The Catholic Archbishop of Edinburgh has written an appeal to the city’s Education Committee pleading with them to protect the voting rights of Church representatives.
A motion to remove them would stop religious representatives from having a say on what students learn in school. It's set to be voted on this Thursday.
Speaking on behalf of Edinburgh’s Catholic community, The Most Reverend Leo Cushley said removing Catholic voices from the Education, Children & Families Committee in matters relating to Catholic schools "makes no sense to us".
“Unless there is another agenda at hand, such as one that is inimical to faith, be it in schools or elsewhere in the public square,” he added.
Catholic schools have been supported by the state system in Scotland since legislation was introduced in 1918 and religious representation was required on education committees.
Edinburgh’s education committee consists of 11 elected councillors, three religious representatives (one Catholic, one Church of Scotland and one multi-faith) and two parent representatives. Parent representatives cannot vote on motions but can attend and contribute to discussions.
The Most Reverend Leo Cushley argues the right of Church representatives to vote in council is an “expression of democracy".
“If we are a diverse and inclusive society, that must mean space for faith schools, be they Episcopalian, Presbyterian or Catholic, to say nothing of other faiths.”
The right of the Church to vote on education committees has already been removed in the Highlands, after members argued against a Christian influence in schools there.
Edinburgh currently has 15 Catholic primary schools and three Catholic high schools, all of which are open to anyone who wishes to use them. Some 20 percent of the Scottish population are said to use Catholic schools, while around 15 percent of the population identify as Catholic.
Speaking to this, Archbishop Cushley’s statement to councillors reads: “Our schools [Catholic schools] have been entrusted to you, by us, for the benefit of our portion of the community.
“It is only right and just that we retain, not a veto, not a special voice, not special treatment, but simply an active voice in council, over the governance of a part of our heritage that is presently in your care.”
Derek Browning, a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly is also due to address councillors at Thursday’s meeting, while the Edinburgh Interfaith Association, Edinburgh Sikh Community, the Muslim Community and the Scottish Hindu Foundation have all submitted appeals to the proposed motion.
In favour of the motion, the Green Party holds the view that only elected committee members should have the power to vote on school matters, because they can be held to account.
Speaking to Edinburgh News, Green education spokesperson Steve Burgess said: “There are lots of other groups that have an interest in education who aren't represented.”
If the motion is passed religious representatives will still hold their place on the committee and be part of discussions, but will no longer be allowed to vote on educational matters.