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Winning ways on Section 28

THE left-inclined (of the theological variety) North Lanarkshire Council has achieved the seemingly impossible and made the Scottish School Board Association look like a model of consistency and liberalism over the Section 28 imbroglio.

It all began innocently enough. A report from the director of administration to a special meeting of the policy and resources committee on January 13 proposed that repeal should be supported "as a matter of principle . . . on the general grounds of equality".

But the SNP kiboshed that. Although its move against repeal was defeated by 10 votes to five, the margin was tight enough to win deferral to a full council meeting.

These 10 votes came from Labour councillors. But their resolve was weakening. By January 17, the majority for repeal in the ruling Labour group was reduced to 24-20.

Then came the crucial move - council leader Jim McCabe (not to be confused with Tom, the Executive's parliamentary business manager) announced a U-turn and pronounced himself an opponent of repeal. The Catholic vote was on the march.

Last Thursday's full council meeting then delivered the coup de grace, rejecting repeal by 2 votes to 19. In doing so, it presumably backed the strong views of Harry McGuigan, former teacher and ex-council leader, who railed against the "sinister intent" behind the suggestion that gay and heterosexual relationships were the same and warned against the "massive implications" this posed for genetics and bio-engineering.

We could have a "confused and disordered society" in 20 years time, McGuigan said. Odd how the director of administration missed these key points.

But McGuigan clearly struck a chord, support ranging from fellow Labour councillor Tommy - "I am not homophobic" - Morgan to SNP group leader Richard - "I am a parent" - Lyle. The rainbow coalition was completed the next day with the bizarre spectacle of the Holyrood Tories' Brian Monteith welcoming a "brave decision" by the oldest of Old Labour councils.

We nearly forgot - another key date was the annual function held in Glasgow in mid-January hosted by that most famous promoter of heterosexuality, Cardinal Thomas Winning. The cardinal's ball would have been a pleasant opportunity for the lad from Craigneuk to chew the fat with some of his North Lanarkshire chums.

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