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Thanks Chief Constable but there’s no need to apologise for historic wrongs on our behalf

Historic apologies on behalf of others may seem virtuous but are usually meaningless and often misguided....

This is the my latest Scotsman column, published in today's paper (11th June 2024).

I was bemused to see a letter published last week from Scotland’s chief constable in which she made a general apology for “recent and historic prejudice against LGBT+ people from those within the police force”. There seems to be a trend for such retrospective apologies on behalf of others now, but in this case it was totally unnecessary. As a former police officer I am sure I speak for many of my generation when I say, thanks for the thought Chief, but we have no need to apologise. We enforced the law as it was at the time we served, and for the vast majority did it fairly and with a degree of discretion.

I go further, and say that from a personal standpoint I certainly do not apologise. On the contrary, I am proud of the efforts my old force, Lothian & Borders, made to reach out to all marginalised communities. Over many years we did our utmost to build trust and good relationships with all, including the LGBT+ community. The fact that I still have many friends and contacts in these communities indicates to me that we did not get everything wrong.

We even managed to make contact with the most marginalised group of all, male sex workers, the young rent boys who plied their trade around Edinburgh’s Calton Hill, and who were frequently the victims of vicious assault. Sadly I believe that this vulnerable group has retreated back into the shadows. Even after all these years and with all we know, our Government still only sees the sex industry through a feminist lens, as a manifestation of violence against women. With very few exceptions historic apologies on behalf of others may seem virtuous but are usually meaningless and often misguided.

And speaking of misguided, I was depressed by the recent craven capitulation of the Edinburgh Book Festival when they allowed themselves to be bullied out of their sponsorship deal with Baillie Gifford. Like all investment platforms Baillie Gifford is obliged to invest their clients fund’s prudently and across a range of products. In the real world of today that still includes Hydro Carbons. But it is very bad news for book festivals and now others are falling like ninepins, under pressure from the same minority groups.

And there’s another problem. Having displayed such disloyalty to old partners, where will all these festivals find such generous sponsors in the future? In truth the large book festival scene has been shifting shape for some time, many now as much luvvie as literature. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want to hear failed politicians or tours of self justification, especially when they have not actually written a book.

Perhaps the big book fests have had their day after all, and to fill the gap many book shops and publishers are now organising smaller bespoke events, much more like the book festivals of old. But apart from this seeming act of self destruction, the Edinburgh Book Festival capitulation has done us all a great disservice. We know that all bullies from playground up have one characteristic in common. No matter their stated cause or flag of convenience, weakness only emboldens them.

The ‘activists’ who have been allowed to damage the book festivals will surely find another cause on which to impose their narrow views. Taking a stand will get harder and harder but it must be done and when it is, we the public must give our direct support.

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