The Keep the Clause campaign was a privately funded political campaign organised in 2000 with the aim of resisting the repeal of legislation known as Clause 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 in Scotland and the United Kingdom, which forbade local authorities to "intentionally promote homosexuality". (Clause 28 was known as Section 2A of the relevant Scottish legislation). The campaign involved the first privately-funded referendum to take place across Scotland. The campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, although amendments recognising the role of the traditional familyTemplate:POV-statement were subsequently gained.
Most active between April and December 2000, the campaign coincided with the first legislative attempts to repeal the clause that began in February. A major part of the campaign was a private poll organised in Scotland, funded by Brian Souter , the Scottish businessman and self-confessed Christian and family man, co-founder of the Stagecoach Group, at the time the country's largest privately owned public transport company. Souter supported the poll to the tune of £1million
The poll was a postal ballot directed at the 3.9 million people registered to vote in Scotland in 1999. The campaign group initially approached the Electoral Reform Society to organise the ballot through its ballot services subsidiary. The society refused the request as it believed the poll "would not be a legitimate democratic exercise to ask people to give an opinion on the repeal of Section 28 without knowing the detail of what would replace it".
From the 3,970,712 papers posted, 31.8% valid votes were returned with all votes counted by May 2000. The results showed 86.8% in favour of keeping Section 28, and 13.2% in favour of repeal. Many groups hostile to the campaign had called for a public boycott of the poll. It was also estimated that the 1999 voters list could be 10-12% inaccurate, due to out of date information.
Mainstream politicians, including the Scottish National Party (which Souter has supported) largely ignored the poll result, and disputed whether it was a true reflection of public opinion. The then Communities Minister, Wendy Alexander MSP, criticised the poll stating "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."
Gay rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, stated that "Brian Souter’s support for Section 28 is the moral equivalent of the business-funded campaign to maintain racial segregation in the Deep South of the USA in the 1950s." Although Souter himself denies that he is homophobic and has employed many openly gay managers in his businesses, Tatchell stated that Souter's campaign was "hateful" and that it is clear that Souter was using his vast fortune to try to keep a cruel and "bigoted law" intact.
- Souter to bankroll clause referendum. BBC (2000). Retrieved on 28 March 2000.
- Poll supports S28 retention. BBC (2000).
- Souter poll hits major setback. BBC (2000). Retrieved on 31 March 2000.
- Kirsty Milne (2005). Keep the Clause: the legacy. Scotsman. Retrieved on 5 March 2005.
- Peter Tatchell (2000). Peter Tatchell: "Think Again, Brian Souter". Peter Tatchell. Retrieved on 11 July 2007.
- The campaign website, deactivated in December 2000
- Transcript of a BBC interview of Souter in March 2002