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The BBC's Emma Simpson
"Today's vote will place added pressure on MPs"
 real 28k

Communities Minister Wendy Alexander
"A sustained campaign of misinformation"
 real 28k

Brian Souter
"This is a very substantial protest vote"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 31 May, 2000, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Poll 'backs' Section 28
Brian Souter at announcement
Brian Souter welcomes the result
A privately-funded poll in Scotland has suggested strong support among those who voted, for the retention of Section 28, the law which bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

The ballot, paid for by the Keep the Clause campaign, produced 1,094,440 votes in favour of the law being retained, compared to 166,406 who wanted to see it repealed.

Poll statistics
3,970,712 papers posted out
318,110 undelivered by the Royal Mail because individuals had moved house or died since the 1999 register was published
The total number of ballot papers returned was 1,272,202 - representing a poll of 32.04% on the full register
11,356 papers were rejected for various reasons
A further 11,856 envelopes were posted back empty
The referendum figures, announced in Edinburgh, revealed that of 3,970,712 papers posted out, a total of 1,260,846 valid votes were cast.

John Cowdall, who announced the result, said 86.8% of the respondents were in favour of keeping Section 28, and 13.2% in favour of repeal.

The poll, which is said to have cost 1m, was funded by multi-millionaire bus tycoon Brian Souter.

Mr Souter said: "This is a tremendous result for Keep the Clause. It really demonstrates the determination of people to defy the government and register a protest vote."

"A denial of this result would be a denial of democracy. If this is a listening government, listen to this."

But Scottish Communities and Local Government Minister, Wendy Alexander, was dismissive of the result.

Wendy Alexander
Wendy Alexander: Majority ignored ballot
She said: "I think what is significant about today's ballot is that two out of three voters rejected, or binned or simply ignored this glorified opinion poll."

Tim Hopkins, from the Scrap the Section campaign, said the result was not unexpected in what had been one of the most "unbalanced, misinformed ballots in Scottish history".

Mr Hopkins said the fact that three-quarters of the electorate did not take part in the poll showed their "Bin the Ballot" campaign had worked and Clause 28 should be repealed.

Rozanne Foyer, assistant secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, said the ballot was "nothing more than a cynical attempt to undermine our democratic processes".

Ms Foyer alleged that Mr Souter's campaign had been "killed off" by the low turnout.

Tories' response

However, Scottish Tories' leader, David McLetchie, said the people of Scotland had sent a clear message to the executive that they wanted to retain Section 28.

"It is now beyond any reasonable doubt that the overwhelming majority of mainstream public opinion in Scotland is opposed to the Scottish Executive's madcap plan to repeal Section 28," said Mr McLetchie.

Scottish National Party education spokeswoman, Nicola Sturgeon, said the result confirmed that many Scots were concerned about repeal.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon: Clear public concern
She said: "That is why the SNP have urged a policy for many months that we believe can provide people with the necessary reassurance, by providing a statutory underpinning to the guidelines, and resolve this difficult debate.

"We believe that the value of marriage should be clearly referred to in the guidelines, without denigrating other relationships or children brought up in other kinds of relationship.

However, later on Tuesday, MSPs rejected a plea to put marriage into a statute in the clause designed to replace Section 28.

Mr Souter had promised to abandon his campaign if members of the local government committee supported the amendment by Labour backbencher Michael McMahon.

However, on a show of hands, the plea was clearly defeated.

Mr McMahon had warned that the row had damaged the parliament - and that people expected marriage to be stressed.

But MSPs agreed that would risk stigmatising those children from unmarried families.

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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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