A national humanist organisation has demanded an end to “undemocratic” education rules after unelected religious officials played a deciding role in the closure of a primary school in Kinross-shire.
Humanist Society Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to intervene after the fate of Blairingone Primary School was sealed by two unelected religious representatives at a Perth and Kinross Council committee meeting last month.
Councillors had voted 7-6 in favour of keeping the Kinross-shire school open before the vote was swung in favour of closure by the two church representatives who sit on the lifelong learning committee.
Fraser Sutherland, Humanist Society Scotland campaigns manager, said: “No matter what the merits of this particular case, the fact it was decided to close the school on the votes of unelected church representatives will stick in the throats of many in the local community.
“There is a pressing need for the Scottish Government to rectify the status of church representatives on local education committees.
“With the fact that local councils are elected by proportional representation, in most local authority areas unelected religious representatives hold the balance of power on education decisions.
“The current set up is completely undemocratic, with no answerability to the electorate on key education decisions.”
The Scottish Government has said that while it is a requirement for religious representatives to be appointed to the committee it is up to the local authority to decide on who votes.
A government spokesperson said: “Where an education authority appoints a committee to discharge their functions, the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 requires councils to appoint members to the committee, including religious representatives.
“Voting rights on committees are a matter for each local authority.”
The manner in which the primary school was shut last month caused controversy, both in the local community and in the council chambers.
Trudy Duffy-Wigman, Fossoway and District Community Council chairwoman, said: “We are appalled by the fact that the casting vote was made by two unelected, co-opted members of the lifelong learning committee.
“Had it been up to the elected members, Blairingone School would not have closed.
“Losing the school in Blairingone will have a devastating effect on the community.”
Following the meeting, lifelong learning convener Caroline Shiers said she could see an issue with the system, especially with other unelected members of the committee being able to take part in the debate but not vote.