AS East Lothian Council seems to be on the brink of becoming the sixth council to vote to remove voting rights from religious representatives, I would sincerely hope that all other Scottish councils consider their own positions in this regard.

Just as the presence of religious representatives in the House of Lords is archaic and wholly irrational in the 21st century (as is the presence of the chamber itself), church representatives on education committees in Scotland appear to be undemocratic, outmoded and superfluous – in short, a historical hangover.

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Religious representatives participating actively on key matters such as school closures and teaching appointments in schools casts our Scottish councils in a far-from-inclusive light and anoints the Christian churches with an influence in educational matters that is disproportionate to their position and authority in contemporary Scottish society.

Unsurprisingly, the Catholic Church, in the guise of Archbishop Cushley, adopt their usual paranoid and pugnacious defence of their intrusive role in Scottish education. The hierarchy of the church still operate the anachronistic and subjective Catholic Approval system regarding the appointment of staff in Catholic schools, an authoritarian system that is antediluvian in its absurdity and lack of transparency. It allows the church to retain an inordinate amount of power and control over RC schools by appointing staff who satisfy the church’s criteria contained in “personal religious belief and character”, a criteria so vague and subjective that outstanding teachers who may not be Catholic or be in line with Catholic dogma could be rejected.

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In short, the approval system is a charade – everyone in Catholic education knows it but, like the emperor’s new clothes, nobody wants to be the first to break ranks and say so, especially the significant number of staff outwith the Catholic religion who work in RC schools, who must view it with a mixture of bewilderment and exasperation.

The Archbishop, predictably, tries to portray opponents of church representatives as having a hidden agenda with regards the future of RC schools as he and the hierarchy he represents try to cling on to their rapidly diminishing and often damaging powers in Scottish education.

All Scottish councils must dare to threaten the arcane authority still enjoyed by the churches today in our educational system, a power they will not relinquish without a struggle, irrespective of fair play or equal employment rights for all. A modern democratic and independent Scotland will demand no less.

Owen Kelly