Mixed results for secularism, humanism and atheism at the Scottish Parliament Tuesday 6 May 2014: Scottish Parliament failing to hold the Scottish Government to account

It was a busy day at Holyrood yesterday, 6 May 2014, for advocates of secularism, humanism and atheism,

ESS Honorary President, Professor Norman Bonney successfully presented his petition to the Public Petitions Committee to make the weekly Parliamentary four minute ‘Time for Reflection’ more representative of the diversity of belief in Scotland. The Committee decided to seek the views of several interest groups and the parliamentary authorities about the petition.The video of the proceedings can be viewed at 58 minutes from the start at http://www.scottishparliament.tv/category.aspx?sort=date&vid=0_zt0v0hml 

The petition can be found at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/GettingInvolved/Petitions/equaltimeforreflection

Gary McLelland, Education Officer of the Humanist Society of Scotland presented this week’s Time for Reflection at 2pm – only the fourth Humanist to do so in 15 years out of about 450 of the available occasions. His contribution can be viewed at http://www.scottishparliament.tv/category.aspx?sort=date&vid=0_1k6w060w

The Education and Culture Committee dismissed a petition that was presented by the Scottish Secular Society (a separate organisation from ESS) to the Parliament that sought to change required religious observance in Scottish state schools from an opt-out to an opt-in basis. The Committee did, however, urge the Scottish Government to see that parents were better advised of the ability of pupils to opt-out and undertake suitable alternative activities-procedures that should be in operation under current arrangements.  ESS is against any religious observance in school time.

Equality and human rights considerations over-ridden in Education Committee

The Education and Culture Committee also disposed of the ESS petition which aims to secure the ending of the legal obligation on local authorities in Scotland to accept the nomination of three external voting religious members to their education committees which are otherwise composed of elected councillors. Committee convenor, SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell, cravenly stated that since the Scottish Government had made known its opposition so there was no point in pursuing it. More is expected of our MSPs in controlling and holding to account the actions of the Scottish Government. In an independent Scotland will our MSPs be independent?  This question is especially important when fundamental matters of equality and human rights are at stake as emphasised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in its submission on the matter which was ignored by the Scottish Government and the Education and Culture Committee (see previous post).

However the issues raised in the ESS petition will be pursued in a private member’s bill on transparency and accountability in Scottish local government being pursued by independent MSP John Finnie’s . Visit  http://johnfinniemsp.org/johns-members-bill-consultation/

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