Article in “The National” newspaper
Religion is losing influence on Scottish life … except in education
FEBRUARY 29TH, 2016 – 12:43 AM ANDREW LEARMONTH
SCOTLAND is losing its religion in just about all areas of public life, according to a new report.
When it comes to marriage and moral issues the church is no longer the powerhouse it once was, but in education faith organisations remain strong and influential.
Academics at Glasgow University have carried out an audit of religion in Scots law, poring over legislation to find out exactly what rights the country’s different churches and religious communities have in 2016.
Commissioned by the Humanist Society of Scotland, the purpose of the report was to make sure law- makers and the public were fully aware of the role and the power of religious groups.
Gordon MacRae from the society said the “increased public and political awareness of the changing role of religion and belief in Scottish public life” had prompted the commission.
Key findings include that church ministers receive a 50 per cent reduction in council tax; religious communities where people live, such as monasteries or nunneries, do not need to pay the minimum wage; and blasphemy is still a crime in Scotland, though there have been no prosecutions for well over a century.
Professor Callum Brown, one of the report’s authors, said religion’s place in Scots law was “by and large now being eroded by human rights legislation from Europe, Westminster and Holyrood”, but in education its influence could still be felt. The 11 members of the General Teaching Council of Scotland are required to include one member from Church of Scotland and one from the Roman Catholic Church.
The report said there may also be schools in Scotland that are, in effect, “quasi-denominational schools.” After a Catholic school is discontinued and its pupils are sent to another, non-denominational building, provision is made for those pupils to receive religious instruction four times a week from a Catholic Church representative and one hour a week of religious observance.
Currently in Scotland there are 366 Catholic schools, three Episcopalian schools and one Jewish school. The Humanist Society say that given Scotland’s history and institutions had been shaped by religion over centuries, the report was necessary as the country discusses “where it’s going”.
MacRae said: “Many people in Scotland will be surprised by the quirks highlighted in this report, such as church ministers getting a 50 per cent discount on council tax, religious communities being exempt from the requirement to pay a minimum wage, and the fact that Scotland never quite got around to repealing the blasphemy law. But for us the most significant theme is a weakening of the position of religion in Scots law in all areas, except education; where it has been significantly strengthened in recent years.”