An image of Orkney Council offices, a stone building with two stories and a slate roof.

Orkney Council removes voting rights from religious reps on education committee

May 4, 2023

The Humanist Society welcomes the news that Orkney Council has removed voting rights from unelected religious representatives on its education committee. The motion, presented by Councillors John Ross Scott and Kristopher Leask of the Green Party, passed in a 12-to-9 vote. Both the chair and vice-chair of the Education, Leisure and Housing committee opted for removal.

We’ve been campaigning for years to have voting rights removed from church representatives on local education committees. A law requires local councils to provide three seats for religious representatives on these committees. But this is a throwback to Scotland’s religious past. Granting decision-making powers to unelected advocates for religious groups is untenable in a modern, secular education system.

However, there is no obligation for councils to offer voting rights to these faith representatives. We are seeing an increasing number of councils alter their regulations so that only democratically elected officials have a say in how schools are managed. Perth and Kinross, Moray, and Scottish Borders have already opted for similar measures. We hope that in June a similar vote will pass in Fife.

Our CEO Fraser Sutherland said: “We are glad to hear of the decision by Orkney council to ensure that decisions on local issues are taken democratically by elected members who are accountable to the electorate. Giving voting rights to churches gives them more say on how schools are run than teachers, pupils and parents. Other local authorities across Scotland should reflect on Orkney’s decision today and review their own voting arrangements.”

[Image Ian S/Creative Commons]

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