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News / Pride organisers changing rules after row over speeches

The first Shetland Pride festival was celebrated in 2022. Photo: Vaila Irvine

THE ORGANISERS of last weekend’s hugely successful Shetland Pride have vowed to stay clear of politicians making a formal request to attend future events after becoming embroiled in a political row over who was to address the crowd at Gilbertson Park on Saturday.

Several national papers, including The Scotsman and The National, reported that SNP MSP Emma Roddick – a member of the LGBTQ+ community herself – felt her speech at the event was cancelled in favour of Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

Chair of Shetland Pride, Kerrie Meyer, said by going public with her displeasure Roddick had tarnished the event which was celebrating diversity, inclusion and tolerance. Instead, Roddick should have raised the issue directly with her, she said.

Meyer added: “We’ll avoid politicians who make a formal request to attend. If any politician turns up at future Pride festivals, we are naturally happy about that.

“If we get multiple politicians turning up next time who wish to address the attendees, we’ll ensure that all get an opportunity to speak at some point.

“Pride is to celebrate equality, diversify and inclusion – not to cater for politicians to gerrymander.”

But Meyer also apologised to Roddick for the misunderstanding that led to her believing she would address people at the Pride village event at Gilbertson Park.

However, Roddick insist she had been asked to “open” the event, and offer she had accepted.

“Because it was planned for you to speak at our evening party, when it became apparent Alistair [Carmichael] was going to be at the Pride Village but wouldn’t be at our Pride Party, in order to provide ‘political balance’ I invited him to address the crowd,” Meyer wrote to Roddick.

Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick said she felt ‘gutted’. Photo: Sarah Cooper for Shetland News

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“I’m sorry if you thought you were going to address the audience too. There was no political bias or intent by inviting your political opponent to speak.

“Perhaps my only error was not inviting you to speak at Gibby first and am sorry if you felt you were being side-lined.”

Roddick said she felt “gutted” to be find out she would not be speaking at the Gilbertson Park event as she had planned her speech for some time.

The MSP did say a few words at the evening party in Islesburgh, but she said it was not the environment for a speech – so the politician said a “couple jokes instead and then folk got on with their dancing”.

“It had been a huge honour to be asked and I was ready to put my heart and soul into it, so to be gazumped in that way was disappointing, particularly as your paper had already kindly announced that I was expected to speak,” Roddick said.

“However, I had a great time at the march, picked myself up for the party at the Islesburgh, and had a fantastic evening. Shetland really did itself proud. I’m glad to have had a small part in such a meaningful day and can’t wait for next year – I hope it’s even bigger and brighter.”

Carmichael said he wanted to make it clear that he never asked to speak at the event but had been invited to do so by the organisers earlier in the week.

He also said that he had not been aware that Roddick was to attend the event.

“I have been a supporter of Shetland Pride since the project first started and I thought that the organisers did an outstanding job,” the Lib Dem said.

“I would prefer to keep my focus on the event and the hard work of the people who made it happen. Apart from this I have heard nothing but favourable comment about the event.”

The next Shetland Price event is scheduled for 1 July 2023.

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