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15th June 2011

An un-Souter-ble accolade
Posted by at 7.44pm | 1 response | Gay, In the News

Brian Souter has been knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Souter is the chairman of Stagecoach Group, the second-largest transport company in Great Britain, with bus, train and tram operations across the nation.

In his private life, Souter is a controversial figure thanks to his notorious support for Section 28, a part of the Local Government Act 1988 which banned local authorities from teaching the “acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

Stagecoach Bus in Queen Square Bus Station, LiverpoolThe law had been originally introduced thanks to a series of hysterical, mostly untrue, tabloid stories about schools which were supposedly “teaching” young children that gay relationships were “better” than straight ones. No prosecutions were ever brought, but it nevertheless had a chilling effect on schools, discouraging teachers from stepping in to prevent homophobic bullying and restricting access to information on safe gay sex. It was also deeply symbolic of the prevailing attitude to homosexuality that existed throughout the 80s and much of the 90s.

When the newly-devolved Scottish Parliament announced plans in 1999 to repeal the law, Souter launched a “Keep the Clause” campaign, with a postal ballot sent to every household in Scotland. From the ballot results he claimed that 86% of Scottish voters supported keeping the law (although an organised boycott meant that many people who received the ballot simply binned it, skewing the results).

Souter’s financial might failed to derail the law’s repeal: Section 28 was abolished in Scotland in June 2000 (three years before the rest of the UK).

Of course, Souter is entitled to his view, just as we are entitled to shun him and his business ventures because of it.

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One Response
  1. Comment by Gavin Kincade
    16th June 2011 at 6:04 pm

    His support for Clause 28 was unpleasant, but unfortunately we can hardly shun his business ventures, given that his firm runs East Midlands and South West trains, trams in Manchester and Sheffield as well as having a virtual monopoly on the local buses in many towns.

    Apparently he is a Christian. Perhaps he hasn’t read the line in the Gospels about camels and the eyes of needles.