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BBC Scotland's David Allison reports
"Communities Minister Wendy Alexander misjudged the potential for controversy"
 real 28k

John Deighan of the Scottish RC Church
"We seem to see 70% of the population against the government"
 real 28k

Local Government Minister Wendy Alexander
"We don't think we honour marriage by denying the reality of other relationships that are well established"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Poll supports S28 retention
Keep the Clause graphic
The campaign says ministers must listen to the result
A privately-funded ballot has resulted in an overwhelming number of people in Scotland voting to keep Section 28, the law which bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

The poll, paid for by the Keep the Clause campaign, was conducted by post.

The results, announced in Edinburgh, showed that 1,094,440 voted in favour of keep Section 28, compared to 166,406 who wanted in scrapped.

Of 3,970,712 papers posted out, a total of 1,260,846 valid votes were cast - 86.8% in favour of keeping Section 28, and 13.2% in favour of repeal.

Brian Souter
Brian Souter: "Committed Christian"
The ballot, dismissed as chequebook democracy by the Scottish Executive, was paid for by multi-millionaire businessman Brian Souter.

Before the announcement, Keep the Clause campaigners said they would continue their fight.

Counting was completed at the weekend at offices in Manchester.

The exercise, conducted by the Voteit company advised by pollsters ICM, is based on a 1999 voting register containing the names of 3.9 million Scots.

Organisers estimate between 10% and 12% of these names and addresses are now out of date, but say the new register is not yet available in electronic form.

'Glorified poll'

A spokesman said of Mr Souter: "He is not in this for personal glory. He is fighting this battle because he is a father and committed Christian."

The executive has dismissed the ballot as no more than a glorified opinion poll, and complained that the public had been fed a diet of "misinformation and lies" by Keep the Clause.

Repeal legislation - designed to abolish what ministers regard as "legitimised intolerance" - forms part of the new Ethical Standards in Public Life (Scotland) Bill, now going through the parliament.

Wendy Alexander
Wendy Alexander: Dismissive of ballot
Local Government and Communities Minister, Wendy Alexander, insisted that the ballot result would not influence the executive's actions.

"I do recall that in the Strathclyde Water referendum, which was a postal ballot and the only recent postal ballot in Scotland, there was more than double the turnout that Mr Souter has achieved for this issue he alleges was inflaming Scotland," she said.

"We have always said that we don't think basic human rights should be up for auction, and that's why in British democracy we have never used referenda to settle issues such as racism or the future of Catholic schools or discrimination."

Shortly after the referendum result was announced, the parliament's local government committee resumed scrutiny of the bill.

'Family life'

The replacement legislation contains the phrase "stable family life" but ministers have resisted calls to enshrine the status of marriage, arguing this would discriminate against children whose parents are not married.

Ministers have made one concession, in the form of an amendment to another piece of legislation, the Standards in Scotland's Schools Bill.

The effect of that is to give legal teeth to "guidance" to be issued to education authorities on how sex education is taught in schools.

An executive spokeswoman said: "Stable family life encompasses marriage.

"Marriage is important, and we recognise it was important. But that is not to say that it is the only lifestyle people in Scotland adopt."

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See also:

30 May 00 | Scotland
Section 28: They said it
29 May 00 | Scotland
Ministers reject S28 'compromise'
11 May 00 | Scotland
Souter defends Section 28 stance
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