Secularists launch assault on Highland Council prayers

A secularist pressure group wants Highland Council to stop saying prayers at its council meetings, but one councillor believes most of his colleagues have no problem with the tradition.

The National Secular Society (NSS) plans to send a letter to the Council’s leader calling for the saying of prayers to be dropped.

But Highland councillor Ken MacLeod says prayers have “always been done” at the meetings and he thinks most councillors “listen respectfully and do not object”.


Last month Edinburgh City Council scrapped the saying of prayers during council meetings and replaced them with a ten-minute “pause for reflection”.

The NSS said it hoped other councils would follow suit and ditch the saying of prayers.

Prayers at Highland Council are not “formally part” of the meeting and are said before a register is taken.


Mr MacLeod said: “I am a Christian and I believe in committing the work of the council to almighty God”.

He added: “The people of the Highlands have been known as the people of the book. I will pray for the National Secular Society.”

Cllr MacLeod said most of his 79 councillor colleagues were not against prayers.

“I think they listen respectfully and do not object,” he said. “It is part of the business of the council and has always been done.”


Alistair McBay, a spokesman for the National Secular Society (NSS), said there were a lot of “deeply entrenched views up there”.

Earlier this year the NSS won a legal case forcing an English council to drop prayers from its meeting agendas.

But the decision, which only applied to England and Wales, was swiftly reversed by new laws fast-tracked by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.


At the time Chris Bryant, the Labour MP for Rhondda, branded the legal ruling as “utterly preposterous”.

And Daily Telegraph cartoonist, Matt, poked fun at the move, juxtaposing it with the release from prison of extremist hate preacher Abu Qatada.

The cartoon, which can be viewed here, shows two police officers saying: “If he ever says prayers before a council meeting, he’ll be straight back inside”.

Related Resources