A Scottish Catholic spokesman has said it is “right and appropriate” that religious representatives on Education Committees should retain the ability to vote.
Anthony Horan, the Director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office in Scotland, said: “Approximately 20 per cent of Scotland’s young people attend Catholic schools, so I think it’s right and appropriate that this community of people has a representative voice and they are able to vote on matters which impact on Catholic schools.”
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on August 20, Mr Horan was responding to the question of whether religious representatives on local authority Education Committees should have voting rights removed. Edinburgh City Council will make its decision on the issue on Thursday 22 August.
The National Secular Society is currently urging Scottish local authorities to follow the example of Perth and Kinross Council, which removed the right to vote for religious representatives in April 2019.
During the radio discussion with Alistair Lichten, Head of Education at the National Secular Society, Mr Horan said: “The right to full membership on education committees is enshrined in law and allows representatives of religious bodies, including the Catholic Church, to vote on matters relating to schools when they arise in local authority Education Committees.”
He also reminded Mr Lichten of the historical significance of the right of religious representatives to vote.
“There was an historic agreement in 1918 – in return for the transfer of Catholic schools, including the land and buildings to the state education system, the Catholic community was assured by statute the specific characteristics of the Catholic school would be protected. And a part of that is the religious education representatives on committees. Those specific aspects of Catholic education should be protected,” he said.
When news initially emerged that Edinburgh City Council were considering whether to remove the right to vote, Monsignor Anthony Duffy, a priest of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said the proposal was “deeply disappointing and a very sad development.”
“The Church hopes that the views of people of faith continue to be important to members of Edinburgh City Council,” he said.
Mr Horan backed Monsignor Duffy’s comments. “The Church sees it as a service, principally to the Catholic Community and all who choose Catholic schools for their children,” he said.
He pointed to the positive words offered by politicians when speaking of Catholic education. “The First Minister declared that Catholic schools were ‘good for Scotland’. I agree with her,” he said.
He also encouraged citizens of Edinburgh to contact their local councillors and urge them to oppose the proposal.
Picture: James Stringer