Storm over Stonewall's Cardinal Keith O'Brien 'bigot' award

image captionAward sponsors are unhappy with the bigot category bestowed on the cardinal

A row has broken out after the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland was named Bigot of the Year by gay rights charity Stonewall.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien's stance on gay marriage was singled out at Stonewall's annual awards in London.

The Catholic Church in Scotland has called for the withdrawal of public funding for the group.

First Minister Alex Salmond said Stonewall was wrong to describe Cardinal O'Brien as a bigot.

But the Scottish government has ruled out cutting funding for the charity.

Mr Salmond said: "Stonewall were clearly wrong to describe Scotland's cardinal in these terms, and in any case should reflect on whether pejorative titles like this do anything to enhance their cause.

"Personal insults are not conducive to a proper and dignified debate on the important issue of equality in Scotland."

Sponsors of the awards, Barclays and Coutts, have said they will axe their funding if the Bigot of the Year category is not dropped next year.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson won Politician of the Year, but was booed for also criticising the bigot award.

Ms Davidson, who is gay, has been among those giving cross-party support to a same-sex marriage bill which is being brought forward by the Scottish government, while Cardinal O'Brien has been a strong critic of the plans.

In a newspaper article earlier this year, the cardinal wrote that the proposal for same-sex marriage represented a "grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right".

He also said same-sex partnerships were "harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved".

Speaking at the award ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Ms Davidson said it was important for young people to see that politics, gender or sexuality should be no barrier to success.

She added: "But where I disagree with Stonewall in these awards is the need to call people names like 'bigot'. It is simply wrong.

"The case for equality is far better made by demonstrating the sort of generosity, tolerance and love we would wish to see more of in this world."

Previous winners of the Stonewall Bigot of the Year award include Daily Mail columnists Melanie Phillips and Jan Moir, Tory MP Chris Grayling and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party MLA Iris Robinson.

Ms Davidson later told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that Stonewall "doesn't do itself any favours" by having the bigot award.

But Stonewall Scotland director Colin Macfarlane said: "The people that were nominated for Bigot of the Year have this year called gay people Nazis, they have compared them to bestialitists and to paedophiles, and one of the nominees suggested that gay people should be put in front of a firing squad and shot dead.

"So I think what we are doing is highlighting the very cruel, very nasty, very pernicious language that is being used by some people - and in particular by the cardinal, who won.

"I think we are right to highlight that and to shine a light on that kind of discrimination, and hence why bigot of the year was one of our award categories.

"In the past year the cardinal has likened the campaign for same-sex marriage to slavery, he has called it grotesque."

John Deighan, the Roman Catholic Church's parliamentary officer for Scotland, said Stonewall's award to Cardinal O'Brien was an "outrage" that showed a lack of judgement.

'Brazen attitude'

He also said the comments highlighted by Mr Macfarlane had been taken out of context.

He claimed Stonewall was "massively funded by the public purse" - which the charity denies - and questioned whether that funding should continue.

Mr Deighan said: "Stonewall wants to shut down anyone who doesn't agree with them in the public discourse."

Christian Concern's Andrea Minichiello Williams said she regarded Cardinal Keith O'Brien as "a courageous Christian leader who has stood for the truth".

She said: "Neither he nor any faithful Christian is homophobic. Stonewall's attack on him reveals their contempt and brazen attitude to those who will not capitulate to their agenda."

John Mason, an SNP MSP who is opposed to same-sex marriage, called for both sides in the debate to use more balanced language rather than attempting to "wind up the other side and upset the other side to get a reaction".

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