Tour guides at some of Scotland’s most famous historic sites are being encouraged to refer to families as ‘mates’ and ‘adults’ in a bid for gender-neutral language.
Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which runs hundreds of attractions including Edinburgh Castle and Glasgow Cathedral, has advised staff to use the term “adults” rather than “mum and dad” for visitors.
“Ladies and gentlemen” should also be replaced with “people” or “everyone”, according to the guidance first obtained by the Scottish Sun.
Employees who “make a mistake” are advised to publicly “apologize and learn” if corrected by a guest.
HES has stressed that the guidance does not categorically ban specific words and is designed to ensure staff “do not assume anyone’s background”.
Rachael Hamilton, the Scottish Tory spokeswoman for Rural Affairs and Islands, said the advice, while “well-intentioned”, “lacks all common sense” and called on the HES to “end the stifling guidance”.
She said: “By telling staff not to use these perfectly normal words and phrases, HES has only ensured that staff will spend more time trying on themselves than engaging with visitors to Scotland’s most famous attractions.
“They should scrap this stifling guidance and let employees do their jobs and express themselves freely and naturally on the subjects they know best.”
“Pushing a political agenda”
The guide, entitled Inclusive language – LGBT+ guide for customer-facing colleagues – has been distributed in the form of an online table to all employees who welcome the five million annual visitors to the attractions across the country.
Non-inclusive terms such as mum and dad are changed to adults or adults while sister or brother is changed to friend, buddy or everyone.
He/her and she/he are changed to they/their/we/our, and sentences including son or daughter are changed to child instead.
It says: “The most important thing is to avoid assuming that you can accurately tell a person’s gender or background.
“It is better to use gender-neutral and inclusive language so that everyone feels welcome and respected.
“If you realize you’ve made a mistake, apologize as soon as you can. You can do this publicly to help the person feel like you’ve taken them seriously. Or you can consider doing it privately if it’s more appropriate.”
Marion Calder, co-director of For Women Scotland, said the guidance “assumes that everyone is permanently wired to be offended”.
“Check their thinking”
She told the Scottish Sun: “What this is really about is pushing, once again, a political agenda and supporting self-ID.
“This is drifting into forced speech or to put it another way, asking staff to check their thoughts.”
HES has said that the guidance does not prohibit the use of words or expressions.
A spokesperson said: “Our guidance for Visitor Operations staff does not categorically prohibit the use of any words or phrases – it provides some examples of common language and suggests more inclusive options.
“This is to ensure our staff can avoid assuming a person’s background and use inclusive language so everyone feels welcome and respected.”