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Saturday, 22 January, 2000, 16:04 GMT
Dewar refuses showdown with Souter

The Executive is determined to repeal Section 28

First Minister Donald Dewar has turned down an invitation to take part in a live television showdown with the leader of the campaign to retain Section 28.

Stagecoach bus tycoon Brian Souter - who pledged up to 1m to oppose plans to repeal the legislation which bans the promotion of homosexuality in Scotland's schools - faxed a handwritten letter to Mr Dewar to request a public debate.

I believe that repeal of Section 28 will help in the fight against homophobic bullying in schools and beyond
Norman Murray, Cosla
Mr Souter writes: "I agree with Tony Blair's call for mature debate concerning Section 28 as I believe this sensitive and important family issue is worthy of proper discussion.

"I would therefore like you to consider debating the intellectual case for and against repeal with me in a public televised forum, which would, I feel, be in keeping with our democratic traditions."

But a spokesman for Mr Dewar says he does not believe the sensitive issue should be reduced to either a "personality or gladiatorial contest."

Meanwhile, according to a BBC poll Scotland's secondary school headteachers have come out in support of plans to repeal the law.

Brian Souter Brian Souter: Bankrolling campaign
The survey of more than half of the country's 300 heads - carried out by Mori - revealed backing for a move to scrap the legislation which governs teaching about homosexuality.

The poll was commissioned for the Kirsty Wark Show and revealed 56% of heads support the Executive's plan to wipe the legislation from the statute book.

Some 29% were against the proposal and 15% opted to sit on the fence.

The poll also suggests more than two thirds of the headteachers disagreed with Cardinal Thomas Winning who earlier this week fuelled the controversy when he described homosexuality as a perversion.

The BBC commissioned study also suggested homosexual bullying takes places only in a minority of schools.

Donald Dewar Donald Dewar: No public showdown
About 57% of heads said they or their staff had never had to deal with it in their schools, 20% said they had to deal with it twice or more, and 17% once.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) has also entered the debate by saying it is backing Communities Minister Wendy Alexander in her quest to repeal the clause.

President Norman Murray said: "It picks out a particular part of the community as uniquely disfavoured in the eyes of the law, and we find ourselves in agreement with the arguments for repeal set out by the Scottish Executive.

"I believe that repeal of Section 28 will help in the fight against homophobic bullying in schools and beyond - good and proper education can only help reduce violence against lesbian and gay people in society as a whole."

Responding to the Keep the Clause campaign, Mr Murray called for the guidelines covering sex education to be reviewed.

He added that the law prevented grants being given to Scottish homosexual support groups, and that its abolition would stop the discrimination against them.

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See also:
21 Jan 00 |  Scotland
'Little support' for gay rule repeal
20 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Minister's new Section 28 promise
19 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Section 28: Church leaders
19 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Section 28: A parent's view
19 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Section 28: Education Minister Sam Galbraith
19 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Section 28: A gay man's view
19 Jan 00 |  Scotland
PR firm hit by Section 28 'hoax'
20 Jan 00 |  Scotland
When gay became a four-letter word

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