Churches in Scotland given ‘arbitrary’ 50 worshipper cap

The Scottish Government has been accused of “misleading” church leaders, after setting an “arbitrary limit” on the number of worshippers in churches.

Holyrood Ministers have been accused of treating churches less favourably than other establishments by issuing guidance saying they should not allow more than 50 people into their buildings at any one time.

The 50-person cap has not been applied to cinemas, libraries, universities, restaurants, museums or pubs. It is not legally binding.

‘Regardless of size’

Places of worship in Scotland were permitted to open from yesterday, but guidance released by the Government on Tuesday states that: “No place of worship should admit more than 50 people at any one time, regardless of its size or usual capacity.”

This means that the limit applies even to large church buildings that could easily accommodate more than 100 people while still meeting the two-metre distancing regulations.

It was also reported on Tuesday that a 350-seat Argyle Street Arches restaurant and bar is opening in Glasgow tomorrow, but this space will only be subject to the physical distancing regulations.


The guidance itself states the limit is not legally binding and that places of worship “should use their judgement to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their staff and communities”, but The Christian Institute says it sends mixed messages.

The Christian Institute’s Director, Colin Hart, said: “Including something so stark in the guidance is misleading and wrong. People will inevitably think it is a legal requirement or has some objective rationale. It isn’t and it doesn’t.

“If the Scottish Government thinks more than 50 people in a church is too great a health risk, then surely it would also be just as risky having more than 50 people in a cinema, pub or restaurant?

“Having the same blanket limit of 50 people covering a tiny chapel or a huge cathedral may delight the secularists, but it is not in the law.”

Also see:


Scot Govt U-turn as churches in Scotland to reopen on 15 July

We can give thanks that churches in Scotland are set to open once more

Scot Govt must stop dragging its feet over church reopenings

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