The Cabinet Office has refused to give out information on the knighthood bestowed on Stagecoach co-founder and Section 28 campaigner Brian Souter. Mr Souter, who gave £1 million to a 2000 campaign to uphold Section 28 in Scotland, was honoured with a knighthood last month, The UK’s Pink News reports.
The 57-year-old businessman has not spoken out against gay rights in 11 years but more than 6,000 people signed a petition calling for the honour to be rescinded.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request for details about the decision, the Cabinet Office said releasing the information was “not in the public interest”.
PinkNews.co.uk reader Stuart Ross asked who recommended Mr Souter for an honour, whether officials had considered their equality and diversity duties and whether they had considered that the honour would “tacitly” support homophobia.
In response, the Cabinet Office said: “We consider that it is in the public interest to maintain the integrity of the honours system and that it is not in the public interest to know the details of individual honours cases.”
The letter also said that the information was being withheld on data protection grounds.
Mr Ross told PinkNews.co.uk: “It is understandable that there are some issues which require careful handling by government in disclosing information either due to secrecy, privacy or other reasons. However, this response to a Freedom of Information request is a whitewash and is entirely against the spirit of open government and transparency.
“It suggests there is something to hide – perhaps a SNP nomination tacitly supported in the background by the Conservatives or Lib Dems?
“Whilst the Cabinet Office state there is a rigorous review system, the Cabinet Office give no explanation as to how they ensured that Souter was an appropriate person to be knighted. They make no comment on his clear homophobia (which he heralds on his own personal website). It is clear from this response that government are happy to award and honour homophobes.”
Mr Souter was the leader of the Keep the Clause campaign and cited religious beliefs as his reason for supporting the ban on the promotion of homosexuality in schools.