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Brian Souter
"This is an overwhelming result on a single issue campaign"
 real 28k

Communities Minister Wendy Alexander
"The Scottish Executive has listened to the concerns of parents"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 21:03 GMT 22:03 UK
Section 28 sides remain a poll apart
Ballot platform
Campaigners say result endorses position
The Scottish Executive has vowed to continue with the repeal of Section 28 despite a poll showing an overwhelming majority of those who voted were in favour of retaining the clause.

The poll result has also strengthened the resolve of millionaire Brian Souter and the Keep the Clause campaign to carry on opposing plans to abolish the legislation which bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

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 ballot, funded by Mr Souter, produced 1,094,440 votes in favour of the law being retained, compared to 166,406 who wanted to see it repealed.

While Mr Souter hailed the result as a "clear message to the executive", ministers attacked the poll as "flawed and undemocratic".

Opponents of repeal suffered a setback when a compromise move by a backbench Labour MSP to include a public commitment to marriage in the replacement legislation was heavily defeated by a Scottish Parliament committee hours after the ballot result was announced.

The amendment, by Michael McMahon, Labour MSP for Hamilton North and Bellshill, would have put a clause in the Ethical Standards of Public Life (Scotland) Bill acknowledging the importance of marriage in raising children, while also acknowledging the need to avoid stigmatising children from "alternative family units".

However, in a debate in the parliament's local government committee, Communities Minister, Wendy Alexander, urged rejection of the amendment, saying it was unnecessary as the fears of critics of repeal were covered by the bill's use of the phrase "stable family life".

Brian Souter
Brian Souter: "Listen to this"
When it came to a vote, Mr McMahon's amendment was defeated by seven votes to three with one abstention.

Ms Alexander later alleged Mr Souter's ballot had been spurned by two-thirds of people in Scotland.

"Less than one-third of Scots back his position, and I think that is because as time went on, many quite canny Scots became less and less comfortable with cheque book democracy," she said.

"Despite the misguided millions lavished on misinformation, this was, and is about the society we live in, not about our schools."

Mr Souter, said the ballot was a clear message of intent from the Scottish electorate.

He 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.

"One point one million people voting to keep the clause is a measure of how concerned Scottish people are to prevent the promotion of homosexuality in our classroom.

Michael McMahon
Michael McMahon: Amendment defeated
"A denial of this result would be a denial of democracy. If this is a listening government, listen to this."

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Keep the Clause campaign said Mr McMahon's amendment had represented a compromise that would have alleviated parents' anxieties about the repeal.

He said: "But Wendy Alexander seems to have brushed it aside and does not want to discuss the issue of marriage. That is clearly a central core of the proposed legislation.

"The battle goes on to force the Scottish Executive down that road and make them see sense. We've held out the hand of friendship and looked for a compromise.

"We've asked for very little - just putting marriage into the legislation and emphasising marriage as the basis of society."

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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
30 May 00 | Scotland
Poll backs Section 28
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