New Midlothian Council urged to scrap ‘votes for churches’

Campaigners from Humanist Society Scotland have called on Midlothian councillors to ensure religious groups do not get a privileged say over how schools are run against the wishes of the local electorate.

By Kevin Quinn
Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 3:00 pm

Controversially in 2019 Blaringone primary school in Perth and Kinross was earmarked for closure due to the deciding votes of unelected church representatives. Elected councillors had voted to keep it open in a close vote, but the votes from clergy sealed the school’s fate

While the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 requires councils to appoint religious representatives to committees considering education matters, after the Blaringone case the Scottish Government made clear each local authority could decide whether religious representatives got to vote or not.

Leading the call to remove votes for churches, Fraser Sutherland chief executive of Humanist Society Scotland said: “Given Scotland’s proportional voting system for councils, new and returning councillors in Midlothian will know that every decision made will involve negotiations and close votes.

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Fraser Sutherland chief executive of Humanist Society Scotland. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

"What they won’t be considering is that any decisions they may take on education can be overturned on the say-so of unelected representatives from Scotland’s churches and religious institutions’. Midlothian councillors need to take action now so that only those voted in democratically will have a say on local schooling. We urge Midlothian Council to bring forward a motion for non-elected church representatives to remove their voting rights."

Midlothian Council declined the invitation to comment.