The Scottish Government’s religious largesse

For the previous ten weeks ESS has been documenting the extensive pattern of financial subsidies given by the Scottish Government to religious organisations. The total sums documented so far include;

  • £376,000 per annum to local and national interfaith groups, the Festival of Spirituality and the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
  • 2008-11 a grant of £37,500 to the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office to enhance its lobbying power with the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government
  • Hospital chaplaincy payments of nearly £4 million per annum mainly to the Church of Scotland
  • A huge subsidy to give the Roman Catholic Church free rein in indoctrinating pupils in its beliefs in 14 per cent of Scotland schools

In future ESS will be reporting more findings from its research into other ways in which the Scottish Government subsidises religious denominations. It should also be noted that the Church of Scotland is seeking to protect its paid prison and armed forces chaplaincies in the event that Scotland votes ‘yes’ to independence on 18 September this year.

All these financial benefits are in addition to those that derive from the charitable status of most religious denominations which gives them relief from tax on income and capital gains and business rates.

This combination of subsidies is a result of historical and more contemporary decisions. It is time that they were subject to a systematic reassessment. The Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament have had responsibilities for most of these matters since 1999. What is the point of having powers and not using them?

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