Alt text: an image of the famous concrete hippos, a public artwork on a patch of grass in Glenrothes, location of Fife Council.

Fife Council removes voting rights from unelected religious advocates on education committee

June 22, 2023

We are delighted that Fife Council has voted by 36 to 32 to remove voting rights from unelected religious representatives on its education committee. This follows on from the identical votes passed in the Highlands and Orkney last month and creates a precedent for other councils to remove an outdated piece of religious privilege from their books. 

At present, Scottish law requires local councils to appoint three religious representatives to their education committees. Normally, these consist of representatives of the Church of Scotland, the Catholic Church, and a third body or group. This is a throwback to Scotland’s religious past and can give church ministers more say in determining local education policy than teachers or parents.

In 2019 the Scottish Government clarified that there was no legal need for these faith advocates to have voting rights. This decision was made after the votes of unelected religious representatives resulted in the closure of Blaringone Primary School in Perth and Kinross. So far, only six out of 32 Scottish councils have removed voting rights from religious representatives. But we hope today’s vote will create the momentum needed for councils all across Scotland to follow suit.

Humanist Society Scotland CEO Fraser Sutherland says: “It’s right that Fife has made this sensible decision today. Allowing unelected religious representatives to vote on matters affecting education policy is a anachronism, with no place in local government in the 21st century. We are now reaching a point of critical mass with such votes, following the similar decisions taken in the Highlands and Orkney earlier this year. It’s time for other councils to get the ball rolling on ensuring democratic representation on their education committees.”

Fraser contributed to an article on The Times on the decision, which you can read with Times membership here.

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