Watchout for Pridewash season

Posted on 24/06/2019


June is Pride Month and brands are quick to try and cash in on the rainbow feel-good factor.

But not everything is as it seems.

Like polluting brands that “greenwash” their reputation by embarking on meaningless environmental corporate social responsibility, so we are starting to see Pridewash. These brands have a dodgy track record on LGBT rights, but are now celebrating Pride.

While Victoria’s Secret has caused outrage, the worst offender of Pridewash must be the long-distance coach operator, Megabus.

It has a Pride Bus.

But Megabus is owned by Stagecoach, a company based in Scotland. And Stagecoach is controlled, in part, by one Brian Souter.

And Brian Souter is no friend of the LGBT community.

Let’s go back to 1999/2000 and what the Scottish Daily Mail editorial called:

A seriously destabilising force in Scottish society

What could be so bad? Drugs? Alcohol? Rock and roll?

No, the planned repeal of anti-gay Section 28 (or Clause 2A in Scotland), which had been used to ban any discussion of homosexuality in British schools.

Cue Brian Souter, Stagecoach / MegaBus boss and millionaire, who bank-rolled a “Keep the Clause” campaign, with the Mail and the Daily Record as his campaign cheerleaders.

His PR operation drummed up the support of the Scottish media. For example, the Sun’s editorial screamed:

God put his own son in a household with a mum and dad… We are the ones who are today grateful to Brian Souter… To use a Biblical term, the thought of removing Section 28 is an abomination. To use another, the idea deserves the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah.

Columnists and politicians joined in, former Scottish National Party Deputy Leader, Jim Sillars bizarrely warned that repeal would lead to:

The sperm of homosexuals conveyed artificially to women’s ovaries, in order to give homosexuals full rights.

The Scotland on Sunday columnist Gerald Warner exclaimed:

Homofascism is now, aggressively and shamelessly, the ideology of the Scottish Executive… These are the dark forces which will blight the next generation if a stand is not made against them.

As the campaign built up a head of steam, gay-bashings in Scotland reportedly increased. The Herald newspaper warned of increases in homophobic bullying in schools. Some pro-repeal journalists, like the Sunday Herald’s Iain Macwhirter, were  being threatened:

Even newspaper editors are being threatened by [anti-repeal] sinister figures on the fringes of Scottish media life.

The Scottish School Boards Association and other members of the coalition pulled out of the Keep the Clause campaign saying they had been hijacked by Media House, the PR agency which worked on the campaign.

Media House’s boss PR-man Jack Irvine still represents clients including the UK’s Dairy industry and Cayman Islands Government (he also PR-ed the US evangelical preacher Pat Robertson for good measure).

The campaign fought a losing battle and Section 28 / Clause 2A is now long gone in Scotland. But memories in the LGBT community are long and can’t forget this hideous chapter in the history of Scottish life, orchestrated by Souter and his cronies.

To be fair, this Pride Bus is being run by the American arm which claims to have been flogged off to a private equity firm, yet still shares the brand and has a copyright notice on its website indicating the links to Stagecoach.

When this story first appeared on Grit Daily, Bryony Chamberlain RVP and Coach USA issued a statement:

Megabus USA is no longer owned by Stagecoach following a sale earlier this year. At we’re proud to support our customers that have supported us throughout the years and have done so through our support of those impacted by breast cancer with our pink bus, and military members with our camouflage bus. The pride bus and SAGE partnership is a further progression of this series to support our customers in the LGBTQ+ community.

But the fact it is using Pride to try and gloss over its past links making profit for Souter perhaps just goes to prove the point.

So before you jump on Megabus to Pride, just know who you’re traveling with.