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“”Section 28 is a cruel law, and Mr Souter wants to preserve it with his million pound bounty. ... He is behaving like the business leaders in the deep-south of America who funded the 1950s campaign to maintain racial segregation.
Brian Souter is a Scottish businessman known for his extremist evangelical Christian beliefs, opposition to homosexuality, dubious business practices, and closeness to the Scottish National Party. He is co-owner of the bus company Stagecoach, along with his sister Ann Gloag, who has similar religious beliefs but less interest in self-publicity. Because he has more money than he could ever spend or give to friendly political parties, in 2000 he wasted 1 million pounds trying to prevent Scottish schoolchildren being taught that homosexuality exists.
He was awarded a knighthood in 2011 for his services to money.
He attends Trinity Church of the Nazarene in Perth, Scotland, which belongs to a North American Wesleyan-holiness evangelical movement based in Kansas City. It is opposed to homosexuality, alcohol, cigarettes and gambling and generally believes in theistic evolution rather than creationism. Faith healing is practiced by some members.
Souter achieved notoriety in his campaign against the abolition of Section 28 in Scotland (actually, Section 2A of the Local Government Act in Scotland, but widely known by the name of its English equivalent, Section 28 or Clause 28). This was introduced by Margaret Thatcher and prohibited the "promotion" of homosexuality in schools. It was widely seen as a deliberate attempt to prevent children being taught anything about homosexuality, and was hated by almost everybody of a vaguely liberal persuasion.
In 2000 the Scottish government, a Labour/Lib Dem coalition, announced that they would abolish the law and allow schools to provide information and support to gay students. The opposition SNP also supported its repeal. Souter went ballistic, and spent GBP 1m organizing an unofficial postal referendum over the issue. The Electoral Reform Society refused to administer it, and it was widely boycotted by Souter's opponents, with pro-gay campaigners burning their ballot papers; a Stagecoach bus was painted pink by protestors. As a result of the boycott, the result was 86.8% in favour of keeping the ban. Section 28 was abolished in Scotland by an overwhelming parliamentary vote the same year.
Souter's company Stagecoach is a long-term partner of Richard Branson's Virgin Trains, despite Branson's pretence at liberal social attitudes.
The bus company Stagecoach was founded in 1980 by Souter, Ann Gloag, and her husband Robin. When buses were deregulated, it leapt into the void using all the sneaky tricks it could manage to drive rivals out of business: stealing rivals' parking spaces and passengers; temporarily offering free bus travel or tickets priced far below running costs; poaching drivers from existing services; running bus services that arrive at stops just before its rivals' vehicles; and confiscating bus passes issued by rivals. The Monopolies and Mergers Commision called it "predatory, deplorable and against the public interest".
There is an entire Wikipedia article about just one aspect of this, Darlington Bus War.
Souter is a long-time supporter of the Scottish National Party. He gave GBP 500,000 to the party in 2007, right before they changed their transport policy to favour private bus companies. He gave another half million in 2011.
Purely coincidentally, Alex Salmond, then head of the SNP, nominated him for a knighthood which he received in 2011. For this action, Salmond was investigated in an inquiry by Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, a Conservative politician and advocate, but Salmond was cleared of any wrongdoing.
He also contributed a million pounds to the pro-independence side in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. GBP 100,000 of this went to an otherwise low-profile Christian organisation, Christians for Independence.
- Think Again, Brian Souter, PeterTatchell.net, 2000
- See the Wikipedia article on Church of the Nazarene.
- Boycott call in Stagecoach 'anti-gay' row, BBC, 14 Jan 2000
- Souter to bankroll clause referendum, BBC, 28 Mar 2000
- Souter defends Section 28 stance, BBC, 11 May 2000
- See the Wikipedia article on Keep the Clause campaign.
- One million Scots vote to keep Section 28, The Tablet, 3 Jun 2000
- Anti-gay bus baron rages at being stuffed in Google closet, The Register, 13 September 2011
- Stagecoach found guilty of bus war dirty tricks, The Independent, 3 Dec 2000
- See the Wikipedia article on Brian Souter.
- Stagecoach in undertaking on predatory policy, The Independent, 8 Oct 1996
- 'Dirty tricks' claim as Cumbrian bus firms clash, Cumberland News, 2014
- 'Bus war' results in children being left at roadside, Folkestone Herald, 12 June 2014
- SNP accused of dumping bus plan to please millionaire backer, The Herald, 21 Apr 2007
- SNP donor Sir Brian Souter's Stagecoach Group has warned investors about the potential 'risks' of the independence referendum, Daily Record, 25 Jun 2014
- Scottish independence: Sir Brian Souter donates £1m to SNP, BBC, 13 Aug 2014
- Brian Souter hands Christians for Independence £100k, Scotsman, 28 April 2014