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Home affairs correspondent Reevel Alderson
"Ministers described the referendum idea as half-baked"
 real 28k

Keep the Clause spokesman Jack Irvine
"We are working to avoid accusations of bias"
 real 28k

Emma Simpson reports for BBC News
"The Prime Minister condemned the Keep the Clause campaign"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 28 March, 2000, 14:09 GMT 15:09 UK
Souter to bankroll clause referendum
Brian Souter graphic
Brian Souter is digging into his pocket again
Stagecoach millionaire, Brian Souter, is to pay for a referendum in Scotland on the government's plans to scrap Section 28.

The Scottish Executive's decision to repeal the law which bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools, has been fiercely opposed by Mr Souter, who now says he will pay for an independent ballot of all Scottish households.

Writing in a Scottish newspaper which has backed his campaign, Mr Souter said he intended to put up 1m to pay for a postal ballot, to be conducted by the Electoral Reform Society.

Campaigners' admission

Mr Souter says he hopes that if a majority of householders vote in favour of Section 28, the executive will be forced to keep the controversial legislation.

The poll will be the first privately-funded referendum to take place across Scotland.

Mr Souter's spokesman, Jack Irvine, said there would be two questions on the ballot paper.


Jack Irvine
Jack Irvine: Strengthening questions
"We are working with the lawyers and the Electoral Reform Society to harden up those questions so that there can be no accusations of bias," he added.

The Electoral Reform Society must now decide on whether or not it will carry out the referendum.

The Liberal Democrats' local government spokesman Donald Gorrie said Mr Souter's plan would not help achieve an informed debate.

'Accurate picture'

"Brian Souter's referendum is not the way to achieve an informed debate and an accurate picture of public opinion," he said.

"A referendum has a place in the democratic system but a referendum on a moral issue such as Section 2a depends entirely on the question asked.

"Opinion polls have repeatedly shown that a small change to the wording of a question can make a huge difference to the result."

The transport tycoon has bankrolled the high-profile Keep the Clause campaign, which has fought vigorously to retain the law.

Last week, however, senior campaigners told a parliamentary committee they accepted the clause would be repealed.

Intolerance 'unacceptable'

Patrick Rowlink and Ann Stewart agreed the existing law was discriminatory, adding that intolerance of any kind was unacceptable.

They maintained, though, that government plans to replace the law with guidelines were "ambiguous" and called for clarification.

Campaigners are adamant that the phrase "traditional family values" should be at the core of any new guidelines, but equal rights activists argue that this still discriminates against some sections of society.

Plans to abolish the clause south of the border have also met opposition.

Last month the House of Lords threw out the Local Government Bill which contained proposals to repeal Section 28.

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See also:

26 Mar 00 | Scotland
Activists back Section 28 repeal
20 Mar 00 | Scotland
Section 28 protesters back down
21 Mar 00 | Scotland
Churches in Section 28 plea
16 Mar 00 | Education
Section 28 debate a 'charade'
06 Mar 00 | UK
The Section 28 battle
15 Mar 00 | Scotland
Boards seek S28 word change
Links to other Scotland stories are at the foot of the page.


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