PE01498: Religious Representatives on Local Authority Education Committees

People Communities

Petitioner: Mr Colin Emerson on behalf of Edinburgh Secular Society


Date Lodged: 13 December 2013

Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to bring forward legislative proposals to repeal Section 124 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, as amended by Section 31 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994.

This would end the legal obligation on local authorities to appoint three unelected religious representatives to sit on their education committees.

Petition History:


14 January 2014: The Committee took evidence from Colin Emerson, Vice-Chair, and Norman Bonney, Honorary President, Edinburgh Secular Society. The Committee agreed to write to the Scottish Government, COSLA, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, the Association of Directors of Education Scotland, the Church of Scotland Education Committee, the Scottish Catholic Education Service, the Educational Institute of Scotland, Interfaith Scotland, the Muslim Council of Scotland, the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland and the Humanist Society Scotland. Link to Official Report 14 January 2014 (417KB pdf)

18 March 2014: The Committee agreed to refer the petition, under Rule 15.6.2, to the Education and Culture Committee to consider it alongside petition PE1487 on religious observance in schools. Link to Official Report 18 March 2014 (378KB pdf)

6 May 2014: The Education and Culture Committee noted the draft proposal for a Member's Bill on local government accountability and transparency and agreed to close petition PE1498. Link to Official Report 6 May 2014 (432KB pdf)

Written Submissions

1. Is it fair and democratic that unelected representatives should advise and decide on local education matters, simply because they espouse a particular religious belief?

2. Would it concern you to learn that, at least one religious representative identifies himself as a 'young earth creationist'?

3. Do you think that people who hold a religious belief have any particular skills not found amongst those with no religion?

4. Is it right that a statutory requirement (see above) treats the non-religious as second class-citizens by virtue of granting the religious a privileged position on local education committees.

More info at

A complete separation of state and religion can be the only reasonable way forward today. This is just one good move.

Joel Haylock

7:27 on 25 Nov 2013

The 2011 census had 36.7% of people tick "no religion", making it the most common choice - ahead of the 32.4% of people that identified as Church of Scotland. Is it then fair to give CoS members privileged access to council positions? Positions that are NOT voted for by the public? If they are elected that is another matter, but they not. What about Scotland's population that hold other faiths? Is this not also unfair to them?

Kieran Pringle

4:36 on 25 Nov 2013

very well


15:09 on 22 Nov 2013

As an elected member of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, I asked in March 2010 why churches should sit on the GTC. For asking such a reasonable question I was thereafter subjected to a smear campaign of hatred. It's time Scotland liberated itself from the non-elected in education.

James Forbes

23:58 on 17 Nov 2013

A welcome removal of an untenable anachronism

Bill Bedborough

10:10 on 08 Nov 2013

The problem with unelected church representatives sitting on education committees is not that they're church representatives. It is that they're unelected. If they want to sit on committees and have the desirable qualities they boast, they can present these in support of their election bids, like other candidates.

Robert Canning

7:57 on 08 Nov 2013

Equality, respect, tolerance, all needed to ensure our children grow up in a democracy

Linda Britton

17:39 on 07 Nov 2013

Please do not give special privileges to those who profess religious beliefs. Scotland is a secular country. Put GOOD before God.

Catherine Joshi

12:10 on 07 Nov 2013

This is a much needed sweeping away of an outdated and undemocratic privilege.

Leslie Mitchell

11:19 on 07 Nov 2013

A representative must by definition be representative of the whole community, not a highly opinionated section of it. That is why we have elections. That is what makes us a democracy. That is why intelligent, honourable people defend democracy throughout the world.

Trevor William Stone

7:08 on 29 Oct 2013

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