Edinburgh police on alert for wave of anti-gay crime attacks

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Officers at a specialist police station in Edinburgh's "pink triangle" are being trained to combat homophobic crime amid fears that attacks have recently risen against gay men and women.

Officers at a specialist police station in Edinburgh's "pink triangle" are being trained to combat homophobic crime amid fears that attacks have recently risen against gay men and women.

Gayfield Square, Britain's first "gay police station", has trained 12 officers who will visit local businesses and distribute posters, encouraging people to report homophobic crime.

Gay activists say that the high-profile "Keep the Clause" campaign against repealing the ban on the promotion in schools of homosexuality has led to more violence. Andrew O'Donnell of the area's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Community Centre, said: "I am concerned about the perceived rise in violence since the controversy over Section 28."

Uniformed police officers are to hold a weekly surgery at the centre on Monday evenings.

Gay men in Edinburgh are four times as likely to be attacked as other men, according to latest government figures. Some 26 per cent had been attacked in the city in the past year, but only one-third had reported the incidents to the police.

Edinburgh's "pink triangle" on the edge of the New Town is internationally famous. Local venues include the New Town bar, famous for its warren of rooms and leather nights, and the pub CC Blooms, which runs strip nights. All the local newsagents stock Gay Scotland magazine, the Pink Paper and the national Boyz magazine.

Close to the area this week, a Frenchman and his Scottish partner became the first people in Scotland to gain legal status as a same-sex couple. Under the new French law recognising the legal union of homosexual couples they signed a pact at a ceremony at the consulate in Randolph Crescent.

There are proposals that Edinburgh's "pink triangle" should become an official gay-friendly quarter as part of a national drive by the British Tourist Authority to attract homosexual visitors. Barnaby Miln has published a report for the authoirty, arguing that the streets should be decorated with rainbow flags, after the success of a scheme in San Francisco.

Mr Miln, 51, a founder of the Pink Paper, is a gay Christian activist. He said: "An estimated one in seven visitors to Edinburgh is gay ... This is an arty, cultural city, where people feel comfortable ... We need to reach out to gay tourists. They travel more, have a higher disposable income and, because they usually don't have children, can visit out of season."

There may soon be a battle for the title of national gay capital. The tourist authority has published a 20-page glossy brochure (only available abroad) detailing how the country is now the "gay centre of Europe". Aimed specifically at the US market, it welcomes visitors "to the land of Oscar Wilde, Elton John, Rupert Everett and Boy George" and highlights Manchester's "gay village", Soho in central London and The Lanes in Brighton.

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