PRIDE is a protest. Let’s never forget that. I’ll be repeating that often in my column today.

As June rolls around and we celebrate the month of Pride, we cannot allow the memory of those who came before us – the pioneers of pride protest – to fade: Mark Ashton, Marsha P Johnson and, of course, past and present members of our STUC LGBT+ Committee.

These are the people who, before it became the conglomerate cash cow, made Pride what it is – a protest. As such, we simply reject the notion that Pride should be anything but.

While awareness-raising is welcome, Pride doesn’t need a full month of very rich corporations pinkwashing or slapping a rainbow on their logo to diversify their brand.

Whilst solidarity is welcome, Pride doesn’t need companies seeking to make a quick buck on the back of ordinary working people seeking to celebrate their diversity.

Affiliates across our movement have long since abandoned the idea of supporting paid-for Pride events throughout the country. The commodification of Pride should be rejected.

Members of the LGBT+ community aren’t here to appear on the glossy papers of a corporation’s annual report in a transparent attempt to appear righteous – they’re here to ensure they can live and work with respect, free to be themselves and love who they choose without fear.

They take to the streets in, yes, celebration – in vibrant colour and full-throated voice – but also in protest.

Make no mistake about it, the need for protest will never go away. Progress isn’t just achieved by asking nicely, it’s taken through direct action. Throughout 2022 and 2023, we have seen workers taking to the streets on an industrial scale fighting for their very standards of living.

What we’re talking about here isn’t just one individual dispute, it’s a national movement of workers rising against poverty, rising against injustice and rising against discrimination.

It’s little surprise, therefore, that the UK Government has cracked down on the right to protest and our right to strike. Time and time again, true to form, if the Tory government doesn’t agree with the demands of our movement, it simply legislates against it.

The Trade Union Act (2015) combined with the incoming Minimum Services Levels (Strikes) Bill is an unashamed attack on trade unions’ right to organise and strike. Combined with the Public Order Act (2023), which gives the police sweeping new powers, our fundamental right to protest is under threat like never before.

This matters because if they come for our rights today, they’ll come for yours tomorrow. There is a hostility to progress, equality and compassion from this UK Government that can no longer be ignored.

Don't just take my word for it. The chief executive of Amnesty International, Sacha Deshmukh, has said: “We are witnessing the UK backsliding on LGBTI+ rights, where we used to be proud in our world leadership.”

Added to this, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, has raised concerns at the sheer level of abuse targeted at LGBT+ people in the UK.

It’s little wonder that, according to the ILGA-Europe annual Rainbow Map – the index of how LGBTQ-friendly European countries are – the UK has plummeted down the rankings to 17th. The facts and stats don’t lie. Hate crime incidents against members of the LGBT+ community have sky-rocketed by 75% in the past eight years. This is why we protest.

The trade union movement, long led by our STUC LGBT+ Committee, hasn’t been silent in the face of these attacks.

If it was opposing Section 28, you’d find trade unionists; if it was support for equal marriage, you’d find our movement; if it was supporting the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill, we stood together to improve the lives of trans people throughout the country.

We shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed to still be supportive of the bill. It has been a long-held STUC policy, supported and voted for by our STUC Women’s Committee.

Amid the rise of hate crimes against LGBT+ people, crimes against trans people specifically have risen by 68% from 2020/21 to 2021/22. As such, we cannot in all good conscience be apologetic for supporting a policy aim that, at its core, aims to make life for trans people just that wee bit easier, affording them the dignity and respect they deserve.

What I do say, in all sincerity to all sides, is that we must find a way forward with far less heat and far more respectful dialogue and discussion. Working people and the power of our protest are far more potent when we are united, not divided.

As such, we must unite in support of the decision by the First Minister to challenge the UK Government Section 35 order in court. No matter which side of the debate they were on, supportive or opposing the GRR, as democrats – as servants of Scottish democracy – MSPs simply must stand up for the rights of our Scottish Parliament.

Whatever personal view one may hold on the competence of the GRR Bill, this was the most consulted bill in the history of devolution, scrutinised to the letter with voluminous amendments – some not without merit – and passed by well over two-thirds of our Parliament.

This is a litmus test on the strength of our resolve and the strength of our devolution. It simply must not fail.

It’s a roaring certainty that, as we celebrate the achievements and progress won by the LGBT+ community, the need for protest to defend our rights is needed now more than ever.

Our collective strength to ensure those rights are defended is what I’ll celebrate this Pride.