Minority religious groups exercise veto over Scots Parliament which fails to use the powers that it has had since 1999

Amidst all the discussion of additional new powers for the Scottish Parliament it is salutary to be reminded that while it may have certain powers it may choose not to exercise them.

The Scottish Parliament has had the power since 1999 to amend Scottish education laws which require the nomination by the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church and a third denomination of non-elected voting members on Scotland’s local authority education committees. The Parliament has taken no action on this outrageous affront to democratic principles. Religious interests could advise council committees but they should not have the right to contribute to making the final decisions on council policy on education..

A petition to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee supported by 1700 signatories to abolish this right of nomination by religious denominations to council education committees was considered by the Committee but then disposed of, without further consideration, by the Education and Culture Committee of the Parliament.Now there are weekend reports that John Finnie MSP is not pursuing a motion that had the same effect.

The reluctance of the Scottish Parliament even to debate the matter and to attempt to dispose of it without full consideration does no credit to it. Secularists and others affronted by the undemocratic influence of religious interests in Scottish council education committees will have to continue to seek social justice by other means. The matter will not be abandoned as the issues involved go to the heart of how local democracy in Scotland should work. Religious privilege has to be confronted and overcome.

letter in the Edinburgh Evening News by ESS Honorary President Professor Norman Bonney, 18 November 2014

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