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BBC Scotland's Jamie McIvor
"The executive is hoping people will ignore the ballot"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 2 May, 2000, 18:14 GMT 19:14 UK
Section 28 ballot papers issued
Returning officer John Cowdal examines the ballot papers
Returning officer John Cowdal examines the ballot papers
Scotland's householders are starting to receive voting papers on whether the controversial Section 28 law should stay or go.

The public will be polled as part of the country's first privately-funded ballot.

Around two million voting slips were despatched on Monday, with the remainder being delivered over the next four days.

The move coincides with pro-Section 28 Keep the Clause campaigners' latest poster initiative urging voters to fill in and return their papers.

Brian Souter
Brian Souter: Funding the ballot
The aim of the ballot is to ask householders whether they want to retain the clause or accept the Scottish Executive's position and repeal it.

The law bans local authorities from teaching the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.

Stagecoach transport tycoon Brian Souter is providing the bulk of funding for the 1m poll, with financial support from a number of other individuals.

Voters are being asked to return the completed ballot papers in pre-paid envelopes by 22 May and the count will take place three days later. The result is expected on 30 May.

Two options

Polling company ICM Research has advised on the wording of the voting paper and an accompanying explanatory note.

The returning officer, John Cowdall, a former chief executive of West Lancashire District Council, will oversee the mechanics of the ballot and the security of the count.

Voters will be asked to choose one of two options on the ballot paper: I vote to retain Clause 28 (Section 2a) or I vote to repeal Clause 28 (Section 2a).

Scrap the Section
The call to scrap Section 28 has also been vocal
Earlier this year the Electoral Reform Society said it would not carry out the referendum for the Keep the Clause campaign.

It said it would not be a "legitimate democratic exercise" to ask Scots for their opinion before it was known what would replace the clause.

Mr Souter had vowed to press ahead with the referendum and Keep the Clause is known to have prepared a computer database of Scotland's 3.9m voters.

Scottish First Minister Donald Dewar made his opposition to a referendum clear in March, calling it "extraordinary" and vowed only to pay heed to the votes of MSPs on the issue.

The Scottish Executive plans to replace Section 28 with guidelines that would not be legally enforceable.

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See also:

27 Apr 00 | Scotland
Section 28 repeal under way
17 Apr 00 | Scotland
Souter presses on with poll
31 Mar 00 | Scotland
Souter poll hits major setback
28 Mar 00 | Scotland
Delay for Souter's Section 28 poll
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