NON-RELIGIOUS parents and pupils in Scotland are being given advice on their legal rights and options after complaints about statutory religious education in schools.

The Humanist Society Scotland (HSS), which campaigns on behalf of non-religious people, have released two new advice booklets – A Guide for Non-Religious Parents and A Guide for Non-Religious Young People – to help older pupils, parents, and carers understand their rights within education.

Each book includes advice on how to opt out of religious observance, what resources are available to schools and how to make a complaint when they feel their rights have not been respected.

HSS said their guides are a helpful tool to “empower the two-thirds of non-religious young people in Scotland” to have a greater say over their own education

Copies have been sent to all 32 directors of education with a letter urging them to make sure that parents and pupils are made aware of their right to withdraw from religious observance.

The society also accused the Scottish |Government of “dragging its feet” over children’s rights after refusing to allow senior pupils to opt out of religious classes.

HSS head of communications and public affairs, Gary McLelland, said: “Many people across Scotland feel uncomfortable about the religious content of the school system but are unsure about what their legal rights are.

“Every week, we hear from parents asking for advice about opting their child out of religious observance, or pupils wanting to include non- religious views – such as humanism – in their own RME classes, but are not sure how to do it.

“We know from our own research that not all parents are aware of their right to withdraw from religious observance. Schools really do have a responsibility to let parents and carers know what their legal rights are. That’s why we’ve created these booklets.

"We want to give parents and young people a guide to their legal rights here in Scotland.

“It is our ultimate aim to see religious observance scrapped and replaced with a more inclusive activity, such as philosophy, but until then we will campaign to make sure that all parents and young people are aware of their rights.”

In June, humanists’ calls for pupils to have a legal right right to opt out of religious observance in schools were rejected by the Scottish Government.

The refusal was made a week after a United Nations report recommended ministers repeal existing guidance which makes it compulsory for children to attend faith-based classes and events unless their parents have requested an opt-out.

Senior pupils in England and Wales have been allowed to withdraw from religious education lessons since 2006, and the HSS wants to see this right extended to Scotland.

But the Scottish Government dismissed its demand, insisting its guidance to headteachers said religious and moral education in schools should also include teaching pupils about “non religious beliefs”.

McLelland added: “In June, we highlighted the fact that the Scottish government continues to drag its feet over children’s rights by not allowing senior pupils to opt out of religious observance – it really is time the we had a serious discussion about the place that religion has in Scottish education today.”