An old fashioned stone schoolhouse building in East Lothian, viewed from across a street.

East Lothian council removes voting rights from religious reps on education committee

December 13, 2023

In another victory for local democracy and education policy, East Lothian Council has removed voting rights from unelected religious representatives on its education committee. The vote passed on 12 December by a margin of 11 to 10 following a public consultation. You can read our response to the consultation here.

East Lothian becomes the sixth council since May (following EdinburghStirling,* Fife, Highlands, and Orkney) to remove religious voting rights on education. By law, three unelected representatives of religious orders are required to sit on every local council’s education committee across Scotland. However, in 2019, the Scottish government confirmed there was no legal requirement for these representatives to have voting rights. We believe we are now starting to reach a tipping point on this matter, with more councils likely to follow suit.

Our CEO Fraser Sutherland spoke to The National about religious reps’ voting rights in an article published on 8 November. He described a “snowball effect” of councils opting to remove rights. Fraser added that Humanist Society Scotland would continue “reiterating the undemocratic nature of the system where someone is appointed just on the basis of their faith….The right people to be taking decisions are those who are democratically elected. They are then accountable to the electorate, church representatives are not.”

*Stirling will remove voting rights after its next local council election in 2027.

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