Edinburgh Council ‘hostile to faith in the public square’

Religious leaders have accused Edinburgh Council of pursuing an anti-faith agenda.

They were responding to the Council’s decision to strip religious representatives of their vote on its education committee.

Edinburgh is the fourth council in Scotland this year – along with Orkney, Highland, and Fife – to remove the historic voting rights of religious bodies on matters of education.

‘Thin end of the wedge’

Cllr Louise Young and Cllr Simita Kuma claimed the decision was made because: “Those deciding on council policy should be elected by the public to ensure democratic accountability and representation.”

But former Church of Scotland Moderator Derek Browning argued: “This is not so much a matter of democracy, but rather one which is opposed to religions playing any part in our country at large.”

He added that it was hard not to see the matter as “a thin end of a wedge whose aim is to remove representation altogether”.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Leo Cushley questioned whether there was “another agenda at hand such as one that is inimical to faith, be it in schools or elsewhere in the public square”.

Legal uncertainty

The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 requires all Scottish local authorities to appoint three religious representatives as education committee members.

Prior to the decision, a legal opinion received by the Council advised that it was within its “gift to either confer or remove such voting rights”.

However, Cllr Stephen Jenkinson disputed the Council’s stance: “The legislation is clear. Religious representatives should be present. Their vote is implied and we have nearly a hundred years of precedent.”

The Council’s education, children and families convener said that religious representatives will continue to sit on the committee, claiming they would “be able to play an active and important part in our discussions”.


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