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Perth and Kinross council urged to ensure no return of ‘votes for churches’

Campaigners from Humanist Society Scotland have called on Perth and Kinross councillors to ensure religious groups do not get a renewed privileged say over how schools are run against the wishes of the local electorate

Campaigners from Humanist Society Scotland have called on Perth and Kinross councillors to ensure religious groups do not get a renewed privileged say over how schools are run against the wishes of the local electorate.

Controversially in 2019 Blaringone primary school in Perth and Kinross was earmarked for closure due to the deciding votes of unelected church representatives. Elected councillors had voted to keep it open in a close vote, but the votes from clergy sealed the school’s fate in what one community leader described as having ‘a devastating effect on the community’. At the time one local councillor described it as ‘a democratic outrage’ while another said ‘I haven’t spoken to a single person who hasn’t been appalled’.

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While the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 requires councils to appoint religious representatives to committees considering education matters, after the Blaringone case the Scottish Government made clear each local authority could decide whether religious representatives got to vote or not.

Leading the call to ensure undemocratic votes for churches don’t return to Perth and Kinross, Fraser Sutherland Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland said:

“Given Scotland’s proportional voting system for councils, new and returning councillors in Perth and Kinross will know that every decision made will involve negotiations and close votes. What they won’t be considering is that any decisions they may take on education can be overturned on the say-so of unelected representatives from Scotland’s churches and religious institutions’

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“Perth and Kinross councillors need to take action now so that only those voted in democratically will have a say on local schooling. We urge Perth and Kinross council to re-confirm that their previous decision to remove votes for non-elected church representatives do not return after this most recent election.”

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