An image of an old fashioned, 19th century stone school house across a road with a sign in the foreground pointing to North Berwick.

Humanist Society has its say on fair school votes for East Lothian

November 14, 2023

Humanist Society has responded to a local council consultation, arguing that religious reps’ voting rights on the local education committee should be removed. Our CEO Fraser Sutherland also spoke to The National about the need for elected officials to be held accountable.

Humanist Society Scotland has been busy making its views known on religious voting rights on education policy in East Lothian. Last week, we responded to a local council consultation that sought views on removing votes from religious representatives on the local education committee. Scottish law requires three representatives to be appointed. We have long argued that the provision of voting rights on local education to unelected faith advocates is an undemocratic relic that must removed from national law.

We will be reiterating the undemocratic nature of the system where someone is appointed just on the basis of their faith. We don’t think that’s fair. The right people to be taking decisions are those who are democratically elected. They are then accountable to the electorate, church representatives are not.

Fraser Sutherland, CEO, Humanist Society Scotland, quoted in The National

Our CEO Fraser Sutherland has also spoken to The National about the need to remove religious reps’ voting rights. In an article published on 8 November, Fraser described a “snowball effect” of councils opting to removes such rights. Since the start of May, five councils (EdinburghStirling,* FifeHighlands, and Orkney) have voted for removal. With Scotland’s second largest council by population size, Edinburgh, making a clear commitment to change through their vote in August, we believe we are starting to reach a point of critical mass.

Taking about the consultation, Fraser explained to the The National: “We will be reiterating the undemocratic nature of the system where someone is appointed just on the basis of their faith. We don’t think that’s fair. The right people to be taking decisions are those who are democratically elected. They are then accountable to the electorate, church representatives are not.”

Turning his attention to the west of Scotland, where progress on revisiting the law has been slower, Fraser added: “I think part of that is perhaps a nervousness in the Greater Glasgow and west coast area about sectarianism, for example. The Greens have a significant group in Glasgow City Council so I can’t see any way this issue will not come up in west areas and it will be interesting to see the debate.”

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*Stirling will remove voting rights after the next local council elections in 2027.

Title image c. Richard West/Creative Commons

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