A COUNCIL is to take part in a gay pride march in the Highlands which was the subject of a petition seeking a ban.

Highland Council, which approved the Proud Ness march, will be flying the rainbow flag on its buildings.

The local authority made the move as it emerged Church of Scotland minister Rev Peter Nimmo will highlight the importance of challenging “hatred, discrimination and exclusion” at the event which is expected to attract up to 2000 people.

The biggest LGBT+ festival to be held in the Highlands ever will take place on Saturday despite a petition signed by 600 opposing the parade.

The petition opposing the march on "biblical, religious and moral grounds" was organised by Donald Morrison, a home mission worker with the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing).

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He said it was "inexcusable" to give the march the go ahead and "shameful to approve and applaud sexual immorality being celebrated on the streets of Inverness".

Now Highland Council, which approved the event said it will fly the rainbow flag,  a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride, at both the Town House in Inverness and the council's headquarters "to show support" for the event. Highland Council staff will also have a stand at the event and are expected to take part in the march.

Bill Lobban, convenor of the council said: “One of the council’s goals is to promote fairness and welcome diversity and I am delighted to agree to fly the Rainbow Flag at both the Town House in Inverness and at council HQ to show support for the Proud Ness event on October 6.

“It is especially important that young LGBTI+ people are able to find support when they need it and that schools can tackle and respond to homophobic and transphobic bullying. The Proud Ness event gives us an opportunity to show that Highland is an inclusive and welcoming place to live.”

Principal policy officer for equality, Rosemary Mackinnon invited staff who want to join the march under the council banner.

She said: “ We know that a number of staff from the council will be attending and they are welcome to walk together on the parade through the city centre under a banner supporting the Council’s commitment to promote fairness and welcome diversity.

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"Any council staff who would like to join us under the council banner are invited to meet [up]."

Rev Nimmo said he accepted an invitation to be a keynote speaker at the opening of Proud Ness in Inverness in a “gesture of solidarity and support” for people who have felt they have been discriminated against and misunderstood by the church.

Mr Nimmo will be speaking in a personal capacity and his gesture follows a decision made by the General Assembly in 2017 to endorse a call on the church to take stock of its history of discrimination at different levels against gay people and apologise individually and corporately, while seeking to do better.

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Proud Ness includes a parade which will start at Falcon Square, where the minister will address the crowd, head along Inglis Street and High Street to the Town House, then across the bridge and along the river to Eden Court theatre. Mr Nimmo was invited to speak at the event before the petition emerged.

“I feel honoured to be invited and pleased to hear that a number of clergy from the Church of Scotland and other denominations will be attending.

“I would encourage as many ministers as possible to come along.”

Mr Nimmo, who was ordained in 1996 and has served churches in Edinburgh and Glasgow, said he had been involved in several Highland LGBT Forum events over the years.

He took part in a seminar on LGBT and faith matters in 2012 and spoke at a vigil following the shootings at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June 2016.

Mr Nimmo said: “The General Assembly passed an important motion in 2017 and it is in that spirit that I look forward to attending Proud Ness in a gesture of solidarity and support for a group in society who have, too often, been discriminated against and misunderstood.

“Whatever our religion or worldview, each of us should search our consciences, search our beliefs, and ensure that we do speak up against hatred, discrimination and exclusion.

“And we might, for the sake of love, need to change our attitudes and take care with our words and our actions if we are to truly show that we believe that every person, whoever they are, is of equal worth.”

Last month, Rev Scott Burton of St Matthew’s Church in Perth became the first Kirk minister to formally open a LGBT+ parade in Perth.

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In May this year, the Church of Scotland moved a step closer to allowing all ministers and deacons to conduct same-sex marriages should they wish to do so in the future.

The General Assembly voted 345 by 170 to instruct the Legal Questions Committee to prepare legislation with safeguards in accordance with Section 9 (1A) of the Marriage Scotland Act.

The committee will report its findings to the General Assembly of 2020.