The Bishop of Dunkeld has warned a proposal to remove voting rights from church representatives on Dundee’s education committee will be seen as the first step to wiping out Catholic schools.
A letter from Stephen Robson was read out at all Catholic masses across Dundee yesterday railing against a proposal which would see powers to influence education decisions removed from church leaders, unions and teachers.
The children and families services committee currently has eight additional members who are not elected councillors, five of whom can vote on some educational matters.
Independent councillor Gregor Murray, who served as the SNP administration’s children and families services convener before standing down last year and quitting the party over “institutional transphobia”, has tabled an item to remove these powers.
The North East councillor accused the church of using its power and influence to “spread its transphobia across the city” and insisted this is why religious involvement in the democratic processes should be limited.
Bishop Robson urged concerned churchgoers to urgently contact their councillors about Gregor Murray’s motion after the church insisted its presence on the committee has helped prevent “unintended consequences” from changes to educational policy.
He said: “Church members on education committees legitimately represent the interests of parents from all faith backgrounds who wish to have their children educated in accordance with their faith.
“It would be to the detriment of education in Dundee if voting rights were to be removed from religious representatives.”
Bishop Robson said Catholic representatives on Dundee City Council often “act to safeguard the interests of Catholic schools”.
He added: “It would be naïve to think that this motion is seen as anything other, in the minds of some in our city, as a first step to removing Catholic schools altogether.”
Gregor Murray previously outlined hopes other Scottish local authorities would follow suit if Dundee decides to remove voting rights from non-elected representatives.
“The fact that the church has such influence and power to spread its transphobia across the city is one of the reasons I believe that their power within our democratic structures should be limited,” the councillor said.
“I would agree with the bishop, however, that the public should let their councillors know what they think about the involvement of religions in our education system.”
Council leader John Alexander and current children and families services convener Stewart Hunter have both pledged to vote against the motion this evening.
Labour group leader Kevin Keenan has also said his group will vote against the motion.
Writing on social media on Friday, Mr Alexander said: “Stewart Hunter and I personally met with and spoke to representatives tonight to confirm that we do not support the motion and will be voting against.”
It is understood Mr Alexander and Mr Hunter were contacted by the Labour group on Dundee City Council on Friday afternoon as it called on the SNP group to join them in rejecting the motion.
The proposal has also received opposition from the Church of Scotland, EIS branch secretary David Baxter and a number of other councillors.