deal: two-thirds of the population of Scotland agreed that gay marriage should be made legal in a 2012 poll.
This other thing that is happening in Scottish politics: the referendum. In the US, where they have referendums whenever they can get enough voters to sign off on one, they went through a phase of holding referenda in which voters were invited to agree that “marriage is between a man and a woman”, which was then held to mean that marriage between a man and a man, or a man and a woman, was unlawful. In the UK we referend much more rarely, and only – so cynics say – when the government thinks they can get the public to vote the way they want.
I celebrated Valentine’s Day this year outside the Russian consulate, 58 Melville Street, Edinburgh.
The new cafe on Ferry Road, Coffee and Cream, was having a sale on, so with malice aforethought I selected the largest, cheesiest Valentine’s Card to be delivered to the consulate for Vladimir Putin, and a couple of packs of red shiny hearts and a roll of hearts on crepe paper.
Spoke to the two fine representatives of Police Scotland who were lurking on the corner pretending they hadn’t read the Facebook event, and assured them we wouldn’t be blocking the pavement or doing anything else that the police might feel they had to do something about. (On some previous demos outside the consulate, we’ve been instructed not to approach the door, but not this time.)
And met some friends. The nuns are two Sisters of the Order of Perpetual Indulgence, Convent of Dunn Eideann.
Vladimir Putin is, quite cynically, demonising the LGBT community in Russia in order to strengthen his position as President. The official Russian line is that any claim that LGBT people are being persecuted is slander – they claim “gingers” are treated as badly in the UK as LGBT people in Russia.
No, says Putin. Gay people are welcome in Russia. Just stay away from children.
There in a scene described in the New Testament where Jesus, having been asked who will be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, calls a small child to him, and tells his disciples “This kid is, and you guys need to become more like little kids, and furthermore, anyone who hurts little kids should have a big stone hung round his neck and dropped into the deepest part of the sea, am I clear?”
No one knows how many priests in the Roman Catholic Church have abused children and are still active as priests in their communities. In each diocese, there are files on the priests who worked there which would make that clear if all of them were opened up, but the Catholic Church has steadily refused to do that.
Four hundred priests who have been accused of child molestation by the secular law authorities have been defrocked. I know of no instance where the Church has defrocked a priest and turned him and the evidence they had uncovered of his abuse of children over to the secular law authorities so that the legal authorities could act.
John Fortune died on 31st December. I probably first saw him as Major Saunders in Yes Minister in 1982: he and his partner John Bird doing their unscripted – but terribly well-researched – double-talk were always the best part of Bremmer, Bird, and Fortune.
Rory Bremmer said:
John Fortune “had the most beautiful brain of any man I’ve ever known”.
Elaine Smith MSP, deputy presiding officer in the Scottish Parliament, argued for polygamy in her written evidence to the Equal Opportunities Committee last year, as the Scotland on Sunday anti-gay marriage story this morning quotes:
“Whilst the government has said that it has no intention of allowing polygamous marriages as part of this legislation which changes the essential nature of marriage, it has not explained in any detail and with research analysis its reasons for taking that position.
“Further, if the government is sincere about its support for ‘equal love’ then it appears to have a contradiction on its hands.”
There is “no logical reason” for discriminating against more than two people getting married if the redefinition of marriage is driven by love, Ms Smith adds.