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SSBA treasurer Alan Smith, followed by Tim Hopkins
Both sides of the argument on Good Morning Scotland
 real 28k

Brian Taylor reports
"Something of a personal crusade"
 real 28k

Monday, 17 January, 2000, 19:06 GMT
Is big business wrecking democracy?

One of the UK's richest businessmen has pledged up to 1m to fight plans to repeal the anti-gay Section 28 law.

Brian Souter, devout Christian and boss of the Stagecoach empire, has set himself full square against moves already unanimously agreed by the democratically-elected Scottish Executive.

Campaigners say the money will allow them to explain to parents the background to the existing law, which forbids the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

Gay rights groups say the move is undemocratic and that law should not be "bought by millionaires for a million pounds".


In an open society, one must be able to say what one wants. However, this does not mean that you can do so with impunity. Souter is the boss of Stagecoach, which owns South West Trains as well as any number of bus companies. Can Souter really afford to upset a large number of people (either homosexual, or homophilic for want of a better word). He can't say what he wants and then expect people to like him or his business.
George, UK

As a shareholder of Stagecoach, I say well done Brian Souter. This does not damage democracy. That surely could only happen if Brian Souter had attempted to bribe MSPs to vote against the proposed repeal of the subject legislation. This is plainly not the case.
Chris Klein, UK

Once again we see that money is being used to try to bypass the due course of democracy. Although Souter may not have to put up his million, the fact that he even spoke about doing so has bought the right wing scare mongers more publicity than they could of hoped for. All this money will do is give people with narrow minds to through about their ill-informed propaganda. No one is looking to try to "make kids gay" but surely in this so called enlightened age it is better for a child to grow up feeling that what he/she feels is not some dirty sinful thing to be hidden away and not spoken of. Goodness only knows what these people are afraid of, unless of course it is show them up for what they really are and there by loose their ill obtained respect.
Iain Camm , Scotland

If I could spare a few million pounds to devote to political causes I would not hesitate to do so especially given the amount of money spent by people for their own selfish pleasure or on causes that are wasteful, pointless or downright fraudulent.
James, UK

The issue Mr. Souter is concerned about is not whether being gay is acceptable; it is whether or not gays should be allowed to spread propaganda in schools.
Dughall, Scotland

The real problem is that this small piece of legislation was written and enacted by MPs who fundamentally fail to understand that homosexuality can neither be promoted nor demoted, neither encouraged nor discouraged. Homosexuality is not a choice. If those opposed to the repeal of Section 28 would accept this fact then some progress might be made. As a Tory voter, I am disgusted by the position of my party's leadership on this issue.
ASD, Scotland, UK

I think it is fair for Brian to say what he likes as loud as he likes. No opinion in a debate like this should be silenced. I personally do not agree with him on this issue, but I have to defend his right to be able to speak his mind.

And while we're about it, it is about time members of all the UK's parliaments stopped playing the "I do what my party tells me, and they do what their sponsors tell them.." game, until MP's etc. remember they were elected to represent the constituents, not their party whips. Who pays the wages? And government wonder why the younger people in this country hardly bother to vote come election time...
James S., UK

As long as it is permissible for either wealthy individuals, companies or trade unions to promote a particular view in the political arena then Mr Souter is entitled to do likewise. When all political views have to be funded SOLELY by individuals with a low cash limit of say 5000 each then that will be a welcome relief and a great day indeed for all who have become increasingly concerned at how we are being unfairly influenced by those with the deepest pockets.
David Driscoll, UK

As usual the outraged and disgusted on both sides of this particular fence are out in force. Let the dust settle and provide time for sensible debate. The parents of this country have little in common with Mr Soutar but they now have the opportunity to consider the issue. The man's money and religion are irrelevant.
Eddie, UK

No-one would want to see schoolchildren forced to watch pornography, and no-one should be forced into a kind of sexuality that is not intrinsically theirs. However, does anyone who has thought about this issue for more than a few seconds really think this would be the result of repealing Section 28? Read the text of this malicious legislation, and substitute "Jewish" or "coloured" for "homosexual", and see if you think it really is a Christian, helpful, nurturing view that protects our children against the dangerous powers of others. Really, for an enlightened country rediscovering its nationhood at the beginning of the 21st century, I had hoped for better.
peter, Scotland

Any law that prevents the promotion of homosexuality as natural has my vote. Had I Mr. Souter's wealth, I would match his funding of the anti-section 28 campaign.
John Atkins, Singapore

Sexual orientation is up to the individual, it is their life. However, if someone has made money, it is their choice how they use it. I don't think their is anything new about the business world lobbying politicians to get legislation passed or dropped to serve their particular agenda. Just look around, there are many concrete examples of money and influence overturning government planning controls for instance.
Tom, Australia

Just because you are a millionaire does not mean that you are a 'selfish bigot' who does not care about the poor or needy. Everybody is entitled to freedom of speech no matter how much money you've got! I would however like to see more moralist views in society then liberalism, especially when it comes to children.
David, England

Would it not indeed be undemocratic to prevent Brian Souter's endeavours?
R Tolkien, Australia

I'm a Gay man, so obviously I disagree with Brian Souter's opinions. But that's nothing like the revulsion I feel towards those who seek to silence him simply because they disagree with him. It shows, I am afraid, that no matter how much they use the word "democracy", many Labour supporters are even today are still closet authoritarians.
Jon Livesey, USA

I find myself in the strange position of being in agreement with Mr Soutar! The Scottish Executive have the means to push this ammendment through without allowing a proper discussion of views. Many ordinary people do not consider themselves anti-gay but are uncomfortable with the idea of allowing promotion of homosexuality to our children. I would be happier with a scenario in which children who had questions or worries about their sexuality had access to quality support in a culture which was non-judgmental and did not promote any particular sexual lifestyle
Mike, Scotland

Who financed the campaigns of those pressure groups that have lobbied MPs for the repeal of Section 28? Aren't they also guilty of trying to unduly influence political and public opinion? Or is it only supporters of Section 28 who are somehow "wrecking democracy"? Why?
Henry Case, UK

I don't think it's a case of "big business" being anti-democratic: personally, I exercise democratic choice every time I get my credit card out. If you don't like the morals of a business, don't buy their products or services. Simple.
Pete Morgan-Lucas, Wiltshire UK

I'd be quite happy for Brian Souter to waste a million pound of his own money. So, he has a problem with homosexuality, but then again, he still believes in god. Religion and politics are difference subjects and any links between them should be severed. As for the section of clause 28, extremists who think that this ban is acceptable truly are in the dark ages.
Colin, Netherlands

I think it's absolutely disgusting that this sanctimonious, opinionated man can think that money will ensure that everything will be the way that he and his "Christian" cronies want it. How can he call himself a Christian when he's openly denouncing gays who are, after all, his fellow man? Love thy neighbour? It doesn't look like it. He's an embarrassment to Scotland. The sooner children are taught that being gay is perfectly acceptable, the sooner we can start to live in a civilised society where people don't feel the need to hide their sexuality for fear of abuse.
Melanie Cowie, Scotland

As usual, the rich are trying to get things their own way. First fox-hunting - we can't ban that because too many people might withdraw their money from the Labour Party (cynical, Moi?) and now some millionaire wants to stop Section 28 being repealed. I don't think his money should count. Can't he use it for something that would benefit people, rather than using it to encourage discrimination against people who are already discriminated against enough? I'm not gay, but people who are so openly homophobic disgust me!

Laws, especially those dealing with ethics and morals, should never ever go to the highest bidder.

Brian Souter's bankrolling of the campaign to retain 'Section 28' presents an opportunity for our new Scottish Executive and Scottish Parliament to put behind it an era where wealthy and powerful men can abuse their position and seek to subvert the democratic process.

Within out new Parliament the arithmetic is clear. Those in favour of repealing section 2a of the 1986 Local Government Act includes MSPs from the Scottish Labour Party, SNP, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Scottish Socialist Party and Scottish Green Party. Only the small rump of Tory MSPs favour continuing with institutional discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

Let democracy flourish not a political system where multi-millionaires seek to use their power to overturn a parliamentary majority. Last year Communities Minister Wendy Alexander hailed Brian Souter a champion for change. Today he's outed as champion of a status quo that breeds bigotry and intolerance
George McGregor, UK

The gay lobby spend enough money themselves, pushing their own agenda. If gays are allowed to do this, why not others ?
Richard L., UK

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See also:

15 Nov 99 | Scotland
Anger at gay discrimination comments
31 Oct 99 | UK Politics
Gay promotion ban to be lifted
11 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Tories change stance in gay row
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