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BBC Scotland Sam Poling reports
"The SSBA don't want to accept such a large sum of money"
 real 28k

Saturday, 15 January, 2000, 18:06 GMT
Caution over gay law cash offer

Souter Section 28 campaign montage Mr Souter is accused of being anti-democratic


A leading schools organisation has reacted cautiously to a massive cash offer from businessman Brian Souter to oppose a repeal of the law banning the promotion of homosexuality.

Stagecoach chairman Brian Souter has faced a storm of criticism from gay rights and civil liberties groups over a reported 500,000-plus offer to the Scottish School Boards Association.

The association said it would oppose the repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1986 and Mr Souter, a Christian and father of four, offered cash to fund a concerted campaign.



If we decide to front a campaign, it'll be all our ideas and our decisions
Ann Hill, SSBA chief executive
The money would come from the Souter Foundation, a charitable organisation of which Mr Souter is a trustee.

SSBA chief executive Ann Hill said she had been approached by public relations company Media House, which has been acting on behalf of Mr Souter.

She pointed out that while the organisation would accept a donation of several thousand pounds from Mr Souter, she was concerned any deal would be hijacked by the media company.

Ann Hill Ann Hill: "Going our own way"
She said: "I think there's a danger here of the SSBA being used to front this campaign, when I don't think we'd be comfortable doing that.

"And I think it's a case of if we decide to front a campaign, it'll be all our ideas and our decisions, and not decisions made on our behalf by a media company."

The SSBA is due to present its submission opposing the lifting of the ban to the Scottish Executive next Wednesday.

David Macauley, a spokesman for Mr Souter and a Media House employee, denied there was any attempt to hijack the campaign and accused the Scottish Executive of pushing through the legislation without proper consultation.

Taxpayers money

He said: "The executive are using taxpayers' money to railroad this legislation through parliament with the full might of government and their legions of spin doctors.

"Mr Souter's actions could be viewed as an ultra-democratic move by providing resources to enable the man in the street to understand what this repeal would mean and to make their feelings known to government."

Mr Macauley said reports that the millionaire would offer up to 1m to fund the campaign were "purely media speculation".


David Macauley David Macauley: "No upper limit to cash"
"The figure of 1m has never been mentioned by Mr Souter. For the purpose of this Mr Souter has made available the resources at his disposal - the personal resources, not Stagecoach's and no upper limit has been discussed".

Scottish gay rights campaigners have accused millionaire Mr Souter of being homophobic and anti-democratic in seeking to fund a campaign.

Tim Hopkins, of the Equality Network, said the Scottish Parliament's consultation process allowed Mr Souter to make his views known without him using his money to make his voice heard.

He said: "It will be five months before this bill becomes law.

"There's an opportunity for everybody to speak to the executive...to speak to their MSP about it, and I'm very concerned that one particular person with a particular view is trying to skew this by throwing a lot of money at it.

"In a general election candidates are not allowed to spend anything like this amount of money."

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Section 28 under attack
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See also:
14 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Boycott call in Stagecoach 'anti-gay' row
14 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Millionaire funds anti-gay law campaign
29 Oct 99 |  Scotland
Schools' gay ban to be lifted
07 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
18 Dec 98 |  The Company File
Green light for Stagecoach/Virgin deal

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