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Lothian Gay and Lesbian Switchboard (LGLS)

Identifier: GD61

Scope and Contents

Please note the content of this collection may cause distress to those who view it. It contains upetting content in the form of personal testimonies from the LGBTQ+ community as well as discriminatory and outdated language used to describe the community.

This collection contains material created by and collected by the Lothian Gay and Lesbian Switchboard and its predecessor bodies.

It includes management and administrative files covering 1974-2008, such as Minutes (1974-2006), Annual Reports (1986-1999), Project files (1980-2008), Correspondence (1974-2004), and Staff files (1974-2001), which document how the organisation operated, details of campaigns and groups they were involved in, and sources of funding and grants.

It also includes call logs (1974-2006); caller statistics (1980-1998); media coverage (1996-2005); published reports (1981-2008); subject based folders on LGBTQ+ health and social issues (1967-2000); and publicity (1999-2009).


  • Creation: 1967 - 2010


Conditions Governing Access

Information on access has been provided across series, sub-series, file and item level where appropriate in this catalogue. This collection contains information relating to service users and members, including addresses and contact information. Personal data and reasons for contacting LGLS is also provided and it is important to note that this information was provided with the understanding that this was a confidential service and privacy must be protected.

Items disclosing personal or sensitive information relating to adults (18 years and over) will be closed for 75, and for minors (under 18 years) records will be closed for 100 years.

Public access to these records is governed by UK data protection legislation and the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. Whilst some records may be accessed freely by researchers, the aforementioned legislation and guidelines mean that records conveying sensitive information on named individuals may be closed to the public for a set time.

LHSA encourages the use of these records for legitimate clinical, historical and genealogical research purposes, and records that are designated as closed can be consulted by legitimate researchers if certain conditions are met. Please contact the LHSA Archivist for more details regarding procedures on how you can apply for permission to view closed records. Telephone us on 0131 650 3392 or email us at

Biographical / Historical

Lothian Gay and Lesbian Switchboard was an activist-run mental and physical health service for LGBT+ people in the Lothians and beyond. Originally known as the Edinburgh Befrienders, it took its first call on 2 Mar 1974. In 1984, it changed its name to the Edinburgh Gay Switchboard, and at this point also expanded to operate a dedicated lesbian service known as Lesbian Line. In 1995, it then became the Lothian Gay and Lesbian Switchboard and operated until 2009.

LGLS was the UK’s first gay helpline and Scotland's first gay charity, and it was a key source of support to LGBT+ people across Scotland and the UK. They campaigned and advised on sexual health, mental health, and equality issues, and worked with the NHS and Scottish Government in health education and social and economic research. It provided a listening service and in-person befriending service to people struggling with issues or difficulties relating to their sexuality. Volunteers were available to listen to callers concerns as well as provide practical information, which included passing on details of gay-friendly organisations, counselling professionals, and sexual health advice.

The helpline was established after the gay rights organisation, the Scottish Minorities Group (SMG, founded in 1969) received a request from the Samaritans, who wanted to refer their clients to a specifically LGBT+ organisation. SMG also conducted an inquiry in their opening year, which looked into the views of people who were likely to be concerned with the gay community (including psychiatrists, social workers and clergy) to find out more about the social needs of homosexuals. The results confirmed that loneliness and isolation was the major problem facing homosexuals in Scotland at that time.

The service closed in 2009. However, a helpline continues in the form of the LGBT Helpline Scotland, operated by LGBT Health and Wellbeing.


43 boxes


Original order has been maintained as far as possible within the collection.

Original folders structures have been retained with chronological ordering used within file levels where appropriate.


Please note that this collection may use terminology that is upsetting and outdated. Where possible quotation marks have been used to reflect that this language is unique to the record itself and not used by the Archivist. Outdated language is retained where necessary to provide historical context and definitions have been included.

Description rules
International Standard for Archival Description - General
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Lothian Health Services Archive Repository

Centre for Research Collections
Edinburgh University Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44 (0)131 650 3392