Councillors in Edinburgh have been blasted by a senior Catholic clergyman amid a decision to delay whether to strip religious representatives of voting rights amid fears it could have to be reversed.
Green councillors tabled a proposal, merged with a Liberal Democrat amendment, calling for religious representatives on the education, children and families committee to lose voting rights – while attempting to give parents more representation and possibly adding a young person onto the committee. The proposal said that all additional members would not have voting rights.
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One religious representative wrote to councillors, blasting the proposal and the lack of consultation over potentially losing voting rights.
In a letter to councillors, Right Reverend Monsignor Anthony Duffy, criticised the proposal – labelling it “deeply disappointing and a very sad development”.
He said: “It endangers the very harmonious and positive relationship which has existed for many years between the council and the church.
“There have been no formal discussions regarding this matter only a very informal meeting and definitely not an official response.
“The church hopes that the views of people of faith continue to be important to members of Edinburgh City Council. When making a decision on this matter we would ask that councillors note that almost 20 per cent of the school estate and pupil population of Edinburgh City Council is within their Catholic schools, chosen by members of the electorate, who are from all faiths and none.”
But education convener, Cllr Ian Perry, backed a call from the Conservatives for a decision to be delayed until August – to await a legal appeal in Perth and Kinross over a similar decision.
He added: “There is a possibility, no matter how small, that a decision could have to be overturned at future meetings”
Green Cllr Mary Campbell, who called for the action, said: “The Green proposal to give more say to pupils and parents on education committee and put them on the same par as religious representatives was supported by Liberal Democrat councillors. Indeed, the only difference expressed by SNP, Labour and Tory councillors was about timing, with a delay in decision until August. So it appears that the Catholic Church representative is out of touch with councillors.
“It’s 2019. It’s no longer appropriate for religious representatives to have special status on education committee, although they will still be able to take part in debate, just as parents can currently do. In 21st century Scotland it’s time to give parents and pupils at least the same status as churches.”
The delay was tabled by Conservative education spokesperson, Cllr Callum Laidlaw. His agreed amendment asks to “delay determination of whether to add members and whether or not to remove voting rights of added members to August sitting of council, to allow time for review of similar proposals being implemented by Perth and Kinross Council”.