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Political editor Brian Taylor reports
"Material from the Internet was brandished at the news conference"
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Radio Scotland's Newsdrive charts the story
Media House's David Macaulay reads out the list at the news conference
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Wednesday, 19 January, 2000, 19:44 GMT
PR firm hit by Section 28 'hoax'

David Macaulay in front of Keep the Clause banner The list was announced by Media House's David Macaulay

A public relations company has been forced to withdraw claims that several celebrities were backing the campaign to retain the law banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

The climbdown followed the formal launch in Edinburgh of the Keep the Clause campaign, which is being funded by millionaire Stagecoach chairman Brian Souter.

Media House, a PR firm run by former Scottish Sun editor Jack Irvine, has been hired to organise the drive to retain Section 28 in Scotland.

At the launch, the firm's David Macaulay read out a list of celebrities and well-known business people who he said supported Section 28.

These included:

  • Simple Minds lead singer Jim Kerr
  • Television chef Nick Nairn
  • Former Kwik-Fit tycoon Sir Tom Farmer
  • Car sales group owner Arnold Clark
  • Optical Express chief executive David Moulsdale

But a short time later, Mr Macaulay was forced to admit publicly that some of those he had named, had not given their backing.

He blamed a malicious fax sent to his office, from which some of the names had been taken. The names had not not been verified with the individuals concerned and its source is not clear.

'Rogue names'

Mr Macaulay told BBC Scotland: "About 95% of those names were accurate, there were some rogue names in there."

Nick Nairn Nick Nairn: Supports government position
Referring to the names who were not supporting the campaign, he added: "Jim Kerr, of Simple Minds, he I believe is not; Arnold Clark, I'm not sure what his position is and Nick Nairn I believe is in favour of scrapping Section 28."

"It's an error, but it's an error that's been made in good faith."

Nick Nairn said later he supported the government line, which is to repeal Section 28.

Campaign 'damaged'

The Scottish School Board Association, which shared the platform at the launch, admitted that the campaign had been damaged.

Chief executive Ann Hill said: "We've tried to ensure that this will not happen again by saying to Media House, 'please don't release any names of any support until you've got it in writing'."

Jim Kerr Jim Kerr: Named as "supporter"
Asked if she was happy to be associated with the PR company, she said: "No i'm not, not really. If it happens again, I'll deal with it just as I have dealt with it this time.

"I think that people will be contacted by SSBA to see whether they are in support or not.

"You learn from these things and you get on with it and we must never lose sight of the aim of the campaign.

"That is to raise awareness of the issue, to try and protect children. I don't want to get bogged down in what went wrong this morning."

Support from nationalist MSP

But the campaign is being supported by the Scottish National Party's Fergus Ewing despite his party's policy which supports the Scottish Executive's plan to change the law.

What the law says
Section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986 provides that a local authority shall not:
(a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality;
(b) promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.
"I share the concerns expressed by many of my constituents whose sole aim is to protect their children from exposure to unsuitable material at school," he said in a statement of support at the launch.

A spokesman for the SNP said Mr Ewing's views would not be subject to a disciplinary hearing.

Section 28 prohibits the promotion of homosexuality by state-maintained schools but the Scottish Executive has unanimously agreed it should be repealed.

The government at Westminster also plans to abolish the legislation.

Consultation process

The Scottish Executive has said its formal consultation process showed that 75% of the 2,350 replies were in favour of the law being repealed.

But the Scottish Conservatives' education spokesman Brian Monteith wants the consultation period re-opened because about 300 responses were received on the final day of the process and have been disregarded.

Winning and Reid Cardinal Winning and Dr Reid met in London
The Scottish Secretary John Reid has said that the debate must be conducted with "sensitivity and mutual respect".

His words are being seen by some at Westminster as a coded message to Cardinal Thomas Winning, the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, to tone down the ferocity of his comments.

Earlier this week Cardinal Winning described homosexual acts as a "perversion" and restated his opposition to the law being changed.

The cardinal met Dr Reid for a private lunch in London on Wednesday attended by some MPs and peers.

He avoided a challenge by the gay rights activist Peter Tatchell by entering the Scotland Office through a back door.

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Section 28: For and against

See also:
19 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Church splits over anti-gay law
18 Jan 00 |  Scotland
'Public backing' for anti-gay law repeal
15 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Caution over gay law cash offer
11 May 99 |  Scottish Premier
Kerr's Ceaucescu jibe at McCann
12 Apr 99 |  The Company File
Farmer reaps Kwik-Fit rewards

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