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Scottish National Party

SNP donor Souter gives £100000 to anti-abortion group

Scottish National Party 31%

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A TYCOON who bankrolled the SNP's Holyrood election victory has used his charity to give £100,000 to an anti-abortion group. Brian Souter, the chairman of bus company Stagecoach, has handed over the sum to the Right to Life Charitable Trust. He has also given around £2million to develop Neuro-Electrical Therapy (NET), a controversial method of treating drug addicts. Souter aided the Nationalists' victory in 2007 with a £500,000 donation. The Christian businessman's social views became known in 2000 when he opposed the then Scottish Executive's policy of repealing Section 28, the clause that outlawed the promotion of homosexuality in schools. Souter funded a private referendum in an attempt to stop government ministers from pushing ahead with the plan, but he was ultimately unsuccessful. The millionaire has since formed a charity, the Souter Charitable Trust (SCT), which is used to "disseminate" the teachings of the Gospel and "advance education in the Christian religion". According to the charity's latest accounts, the SCT last year handed out £6.42million in grants and received income of £12.03million. One of the awards, for £100,000, was made to the Right to Life Charitable Trust, which is based in London. The group tries to persuade women to keep their babies, as well as funding research into foetal pain and the "learning capacity" of the unborn child. It is also the charitable wing of Right to Life, an organisation that lobbies MPs about abortion and other moral issues. The lobbying group has close links to the Tories and has taken stalls at Conservative party conferences. The SCT award was made in a financial year when a minority of MPs unnsuccesfully tried to restrict abortion rights and block the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. The Trust also gave £2million to US-based Seaboard Asset Corporation to fund NET trials for people with addictions. NET works by releasing electric currents into an addict's brain through self-adhesive electrodes which are applied to their ears. The accounts also reveal that the Trust paid £6,869 to Ann Allen, a high-profile supporter of Section 28, for consultancy work. It also invests in an offshore vehicle called SVG Sapphire IV Limited. Other groups funded include Christianity Explored, World Vision and the Oasis Trust, which runs faith-based city academies in England. Souter's personal contribution to the Trust increased from £5.13million in 2007 to £10.92million last year. However, the tycoon's anti-abortion link may again question the SNP's commitment to liberal causes. Earlier this month, the Sunday Herald revealed how the Nationalist Government helped the Catholic Church get around the law on same sex adoption. Salmond has also signalled his queasiness about abortion by voting to reduce the period in which a woman can seek a termination. Labour MSP George Foulkes said: "Brian Souter has got more money than sense. If the SNP had any decency, they would severed their links with him. The Nationalists are aligning themselves with someone who holds social views that are contrary to their own policies. It is total hypocrisy." A spokesman for The Souter Charitable Trust said: "Details of the two organisations are in the public domain. We have nothing further to add."


June 22, 2009

autor: Paul Hutcheon, Investigations Editor

source: www.sundayherald.com


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