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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 May, 2003, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
MSP sets record straight on gay jibe
John Swinburne of the SSCUP
John Swinburne: "Not homophobic"
Pensioners' party MSP John Swinburne has offered to apologise for any offence caused by anti-gay comments allegedly made at a hustings meeting before the Holyrood elections.

Mr Swinburne, the only MSP of the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party (SSCUP), is alleged to have described homosexuals as "sick" at a hustings in Wishaw, attended by First Minister Jack McConnell.

Witnesses claim that Mr Swinburne admitted that he was homophobic and that he "did not understand this gay business" after he was asked his views on same sex marriage.

However, the 72-year-old MSP now says that he does not have a "homophobic bone in his body".

Same sex marriage

And he has signed up to Green MSP Patrick Harvie's Bill on Civil Partnership agreements, which would give gay couples similar rights to married couples, in a bid to set the record straight.

A spokesman for the first minister said that Mr McConnell had been "shocked" by Mr Swinburne's comments.

However, Mr Swinburne told BBC Scotland's Politics Show that he did recall being asked a question about same sex marriage but could not remember making homophobic comments.

"My response was as follows: 'I have been married for 50 years, I can't get my head round this problem. I do not understand it and as such I am not competent to give a direct answer'," he said.

If, however, other comments which are alleged to have been said by me have caused any upset to anyone in society, I will humbly apologise to them
John Swinburne

"That is all I can remember saying.

"If, however, other comments which are alleged to have been said by me have caused any upset to anyone in society, I will humbly apologise to them."

Mr Swinburne said his attitude to homosexuality was "live and let live".

"As long as they are living within the law I have no problems with anyone," he said.

The revelations comes just days after Liberal Democrat MSP Margaret Smith announced that she was a lesbian.

The married mother-of-two revealed that she was having a relationship with the wife of a civil servant.

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