Britain’s biggest union ditches Pride Glasgow


Union pulls out, saying Pride is now "too commercial"

16th August 2019 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Glasgow Pride has been dealt another blow after the country’s biggest trade union said it will no longer take part.

Unite has slammed the event, which starts tomorrow (17 August), for becoming too commercial and ditching its roots as a protest against discrimination.

It comes after 12 months of turmoil and significant unrest within the LGBT community towards the organisers following allegations of unpaid debts and chaotic management at last year’s Kelvingrove Park finale.

However Glasgow Pride questioned Unite's position. It said the union hadn't registered to march and that unions weren't charged to take part.  

Organisers faced calls to disband Pride Glasgow after a ticket crisis last year saw hundreds of tickets being oversold, then allegations of financial misconduct against members of its board led to a police investigation.

Glasgow City Council also pulled its support in a row over unpaid charges when organisers had hoped to use the Riverside Museum as a venue for this year's festival.

Unite said in a statement: “We observe that for some large commercial organisations, support for LGBT equality merely extends to paying a fee for a Pride march or use of temporary rainbow branding to enhance their customer reach.

“Once Pride season is over, there is no wider benefit to the LGBT community, whose voices are often lost in the chatter.”

The statement continued: “When people are abused and beaten for being themselves the response from Prides is deafening in its silence. The politics has been driven from Pride by over commercialisation and greed of those involved in making it ever more commercial for financial gain.

“We believe that Pride is a celebration make no mistake but first and foremost Pride is a protest.”

But Chris Tait, chair of Pride Glasgow, said: “We are sad to hear that Unite will not be joining Pride Glasgow’s march this Saturday - we didn’t think they were as they had not registered by the deadline or when followed up. It would be great to sit down with them and discuss their thoughts. It’s a shame we didn’t know until now."

Events taking place range from £3 for entry to nightclubs to £25 Pride gin tasting sessions.

There will also be a free event taking place at The Barrowlands after the march.

Earlier in the summer, the city played host to MardiGla which saw an estimated 7,000 people march through the city to George Square.

Glasgow Pride responds

We want to take the opportunity to clarify, unions are not charged to march. 

We are aware some Unite members (who normally join Unite in the march), are marching as members of the public, this year and are sad not to be marching united. 

This presents us with an opportunity to explain more about Pride Glasgow as it appears there is a misconception about its values, activity and mission. 

Commercialisation is an interesting point. We see it as two-fold. Firstly, sponsorship money helps develop activity for the community. For example, one of our sponsors has helped us enormously as their sponsorship straddles Pride Life, which is a year-round Pride Glasgow initiative. A paid member of staff helps to train 200+ Pride Glasgow volunteers which is turn helps them develop new skills. It is also has a mental health strand, where activities are organised to assist volunteers with everyday struggles.

I sit on the LGBTQI Partnership, which meets every quarter, and chaired by a police constable and local authority liaison officer, and we discuss everything around issues our community faces. I feed this back into Pride Life and Pride Life supports a number of people who have actually been on the receiving end of hate crime. 

We also think of sponsorship as an opportunity – an opportunity to help educate organisations and businesses about the Pride movement and connect them with the very community they are trying to engage, face-to-face. We know diversity is high on everyone’s agenda and we’re trying to help those organisations make their contributions meaningful and not just lip service to what they should be doing to tick a box.

In addition, our Pride Forum, which is made up of 27 volunteer members, has a specific remit of representing the community and advising the board. They consistently provide us with feedback, tell the board, what is happening and advise on suggested approaches. 

We’ve said it many times in the last few months and we’ll say it again. The march is our main focus. The march is what excites people and brings everyone together. It’s what gives some people the opportunity to support the cause – many young people who are only coming out and are perhaps taking a first step into the wider LGBT+ community. 

The fringe events are mostly run by venues across Glasgow, for the community, by the community. Our few low-key events are not designed to make a profit, but we needed to organise something for the community, as that’s what we knew they wanted. (Our fully-booked, free Barrowlands indoor festival tomorrow after the march is a perfect example). 

We’re a charity which never set out to be a year-round, event-based charity. Our governance review and restructure earlier this year has allowed us to consider future strategies for the organisation and it has been agreed this will progress once Pride Glasgow has taken place this year. As a volunteer-led organisation, there is only so much which can be done at any one time, after all.   

We hope that Pride Glasgow is better understood now we’ve had a chance to explain all the different ways in which we work with and represent our precious community. 

Let’s all remember what Pride is, stands for and remember we all have passion and fire in our bellies – we just need to use it in the right way. To help each other, not bring each other down.  

Happy Pride this weekend as we prepare to march tomorrow. Join us. You’re all welcome and we’d be glad to share the march with you.

Chris Tait, chair of Pride Glasgow