Scottish tour guides are told to address visitors as ‘grown-ups’ rather than ‘mum and dad’

Tour guide Scotland – ALAN OLIVER / Alamy Stock Photo

Tour guides at some of Scotland’s most famous historic sites are being urged to call families “fellows” and “adults” in a campaign for gender-neutral language.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which manages hundreds of attractions including Edinburgh Castle and Glasgow Cathedral, has recommended staff use the term “grown-ups” rather than “mum and dad” for visitors.

“Ladies and gentlemen” should also be replaced with “people” or “everyone”, based on guidance first obtained by the Scottish Sun.

Employees who “make a mistake” are encouraged to publicly “apologize and learn” if a guest corrects them.

HES has emphasized that the guidance does not categorically prohibit specific words and is designed to ensure staff “don’t guess someone’s background.”

Rachael Hamilton, the Scottish Conservative spokeswoman for Rural and Islands Affairs, said the council, while “well-intentioned”, “lacks any common sense” and called on HES to “remove stifling guidance”.

She said: “By telling staff not to use these completely normal words and phrases, HES has only ensured that staff spend more time questioning themselves than interacting with visitors to Scotland’s most famous attractions.

“They should ditch this stifling guideline and allow employees to do their jobs and express themselves freely and naturally on the topics they know best.”

‘Pushing a political agenda’

The guide, titled Inclusive Language -LGBT+ Guide for Customer-Facing Colleagues’, has been distributed as an online table to all staff who welcome the five million visitors a year to attractions across the country.

Non-inclusive terms like mom and dad are changed to adults or adults, while sister or brother is changed to friend, partner, or all.

He/she and she/he are changed to them/her/we/our and phrases that include son or daughter are changed to children instead.

He says, “The most important thing is to avoid assuming that you can accurately tell a person’s gender or background.

“It is best to use inclusive and gender-neutral language so that everyone feels welcome and respected.

“If you realize that you have made a mistake, apologize as soon as possible. You might do this in public to help the person feel like you’ve taken them seriously. Or you can consider doing it in private if that’s more appropriate.”

Marion Calder, co-director of For Women Scotland, said the guide “assumes everyone is permanently wired to offend”.

‘Check your mindset’

She told the Scottish Sun: “What this is really about is pushing, once again, a political agenda and supporting self-identification.

“This is becoming a forced speech or, to put it another way, asking staff to check their thinking.”

HES has said that the guide does not prohibit the use of any words or phrases.

A spokesperson said: “Our guidance for Visitor Operations staff categorically does not prohibit the use of any words or phrases; provides some examples of commonly used language and suggests more inclusive alternatives.

“This is to ensure that our staff can avoid showing off a person’s background and use inclusive language so that everyone feels welcome and respected.”

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