‘I thought I was evil’: Call to ban gay conversion therapy

Justin Beck tells his story as 5000 people sign petition calling on ministers to end controversial practice.

STV News

Faith leaders from around the world are calling for an end to the criminalisation of the LGBT+ community and a ban on conversion practices.

A recent petition to the Scottish Parliament calling on ministers to end the practice in Scotland has gathered more than 5000 signatures and is due to be heard by the Equalities and Human Rights Committee

The charity Stonewall defines “conversion therapy” or “gay cure treatments” as “any form of treatment that aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity” – meaning it can happen anywhere and by anyone.  

Justin Beck, 36, realised he was gay as a teenager.

ADVERT

Having grown up in a religious family he attended bible study several times a week, as well as regular Sunday services. At the age of 17, he decided to move churches; he wanted to stop being gay.   

“I would put myself forward for healing every Sunday, then that would ramp up to things like exorcisms to have demons cast out of me,” said Justin.

Asked if at any point people in the church looked to speak to him about the options available to him and how he may be able to live his life he said: “Everyone knew what it was and the line that I was given all the time is that ‘you just have to have faith’.”  

Justin and his partner Paul Hardie.

After six years Justin stopped the therapy. He said being told that he simply didn’t have enough faith “was a slap in the face”.

ADVERT

“I had absolutely zero self-esteem, I hated myself. I wouldn’t look in mirrors or windows, I hated everything about myself,” he said. “I thought I was evil.

“It was a lot to then try and pull myself back together and rebuild my life.”

In 2018, the UK Government pledged to ban the practice, but two years on there’s been little movement.  

Wendy Morton MP, Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas, said: “The Global Interfaith Commission’s declaration on LGBT+ lives is an important step towards equality and we fully support its call to end violence, discrimination and the ongoing criminalisation of same-sex conduct in 69 countries.

“The British government is firmly committed to protecting the rights of all individuals and have been clear that conversion therapy, wherever it occurs, is an abhorrent practice and should be stopped.”  

Campaigners say it comes in many forms and can cause lasting damage to people’s mental health. Psychology and psychiatry bodies say there is no science to support its effectiveness, but the controversial treatments are still made available through religious and cultural groups.  

“[Current UK Government plans] are seeking an approach that covers public health providers and psychologists and a clampdown on regulations on how they go about the practice,” said Tristian Gray, one of the lead petitioners to the Scottish Parliament.

ADVERT

“This would leave out most cases of conversion therapy.”  

Blair Anderson

Blair Anderson, 22, is a law student in Glasgow and is now estranged from his family after they couldn’t accept his sexuality due to their faith.

“When someone in a position of authority with a duty of care is actively trying to suppress someone’s sexuality or gender identity for their own ends – that is the same thing that conversion therapists are trying to achieve.”  

The petition calling on Scottish authorities to ban conversion therapy will be heard by the Equalities and Human Rights Committee in the coming weeks. 

Murder investigation launched over missing mother and child

A 50-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the deaths of Bennylyn Burke and her daughter Jellica.

Avon and Somerset Police via Facebook / STV News
Missing: Investigation launched over missing mother and child.

A murder investigation has been launched following the disappearance of a mother and her two-year-old daughter.

Avon and Somerset Police issued an appeal earlier this week to trace Bennylyn Burke and two children from South Gloucestershire.

The 25-year-old was reported missing on Monday having last been seen at her home on February 17.

A 50-year-old man was arrested in connection with their disappearance after officers attended a house in Dundee’s Troon Avenue on Friday afternoon.

ADVERT

The man has now been charged in connection with the deaths of Bennylyn and her daughter Jellica and enquiries are continuing to establish their whereabouts.

The arrested man is expected to appear at Dundee Sheriff Court on Monday.

The second child reported missing has been traced and is being supported.

Detective Superintendent Graeme Mackie, of Police Scotland’s Major Investigation Team, said: “We are now treating the disappearances as a murder investigation and I would urge anyone with any information to please come forward and speak to us.

ADVERT

“This is a complex enquiry involving both local officers in Dundee and specialist resources from across Police Scotland.

“Bennylyn’s next of kin have been updated on the arrest and are being supported by colleagues from Avon and Somerset Police. 

“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this very difficult time.

“There will be an increased police presence in the area for a considerable period of time and I would like to thank the local community for their cooperation.

“Anyone with concerns or information can speak to a local officer or call Police Scotland via 101, quoting incident 1434 of 5 March, 2021.”


‘No evidence’ Brazil strain of Covid has spread in Scotland

Jeane Freeman said there has been no community transmission by three Scots infected by the variant.

WPA Pool via Getty Images
Strain: Health secretary says 'no evidence' Brazil strain has spread in Scotland.

There is no evidence the mutated coronavirus strain first found in the Brazillian city of Manaus has been transmitted by the three Scots infected with the variant, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said.

A total of six cases of the P1 variant were identified in the UK last month – three in Scotland and three in England.

Since then, approximately 300 contacts or contacts of contacts liked to the three Scottish cases have been reached, told to self-isolate and offered a Covid-19 test, Ms Freeman has revealed.

Ms Freeman has now announced that there has been no community transmission linked to the variant strain of coronavirus identified since the first cases were discovered on February 27.

ADVERT

She also confirmed that attempts to track down all passengers on the Heathrow to Aberdeen flight taken by the three Scots who tested positive for the mutated virus have ended, despite a failure to locate 21 of the 90 people on the plane.

Although the search for the remaining passengers has been called off, anyone who was on flight BA1312 on January 29 who has not been contacted are still being asked to call the national contact tracing centre on 0800 030 8012.

“There is no evidence of any community transmission of the P1 variant so far, and I am grateful to health protection teams, local clinicians and contact tracers for their efforts to contact the remaining passengers,” Ms Freeman said.

“We have used all available options and done everything possible to contact all passengers, including referring to flight manifests and telephone information from the Community Health Index to make contact.

ADVERT

“Some passengers only have international telephone numbers so it is possible they are no longer in Scotland.”

Links to a Scottish school were also discovered during the tracing of secondary contacts, although Ms Freeman said the risk to pupils, teachers and parents was “very low”.

She said: “A school was identified when tracing contacts of contacts as part of this enhanced contact tracing work.

“While we are not confirming which school due to the risk of identification of pupils, staff and their families, we can confirm that the risk to them is very low.

“This is not standard practice and was only carried out for these cases as an additional precaution.”

The P1 variant was associated with a surge of cases in Manaus late last year and is among a total of four variants of concern being tracked by scientists in the UK.

A study this week suggested that between 25% and 61% of people in Manaus who had previously had Covid were susceptible to reinfection with the variant.

ADVERT

The variant carries a mutation in the spike protein called E484K, raising concerns that vaccines may not be as effective against it.

Ms Freeman added: “The Covid vaccination programme is one of three key ways we are working to beat this virus, along with our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission, and the important lockdown restrictions everyone in Scotland must follow.

“These three strands – following expert advice and guidance to suppress the virus, using our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission and rolling out vaccination as fast as supplies allow – are the three critical actions that will see us move, step by step, to protect the public, save lives and a brighter year ahead.”


Scheme to help identify buildings for 5G mast installations

The programme will help identify sites on public buildings and streets for masts and antennae.

Getty Images via Getty Images
5G: Scheme to help with rollout of 5G in Scotland.

A new scheme will aim to accelerate the rollout of 5G in Scotland by identifying public buildings where masts can be installed, the Scottish Government has said.

The programme will help identify sites on public buildings and streets for masts and antennae, and reduce barriers to installing them.

Ministers said this will increase 4G and 5G mobile connectivity.

A total of 124 mobile masts are due to be installed in an effort to improve coverage in rural areas of Scotland.

ADVERT

The scheme, part of the Infralink programme, is led by the Scottish Futures Trust and is funded by the Scotland 5G Centre.

Scottish Government connectivity minister Paul Wheelhouse welcomed the “game-changing” move.

“The changes in the way we use digital technology to stay connected over the past 12 months have shown how vital reliable digital connectivity is in all of our lives,” he said.

“Continued investment in mobile infrastructure, and the tools to remove barriers and make collaboration straightforward for all parties involved, is essential to Scotland’s social and economic recovery from the pandemic.”

ADVERT

Hamish MacLeod, director of Mobile UK, which represents the UK’s mobile operators, said Infralink is a “welcome and innovative programme”.

Sarah Eynon, Infralink programme lead at Scottish Futures Trust, said the scheme “offers a win-win situation for both the public sector and operators, but Scottish citizens and businesses will reap the ultimate rewards”.


Sir Alex feared he would never speak again after brain op

The former football manager was worried he would lose his voice following emergency surgery.

Ross Parker via SNS Group
Fears: Sir Alex Ferguson opens up during Q&A at Glasgow Film Festival.

Sir Alex Ferguson has said he feared he would never be able to speak again after suffering a brain haemorrhage in 2018.

The former Manchester United manager told a Q&A at Glasgow Film Festival (GFF) he was worried he could lose his voice and memory after undergoing emergency surgery.

A new documentary about the two-time Champions League-winning manager premiered at the GFF on Saturday.

Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In was filmed while he was recovering from the operation, directed by his son Jason.

ADVERT

Aware that his memory might desert him, the film sees Sir Alex recount the most important stories of his life, in and out of football.

Speaking alongside his son during a virtual Q&A after the premiere, he said the recovery from the operation was terrifying.

“I lost my voice, just could not get a word out, and that was terrifying – absolutely terrifying,” he said.

“And everything was going through my mind: is my memory going to come back? Am I ever going to speak again?”

ADVERT

With a speech therapist he worked through exercises in which he had to recall every member of his teams and his voice came back after 10 days.

Ferguson, who retired in 2013, won 38 trophies during a 26-year spell in charge of United, and previously managed East Stirlingshire, St Mirren, Aberdeen and the Scotland national team.

He told the Q&A that his favourite memory of Manchester United fans was on the day he won the league title for the first time.

“God almighty – I couldn’t get out of the car park,” he said. “There were thousands of them… they could have made me president that day.”

He said the experiences he regretted most during his time in football were having to let players go, particular youngsters.

“That is the worst thing, having to let a young player go,” he said. “Because all his ambitions and hopes and desires are about playing for Manchester United in front of 75,000 people and going to Wembley in a final – when you take that away from them it’s a sore, sore thing. So I hated that.”

The documentary looks at Sir Alex’s upbringing in Scotland.

ADVERT

“I speak for every young boy in Govan and Glasgow that growing up, the only thing you had was football – football every day,” he said. “There was nothing else in my life.”

As a young man, Sir Alex organised strikes of apprentice workers, helping to win better wages.

“There are moments in your life when you say, I did something really worthwhile,” he said, stressing he was proud of his role in the strikes.

He said that determination was a key attribute in his success, reminiscing on a formative defeat as a young manager to Albion Rovers when he was in charge of East Stirlingshire.

His team lost 5-2 and he said he “made sure my players had a mental toughness from that moment on”.

He added: “My mindset every time I played a game of football was to win – that was the only thing that mattered.”


Further 12 deaths and 555 new coronavirus cases reported

A total of 1,743,869 Scots have now received their first coronavirus vaccine, figures have shown.

Thomas Barwick via Getty Images
Coronavirus: 12 deaths and 55 new cases reported.

A further 12 people have died from coronavirus and 555 new cases have been reported in the past 24 hours. 

It brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7421.

On Saturday, the Scottish Government said there are 639 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 27 in 24 hours.

Of that number, 63 patients were in intensive care, a decrease of one from Friday.

ADVERT

By 8.30am on Saturday, a total of 1,743,869 Scots had received their first coronavirus vaccine, an increase of 26,197 from the previous day.

Meanwhile, a total of 114,081 people have had their second jab, an increase of 5884.

Rangers fans break lockdown for ‘title party’ outside Ibrox

Steven Gerrard’s side are close to securing the Scottish Premiership title.

Craig Williamson via SNS Group

Rangers fans broke lockdown rules by gathering outside Ibrox Stadium ahead of Saturday’s match with St Mirren.

Steven Gerrard’s side are potentially just one win away from securing the Scottish Premiership title.

Craig Williamson via SNS Group
Rangers: Supporters gathered in celebration ahead of the match with St Mirren.

If the Light Blues beat The Buddies on Saturday and Celtic drop points away to Dundee United on Sunday, Rangers will be crowned champions.

However if the Hoops win at Tannadice, it then sets up a potential title showdown at Celtic Park on March 21.

ADVERT

With the title in sight, Rangers fans gathered in Glasgow to kick-start the celebrations. However, the early ‘title party’ was in breach of the Scottish Government’s coronavirus restrictions.

Craig Williamson via SNS Group
Police: Supporters broke the lockdown rules.

Under Covid-19 rules, public gatherings are banned and a maximum of two people from two households are allowed to meet outdoors.

Football games are still taking place, but are behind closed doors with no fans.

Footage shared on social media showed the Rangers supporters singing about winning title number 55, waving flags, and setting off red, white and blue smoke bombs.

ADVERT

Police Scotland said no one was arrested.

Chief superintendent Mark Sutherland said: “About 10am today, March 6, a large number of supporters gathered outside Ibrox Stadium and a number of pyrotechnic devices were set off.

“I would remind supporters that in line with current Scottish Government coronavirus guidelines, all gatherings are currently prohibited and we would urge members of the public to comply with these restrictions.

“Our priority is public safety and an appropriate policing plan was in place and officers engaged with those present to explain and encourage compliance with restrictions.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We are extremely disappointed supporters have gathered at Ibrox today.

“At this crucial stage of suppressing the virus, the actions of this minority of individuals jeopardises the safety of other supporters, the police on duty and the wider community.

“We will continue to engage with Police Scotland and the club.”


Number of Scottish Parliament workers contract Covid-19

Holyrood's chief executive said people working in an area of the upper basement are self-isolating.

ewg3D via Getty Images
Covid: Workers at Holyrood contract coronavirus.

A small number of workers in the Scottish Parliament have contracted Covid-19, Holyrood’s chief executive has said.

In a letter to those with access to the building, David McGill said that people working in an area of the upper basement have tested positive and are now self-isolating.

He said it was “very unlikely” that members of parliament and other parliamentary staff would have been in contact with the workers and caught the virus from them.

Parliamentary business is to continue as scheduled, with the situation being kept under review.

ADVERT

It comes as the latest Scottish Government figures show 12 deaths from coronavirus and 555 positive tests were recorded in the past 24 hours.

It brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7,421.

NHS Lothian’s Health Protection Team are working with the Holyrood workers to identify close contacts, and some other staff have been advised to remain off campus and take a Covid-19 test.

Some areas in the building have been deep-cleaned.

ADVERT

In his letter, Mr McGill wrote: “I appreciate some staff might feel uneasy at hearing this news. However, I want to reassure you that we are taking a highly proactive and precautionary approach to protect staff.

“The chances that members of parliament and other parliamentary staff would have been in contact with an affected individual is very low and (it is) very unlikely that they may have acquired infection from them.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Parliament said: “The parliament immediately alerted NHS Lothian’s health protection team.

“We are taking a highly proactive and precautionary approach to protect all who work at Holyrood.

“To respect and maintain patient confidentiality, no further details will be released.”


‘Grandpa would be so proud to see Callie take this step’

A 15-month-old girl is taking on a climbing challenge to raise money for mountain rescue volunteers.

STV News

She’s only recently learned to walk – but one little girl is about to embark on an epic climbing mission.

Callie Murphy’s grandpa Jim Robertson was found dead two months after going missing in the Cairngorms.

Now the 15-month-old will be raising money in his memory by climbing the steps of her Glasgow tenement block every day for the next four weeks.

They want to help Braemar Mountain Rescue, whose volunteers helped find Jim.

ADVERT

“We were supposed to do an organised walk last year,” said Callie’s mum Lynn.

“But that was postponed, and postponed again, so this year I just thought ‘what’s something we can do with all the restrictions that’s not breaking any rules?’.”

Munro bagger Jim went missing while walking in the Cairngorms in 2016. His body was found two months later – just a few days shy of his 61st birthday.

STV News
Callie and mum Lynn.

“He was just a lovely, gentle guy,” Lynn said. “He cared about his family. We were everything to him really.

ADVERT

“I can’t really put into words how much they [Braemar Mountain Rescue] supported my family.

“Even when they did realise that it was becoming a body recovery operation, they were still so committed, still so dedicated.

“This challenge is to make sure they’ve got the funds to help families like ours and people like my dad.”

Money raised will go towards building a new mountain rescue base in Braemar, and the Chris Lewis Support Fund, for a volunteer seriously injured earlier this year.

Lynn and Callie’s efforts have touched those involved in Jim’s rescue.

“They have been selfless in terms of raising funds,” said Malcolm MacIntyre, one of the volunteers who found Jim’s body.

“The money is fantastic, it always gets put to good use.

ADVERT

“But the feeling that somebody we’ve been involved in rescuing and their family still cares about us, it reinforces why we’re doing this job.”

With every step, Callie will get closer to the end of her challenge and it’s helping Lynn feel closer to her dad too.

“I think he would be proud,” she said. “He was always proud of us, my brother and me.

“I’m sure he would be super proud of Callie – that she’s involved and doing it for him.”


Rangers on brink of title win after beating St Mirren

Steven Gerrard’s side will clinch the title if Celtic fail to beat Dundee United on Sunday.

Craig Williamson via SNS Group
Win: Rangers beat St Mirren 3-0.

Rangers edged closer to their first Scottish Premiership title in ten years after beating St Mirren 3-0 at Ibrox.

Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos struck within the space of two minutes to give Rangers a 2-0 lead at half-time and Romania midfielder Ianis Hagi added a third soon after the restart.

Steven Gerrard’s side have moved 21 points clear of Celtic, who will relinquish their Scottish crown to their arch-rivals if they fail to win at Dundee United on Sunday.

Rangers maintained their 100 per cent home league record this season, while St Mirren stay in sixth place after their first defeat in five matches.

ADVERT

Hibernian missed the chance to close the gap on Celtic as they lost 1-0 at St Johnstone.

Saints, who lifted the Scottish League Cup last week, sit two points behind St Mirren after Liam Craig’s curling effort sent Hibs spinning to back-to-back defeats.

Aberdeen were held to a goalless home draw by Hamilton and have now won only two of their last 13 league games. The point lifted the visitors off the foot of the table.

Motherwell moved nine points clear of the bottom two thanks to Devante Cole’s double in a 3-1 home win against Livingston.

ADVERT

Cole’s penalty after Matej Poplatnik’s challenge on Robbie Crawford gave Motherwell a half-time lead.

Cole struck his second just before the hour-mark and although the visitors responded through Jack Fitzwater’s header a minute later, Chris Long restored Motherwell’s two-goal advantage.

Ross County boosted their hopes of survival with a 3-2 home win against Kilmarnock, who drop into bottom place after their winless run was extended to 10 matches.

County striker Billy Mckay cancelled out Kyle Lafferty’s first goal for Kilmarnock before half-time and scored his second after Leo Fuhr Hjelde’s effort to put his side 3-1 up.

Lafferty converted a second-half penalty after Keith Watson’s foul on Greg Kiltie, but it was not enough and the visitors ended with 10 men following Ross Millen’s second yellow card in time added on.


You're up to date

You've read today's top stories. Where would you like to go next?