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Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
Delay for Souter's Section 28 poll
Brian Souter graphic
Brian Souter's poll plans hit a setback
Stagecoach millionaire Brian Souter's plans for a poll on reform of Section 28 have been hit by a delay.

Mr Souter said he would commission Electoral Reform Ballot Services (ERBS) to carry out the poll on proposals to change legislation governing teaching on homosexuality in Scottish schools.

However, the Electoral Reform Society, which owns ERBS, said there would be no decision until next week.

Keep the Clause
Concerted anti-reform campaign
The Scottish Executive's decision to repeal the law which bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools has been fiercely opposed by Mr Souter and the Keep the Clause campaign.

Mr Souter announced on Tuesday that he would pay 1m for an independent ballot of all Scottish households.

He said he hoped that if a majority of householders voted in favour of retaining Section 28, the executive would be forced to keep the controversial legislation.

However, Mr Souter's poll plans hit a setback on Tuesday when the society convened and announced that further discussions were necessary and no immediate decision would be made.

Further statement

The society refused to speculate on the outcome and would not say who the discussions would be with.

And earlier it had made it clear it would only run a referendum based on an unbiased question.

A spokesman said: "During the next few days the society and ERBS will be having further discussions on the approach to ERBS on the poll concerning Section 28.

Donald Dewar
Donald Dewar: "Extraordinary attack"
"Until these discussions have been concluded, which will not be later than next Monday, neither the society nor ERBS will be making any further statement on this issue."

A spokesman for the Keep the Clause campaign said: "We are at a loss to understand the reason for this delay and have been informed that no decision will be made until there is a full meeting of the governing council of the Electoral Reform Society."

He said the campaign would continue to work with ERBS to formulate a question to put to the Scottish electorate.

Dewar's response

Mr Souter's move had earlier been attacked by Scottish First Minister Donald Dewar as "extraordinary".

A spokesman for the first minister said nothing would deter the executive from repealing what has been described as a "pernicious" piece of legislation.

He said: "As far as the executive is concerned we still think that the decision to repeal is right and we will carry on with it."

But the spokesman declined to say if the executive would accept or reject the result of a referendum, saying this was "hypothetical".

Opponents said that if the legislation must be dropped, they want a replacement giving legal teeth to the guidelines which underline the importance of marriage on the same lines as those proposed in England and Wales.

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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
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