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Saturday, 24 June, 2000, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
S28 debate - one to remember?
Gay rights groups
Gay rights groups celebrated outside the parliament

By Elizabeth Quigley, BBC Scotland political correspondent

After months of wrangling, the day that Section 28 was scrapped in Scotland was remarkably uneventful.

A group of pro-repeal campaigners celebrated on the mound in the shadow of the parliament's temporary home.

They were delighted the clause was at last going.

Brian Souter
Brian Souter: Conspicuous by his absence
Stagecoach tycoon Brian Souter had been a very visible presence in his bid to convince the Scottish Executive to back down.

But on the very day which he had been so desperate to stop happening, he was conspicuous by his absence.

The Ethical Standards in Public Life Bill will no doubt forever be known as the legislation which scrapped Section 28 - the law which prohibits the promotion of homosexuality.

But the vast majority of this piece of legislation is aimed at raising standards in public life.

'No fears'

And while the spotlight was on the row over Section 28, opposition politicians were able to make their case for changes to the other parts of the Bill, calmly and rationally, and for the executive to accept many of their amendments without fear of being lambasted publicly for backing down.


Week in, week out, we faced a campaign without precedent in British public life

Wendy Alexander, Communities Minister
These concessions included extending the number of public bodies which would come under the Standards Commission to include further education colleges and area tourist boards.

But if the bulk of the Bill allowed MSPs to display their skills in the world of new consensus politics, the paragraphs relating to scrapping the clause provoked anger and some bitter words.

During the debate, Tory MSPs did not actually contest the move to abandon Section 28 - and instead launched a last-ditch attempt to get the word marriage on the face of the Bill.

Tories attacked

Brian Monteith and his colleagues were adamant that the M-word had to appear in the legislation itself.

This provoked Labour's Pauline McNeil to launch a fierce assault on the Conservative benches.

But it was the minister who had borne the brunt of the Keep the Clause campaign's ire, who took centre stage.

"Week in, week out, we faced a campaign without precedent in British public life," Wendy Alexander told the parliament.

"Where some sought to misinform and distort, this executive kept faith with this parliament's procedures and our national education tradition," she added.

Ministers happy

The plans to scrap Section 28 were broadly supported by the majority of MSPs - only the Tories stood firm against the whole idea.

A point Ms Alexander was at pains to stress.

"The idea that the MSPs in the chamber who opposed this amendment were also against marriage is as fanciful today as the claim when we first debated repeal in February that over 100 MSPs wished harm on the children of Scotland," she said.

The Bill was passed by 99 votes to 17 with two abstentions - and the broad smiles on the ministers' faces said it all.

The bitter battle was over - and they fervently hoped they would never again have to face that kind of fight.

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See also:

21 Jun 00 | Scotland
MSPs abolish Section 28
17 Jun 00 | Scotland
Campaigners hail S28 climbdown
31 May 00 | Scotland
Poll 'backs' Section 28
30 May 00 | Scotland
Section 28: They said it
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