Churches lose say in Highlands education policy

Inverness, Scotland.(Photo: Getty/iStock)

Churches have lost the right to vote on education policy at Highland Council in Scotland. 

Representatives the Church of Scotland and Catholic Church have traditionally been given a say in what is taught across the region's schools, despite not being elected.

That privilege has now been removed following a vote by Highland councillors. 

The motion was tabled by Greens Councillor Ryan Mackintosh who according to the Strathspey and Badenoch Herald argued that as "only 33 per cent of people living in Scotland now identify as Christian", it is undemocratic to give unelected religious representatives the ability to vote.

The motion was passed by 40 votes to 17, despite some objections in the chamber that it was "anti-religious". 

It was supported by Christian councillors, Liz Kraft and Sarah Fanet, who said it was about democracy and fairness.

"I am a Christian. It is fundamental to the way I live my life. However I'm also a democrat and I believe in order to vote you should be elected," said Cllr Kraft, according to the newspaper.

"I welcome their attendance at committee, I value their input, but votes I believe should be for elected members only."

Cllr Fanet said: "I just cannot believe we are having this conversation in modern Scotland in 2023. I will start making it clear that as a practising Christian, I do not see anything anti-religious or any attacks on my faith in this motion. The only aim I can see is fairness."

The Catholic Church in Scotland is disappointed by the change. 

"There is no evidence to suggest that having a broad democratic process in Highland Council has been detrimental in any way," a spokesperson for the Church told the BBC

"In other local authorities where similar motions have been raised the councillors took time to consider the implications of the motion, listened to their constituents and voted against it."

Orkney Council has also recently removed voting rights from religious representatives on its education committee after a motion tabled by the Green Party was passed by 12 votes to nine.