Survey backs removal of voting rights from church education reps

Wednesday December 6th 2023


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Church representatives on East Lothian Council’s education committee could be stripped of their voting rights after a survey found overwhelming support for the move.

More than 80 per cent of people who took part in the council’s consultation over the continued participation in education decisions by the religious representatives said they should not be allowed a say.

And more than half also called for the trade union rep on the committee to also have their vote taken away.

The consultation comes as several local authorities in Scotland have made religious representatives on their education body, which is required by law, a non-voting membership.

There are currently three religious representatives, representing the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church and the Scottish Episcopal Church, and one trade union representative, representing the EIS, on the council’s education committee.

In 2019, Perth and Kinross Council became the first in Scotland to withdraw the voting rights of their religious representatives after the Scottish Government said the status was a matter for local authorities to decide.

A number of other Scottish local authorities, including the City of Edinburgh, Fife, Moray, Orkney Islands and Scottish Borders, have also approved the withdrawal of voting rights of non-elected representatives of both unelected religious and union reps.

It says more than 110 responses were made to a public consultation launched over October and November with 84 per cent supporting the removal of votes from religious reps and 56 per cent supporting it for the union rep.

Among responses recorded by officers were people questioning the relevance of the religious representation in modern day and whether it should be widened to include all faiths if continued.

However others insisted the input from the church was important and should be retained with supporters of the Catholic church representative pointing out that their involvement went back more than 100 years to when Catholic schools came into ‘state control’ and a partnership was agreed between Church and State.

One head teacher told the consultation: “In removing the rights of the church representative it potentially severs this link and the commitment made in 1918.”

Councillors will make a decision at a meeting next Tuesday.

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