ESS issues strong evidence to support Edinburgh mother’s petition calling for a referendum to cease Religious Observance in city schools.

Edinburgh Secular Society
Challenging religious privilege

For immediate release:

  • ESS issues strong evidence to support Edinburgh mother’s petition calling for a referendum to cease Religious Observance in city schools.
  • Veronica Wikman’s Petition to be heard by Edinburgh City Council on Monday 3rd June.

This petition requests that council members agree to hold a referendum of its electorate on the discontinuance of religious observance (RO) in Edinburgh schools.
ESS has submitted a report and covering letter as supplementary evidence to put before the CEC Petitions Committee members. This report strongly supports Ms Wikman’s petition.
The ESS report contains compelling evidence, from a variety of sources, including Edinburgh parents, which support and underpin its central argument that enforced religious observance in a 21st century democratic society is unsustainable.
Evidence includes:

  • Statistical data that indicates 53% of Scots have no religious faith and only 22% adhere to the Church of Scotland.
  • Clear indications that religious organisations use RO to proselytise in schools, For example, one Scripture Union (SU) worker claims: “However, generally speaking our children . . . aren’t coming to our churches but 99% of them are in school. We do well to be there . . . so at least they will give Jesus a thought. I thank God that schools have been welcoming and allowed me and others in to do just this.”
  • Communications from Edinburgh parents, supporting the ESS and Ms Wikman’s petition, stating : “I am aware that the Parent Council at Ratho Primary have raised the issue with the local minister coming into the school on a regular basis”. and that: “the school chooses to have the Primary 7 leaving ceremony in the local parish church; . . I have met with . . . a lot of resistance. I choose to live life without religion I don’t see why a school, especially non-denominational are having a leaving ceremony in a Christian place of worship as that is not at all inclusive for all students especially taking into account the school’s multicultural and diverse make-up of the current pupils attending”with another declaring that:“Schools shouldn’t be given the role of endorsing religion, only teaching about them. Who is allowing this system to continue through every kind of school review when it seems to contravene so many clauses concerning children’s and parental rights?”

The report concludes: ‘ESS endorses the opportunity the petition affords city electors to decide by ballot whether the very questionable practice of religious observance in state-funded, nondenominational city schools should be continued’

In its covering letter accompanying this report submitted to petition committee members, ESS has expressed serious concerns over the potential procedural handling of the petition by CEC.
ESS Chairman, Gary McLelland, writes:
‘We respectfully remind members of the key issue raised by this petition before City of Edinburgh Council (CEC). It is not whether religious observance (RO) in ‘nondenominational’ city schools within its responsibility should be required, but rather whether CEC should conduct a ballot to allow their electors in the city to determine whether they wish religious observance in city schools be discontinued.”
He continues: ‘ESS suggests that all members of CEC make a final decision on the proposal, rather than transferring the responsibility to a committee or sub-committee of the council.
Public confidence in the Council would be gravely undermined if the Education, Children and Families Committee (ECFC) of the Council alone make a final decision on this petition. This committee’s membership includes three unelected external members nominated by religious denominations, all of whom are Christian, and must be regarded therefore as having a conflict of
interest in any decision.’

**** ENDS ****

  • For further information or copies of the report, contact:
  • Neil Barber – ESS Media Officer on 07986 183 977 or Gary McLelland – Chairman on 07813060713
  • Ms Wikman is a member of ESS.
  • ESS campaigns for a secular Edinburgh and a secular Scotland. It challenges religious privilege in the public arena.
  • ESS is affiliated to the National Secular Society, although views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the NSS.
  • ESS can provide speakers for TV/Radio interview, quotes and pictures on request.


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