Fraser Sutherland address a crowd (not visible) from a podium wearing a blue suit and green tweed tie against a purple wall. He has short brown hair and his hands opened as if to clarify a point.

Our CEO interviewed in The National on religious rep education votes

May 29, 2023

Our CEO Fraser Sutherland spoke to The National‘s Steph Brawn in an interview published on Sunday 28 May. He outlined our opposition to the “historical hangover” of religious representatives having voting rights on local education committees. Fraser and Steph also talked about the historical origins of the law, and how, in the past, religious votes have led to a school closure and opposition to LGBT+ inclusive education.

“I think it’s really important when it comes to decisions of local democracy that decisions are taken by people who are accountable,” Fraser explained. “Councillors are accountable because they are elected every five years and you can write to them and question them, but representatives from the churches are not accountable to the electorate or local people, only to their own institution… I don’t think that’s right when the vast majority of people in Scotland are now non-religious.”

Councillors are accountable because they are elected every five years and you can write to them and question them, but representatives from the churches are not accountable to the electorate or local people, only to their own institution

Fraser Sutherland, CEO Humanist Society Scotland

Discussing the 50-year-old Scottish law that requires each local council to include three religious representatives on its education committee, he stated: “I can understand back in the 1800s when the churches first passed the schools over to the government…. they wanted to have a say in how they are run… because the vast majority of the population went to church every week. That’s not the society we live in now but we still have this system that effectively harks back to the 19th century.”

Fraser also brought up the closure of a rural school in Perth and Kinross in 2019 due to religious votes. “What kicked our campaign into gear was a decision in Perth and Kinross Council around a school closure – the elected councillors voted to keep it open but the religious reps overturned it.” He also pointed out that “we have seen in the past religious reps oppose LGBT inclusive education and that’s worrying that influence is there when society and the broader public wouldn’t have that view.”

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