Tag Archives: Scottish Government

Same sex marriage laws entrench religious privileges

Amidst all the public attention about the achievement of same sex marriage in Scotland, some months after it was achieved in England, it does not seem to have been noticed that in many ways the relevant legislation further entrenches religious privilege in Scotland.

A secular society, like France, would arrange that all marriages were exclusively certificated by the state. Thereafter the newly wed couple could celebrate the marriage as they wish with other parties.

In UK not only are many religious denominations empowered to issue such certification of the marriage at or after a religious ceremony but now, as a result, of the new legislation, they will be empowered to decide which couples they will choose to include in such ceremonies and who they will exclude.

Such is the power of these religious lobbies in Scotland that not only will they have this right to discriminate but they are also having success in allowing some teachers from fully and fairly discussing such matters with pupils and in excusing public registration officials from conducting same same sex marriages on religious grounds. We don’t expect police officers or fire service personnel to refuse to aid citizens because of religious beliefs so why should registration officers be excused from their duties on such grounds?

Scottish state schools must have prayers! (religious observance). Westminster laws inherited in 1999 by Scottish Parliament still prevail.

ESS Communications Officer, Neil Barber, explains in the Scotsman (14 June) the difference between Religious and Moral Education and religious observance;

RME teacher Isdale Anderson accurately describes the important need for religious education:To remove religious education from schools would be to leave pupils ignorant of the beliefs of millions of the world’s population” (letters 13th June). However, her description of her work as “ teaching religious and moral education (RME) in state non-denominational secondary schools” underscores an ongoing concern.

In addition to RME, so-called “non-denominational” schools are statutorily obliged to have regular Religious Observance (RO) which is often led by evangelising outsiders who might be less concerned than Ms Anderson to “encourage pupils to think for themselves.” RO is quite different from RME and, depending on the ethos of the school and the personal beliefs of the head teacher, may become exactly the “force-feeding” which she rightly condemns.

Let us not blur the distinction between RO and the work done by conscientious RME teachers like Ms Anderson.

The laws that govern religious observance in Scottish schools were determined by the UK Westminster Parliament before devolution and are similar to those that apply in England. They have never been reviewed by the Scottish Parliament in the fifteen years of its existence. Is it not about time that it used the powers that it has?

ESS will continue fighting to remove religious nominees from Scottish council education committees

In a letter published in the Times Educational Supplement ESS chair Colin Emerson stresses that a letter from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has not even been considered by the Scottish Government or the Scottish Parliament in relation to the ESS petition. ESS will fight on! However inconvenient for the major political parties, the existing laws must be assessed as to conformity with the UK Equality and Human Rights Act of 2010


Scottish Government religious subsidy of the week – 7 –£36,000 pa to the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities


The Scottish Government gives £36,000 per annum to the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCJC).

Judged by the website of SCJC  (http://www.scojec.org/) the Scottish Jewish community appears to be prosperous and cohesive and perfectly capable of looking after its affairs and interests. It has good contacts with governmental organisations.

In 2012 SCJC reported an annual income of £111,000 to the Scottish Charities regulator. As a charity SCJC can benefit from tax relief on income and gains, rates relief and gift aid. Is additional direct Scottish Government subsidy merited?

The Jewish population of Scotland declined to just under 6,000 people according to the 2011 Scottish census.

Scottish Government religious subsidy of the week – 4 – £60,000 pa to Interfaith Glasgow

The Scottish Government now gives an annual grant of £60,000 to Interfaith Glasgow.

This is in addition to grants previously publicised by ESS of £120,000 pa to Interfaith Scotland and £70,000 per annum to Interfaith Edinburgh. The cumulative annual funding for interfaith work revealed so far by ESS is thus a quarter of a million pounds – £250,000 per annum

The work of Interfaith Glasgow is documented at http://www.interfaithglasgow.org and at least this interfaith organisation admits upfront that it is funded by the Scottish Government. The growth of city based funding, in addition to the funding of the nation wide interfaith organisation, Interfaith Scotland, which is already based in Glasgow, looks highly questionable.

Most of the denominations involved will be charities and will benefit from tax relief on income and gains, rates relief and gift aid. Why then should additional public funds be channelled to them? There ought to be no need for this funding. Local authorities are well placed to facilitate cooperation and dialogue between religious denominations if it is felt that there are problematic aspects of relationships between them and the denominations themselves ought to be open to dialogue between themselves out of religious goodwill and their own resources.

Scottish Government religious subsidy of the week – 3 – £70,000 pa to Edinburgh Interfaith Association

In addition to the £120,000 pa that the Scottish Government gives to Interfaith Scotland it also grants £70,000 per annum to the Edinburgh Interfaith Association (EIFA), which does not appear to acknowledge this source of funding on its website.

The work of EIFA which focuses on Edinburgh, the wider region and internationally, overlaps considerably with Interfaith Scotland and involves work in Scottish schools. Details of its work are to be found at http://www.eifa.org.uk

There are nine different faith representatives and one Christian on the Board. Most of these denominations are, like EIFA itself, probably charities, and thus already benefit from tax relief on income and gains, rates relief and gift aid.

According to the 2011 census 2.1 per cent of the Scottish population has a non-Christian religion.

Surely these denominations and charities should be able to cooperate among themselves out of their religious good will and for the public good without additional state subsidy.

Edinburgh Secular Society receives no government funding and is entirely resourced by the voluntary activity of its members and supporters

Religious subsidy of the week – no 1

Jesus Christ drives the moneychangers out of the temple

The Scottish Government  contributed towards the developments costs of the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office (SCPO) which serves 12 denominations. SCPO was established in 1999 to help churches

  • Engage effectively in the new political process
  • Translate their commitment to the welfare of Scotland into Parliamentary debate
  • Contribute the range and depth of their experience, and their faith reflection on that experience, to the decision-making process.

These churches are all also likely to be charities which benefit from exemptions from taxation on income and gains from charitable activities as well as rates relief and gift aid and some of them have substantial resources.

SCPO operates as part of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland. The Church recognises that ‘by undertaking this core activity ecumenically, the Church is able to be better informed and have stronger influence on political debate’ (proposed deliverance May 2012).

The 11 other denominations are not particularly generous to SCPO. They contributed £8250 of the £93,111 cost of SCPO in 2013. The rest of the cost fell on the Church of Scotland (SCPO Annual report 2013)

So why did these churches have this privilege of government funding? Are there not some other organisations that might benefit from government funding so that they, too, might enhance the effectiveness of their lobbying with the Scottish Government and with the Scottish Parliament?

Should the Scottish Government have ever been involved in funding such activity?

ESS is investigating the size and duration of the Scottish Government grant to SCPO and would welcome any further relevant information.

Source http://www.actsparl.org

Bill submitted to Scottish Parliament that would abolish religious representatives on education committees

Originally posted on secularism.org.uk: Wed, 06 Nov 2013 10:39

Bill submitted to Scottish Parliament that would abolish religious representatives on education committees

An independent Member of the Scottish Parliament, John Finnie, has given his support to a campaign to remove the legal right of religious groups to vote on education matters on local council committees.

Mr Finnie has submitted a Private Member’s Bill that seeks to remove the mandatory involvement of religious representatives on these committees.

Read More →