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Exclusive: Meet the couple Nicola Sturgeon helped become a family

By Will Stroude

The world raised a smile earlier this week as Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon used an SNP public meeting in the little seaside town of Oban to help one man propose to his partner

He has now told Attitude he hopes the experience will send a message to leaders of countries yet to adopt LGBT equality.

In a gay press exclusive, Ian Johnstone says that the couple were “touched” by the Scottish leader’s willingness to help his partner Paul propose, and that they can’t wait to raise Ian’s adopted children, Danny and Amelie, together as husband and husband.


44-year-old Ian lives in Oban with his two children, Danny and Amelie, who he adopted in 2006 with his ex-partner. He met Paul, 35, almost a year to the day before Monday’s proposal, after getting in touch via Gaydar.

“I’d been single since 2008 and wasn’t really interested in dating because of my kids, but I made a profile that made it clear that I was a 40-something parent looking for someone to spend the rest of my life with – so as you can imagine it got about zero hits!” jokes Ian.

While the pair “hit it off straight away”, introducing Paul to Amelie and Danny – who has autism and Asperger syndrome – was a sensitive issue for the couple.

“I knew I had to let Paul see what it was like to effectively date three people, and for the kids to adjust to seeing me in a relationship again,” Ian says.

“So it’s actually been quite a difficult journey for all of us. “But we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, and now Paul has such a great relationship with Amelie and Danny. Danny really gets on so well with Paul. He calls Paul ‘Jabba’, from Jabba the Hut, and Paul calls him ‘Jabbita’, like the mini version.”


The couple had each made their own plans to propose to one another, but it was only when they went to see Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP cabinet in Oban that it was sealed for good. Audiences members were asked to submit questions to the First Minister to be asked during the meeting, and the idea struck Paul to ask her to pop the question to Ian there and then.

The questions were put in a box and while Ian’s question about equality and men’s life expectancy was selected at random and answered, Paul’s wasn’t. 

“I said ‘Oh what’s your question?’ and he said ‘I’m not telling you!” laughs Ian. “The whole time he was sweating it.”

At the end of the meeting, the couple went over the introduce themselves to Nicola and pose for a selfie, where Ian told her that Paul had also had a question for her.

“She said ‘Come on Paul, what was your question?’ and he said, ‘I’m not going to say, First Minister,’ recalls Ian.

“She went, ‘Paul, I’m the First Minister: tell me what the question was.’

“He said, ‘Well, I had this idea that you could help ask me to marry Ian, but the moment’s passed, it’s fine.’

“She replied: “No no no, the moment has not passed! Where’s the ring?!’ She turned to Paul and said, ‘Right Paul, are you getting down on one knee or am I?!’

“He got down on one knee and Nicola said to me: ‘So Ian, Paul would like to know if you’d like to spend the rest of your life with him, and if you’d like to get married. I’d be greatly honoured if you said yes to me on behalf of Paul.

“And I said ‘Yes First Minister, it’s not a question you have to ask!'”


Having helped Paul – who moved to the UK from his native Poland in his 20s – pop the question, Ian says the First Minister gave them both a “massive bear hug”, took photos with them and told them they’d “made her day”.

“It meant so much to us,” says Ian. “In Poland, Paul could never get married, you still can’t show any physical affection, so for the country’s leader to be so cool as a cucumber about it was amazing, and he was gobsmacked. He’s been very touched by it.

“As one of the first gay people to adopt, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come and that we can now be married. I think we should recognise and celebrate how far we’ve come, and that gay families do work.”

Adding that the story had been picked up in places like Australia, where the couple have friends and equal marriage is yet to be legalised, Ian says the pair hope that Nicola Sturgeon’s actions will help send a message to other politicians around the world – including Tony Abbott.

“You’ve got a country there where the people want it to happen, but the Prime Minister has continually blocked it. We want to show what a Prime Minister, First Minster or President should do, and that’s representthe diversity held within that country. Nicola Sturgeon’s really done that, and big up her!”

He adds: “We just want to say that we are lucky to live in a country like Scotland where we can do this, and you see a lot of politicians walk it, but you never actually see them walk it”.


Ian says that Danny and Amelie are “over the moon” at the news, and that he and Paul hope to add to their family as soon as they’re married. They hope to tie the knot during a week-long celebration in the Highlands next March, so that all Paul’s friends and family in Poland can join the celebrations.

“And we will be inviting Nicola Sturgeon!” Ian says. “I believe last night she was asked if she would come, and she said that if she got an invite, diary permitting, then she would love to attend.”