Historic Environment Scotland denies 'ban' on tour guides using non-inclusive words at Edinburgh Castle
Heritage chiefs have dismissed claims they were trying to ban tour guides from using phrases like “ladies and gentlemen” and “boys and girls”.
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It comes after a Tory MSP criticised Historic Environment Scotland (HES) – which is in charge of some of the country’s most famous tourist attractions, like Edinburgh Castle and Linlithgow Palace – after newspaper reports of a “ban” on non-inclusive language.
Borders-based Scottish Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton said: “By telling staff not to use these completely normal words and phrases, HES has only ensured staff will spend more time second guessing themselves than engaging with visitors to Scotland’s most famous attractions.
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"They should scrap this stifling guidance and allow employees to do their jobs and express themselves freely and naturally on the topics they know best.”
But HES said there was no ban and the guidance which sparked the attack was a single sheet of paper produced by HES’s LGBT+ network for colleagues, designed to be helpful, and was not part of any manual or set of instructions.
The guidance says: “Our visitor-facing teams are key to the success of our organisation. They help us welcome millions of people to our sites every year.
"A vital part of this excellent customer care is ensuring that we avoid making assumptions about people and tailoring our communication to be as inclusive as possible. This helps everyone have a positive and enjoyable experience with us.
“Using inclusive language respects all our customers, regardless of gender, personal situation or any characteristic. It helps us give our visitors the best, most welcoming service we can provide and treat everyone equitably.
"The most important thing is to avoid presuming 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 welcomed and respected.”
The sheet then offers examples of inclusive language that could be used by tour guides. Instead of welcoming “ladies and gentlemen”, it suggests: “Good morning everyone, and welcome to the castle”.
Rather than address visitors as “sir/madam” it suggests: “Would you like an audio guide, folks?” or “Would you be interested in a guided tour?” And instead of referring to “sons/daughters” or “boys/girls” it suggests: “Would the children in your group like quiz sheets?”
It also recommends instead of talking about “mum/dad” they could say “grown-ups” or “adults”.
A spokesperson for HES said: “Our guidance for Visitor Operations staff categorically does not ban the use of any words or phrases – it gives some examples of commonly used language and suggests more inclusive alternatives. This is to ensure our staff can avoid presuming a person’s background and use inclusive language so that everyone feels welcomed and respected.”