Lib Dems in Scotland get cold feet over religious education

Lib Dems in Scotland get cold feet over religious education September 14, 2018

A headline last week in The Scottish Catholic Observer read ‘Lib Dems to consider adopting policy to end Catholic education in Scotland’ – and in the report a church spokesperson was quoted as saying ‘This deeply illiberal motion shows contempt for religious freedom and discriminates against parents who choose to send their children to Catholic schools.’
Sadly, the motion was kicked into the long grass after a heated debate, and Alex Cole-Hamilton, above, the Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh West, this week told the Observer:

We’re going to take the ­abolition off the table for future ­conferences, and in future I genuinely can’t see another assault on the ­existence of Catholic schools in ­Scotland. It was clear from the ­reaction of the room that there was opposition to the original motion.

The motion called for the Scottish Government to:

• Pursue a single ­secular model of state-funded ­education

• Remove religious belief as a placing criteria for Scottish state-funded schools

• Remove faith as a criteria for selecting or recommending teachers for employment or ­promotion

• Remove the non-elected church ­positions from local authority ­education boards and replace them with elected positions open to residents residing in the local ­authority.

Cole-Hamilton went on to say:

There is a recognition that Catholic schools are very good, and they are sought out by many other faiths, especially the ­Muslim and Sikh populations, because often people of other faiths look for grounding and spiritual learning environments for their children.

Cole-Hamilton said that although he is not Catholic himself, he believes that eliminating Catholic schools from the country would go against the Liberal ­Democrats’ principals.

A secular model of ­education is actually contrary to our values, and without doubt there is anxiety within our party that we need to look at in terms of ­inclusion of areas in education. The most important thing about liberalism is pluralism.

Cole-Hamilton was one of several party members who fought the corner of faith schools in Scotland.
The church spokesperson added:

Strangely, whilst specifically targeting Catholics and Catholicism, a minority population in Scotland, the motion fails to use the word ‘Catholic’ at all.

Katy Gordon, a Scottish ­Liberal Democrat activist, echoed his words, telling the conference that it is:

Liberal to believe in pluralism, and that parents should have the choice to send their children to a Catholic school if they wish to do so.

Lib Dem councillor Eileen McCartin also stood in favour of Catholic schools, having previously said that she would argue for them at the conference.
The motion was put forward by Yvonne Finlayson, candidate for Motherwell & Wishaw – and was welcomed by the National Secular Society.
Alastair Lichten, Education and Schools Officer at the NSS, said:

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are proposing a fair and inclusive approach to education, an approach that the NSS has advocated for years.
Faith schools in Scotland fuel sectarianism, segregation and discriminate against children, families and teachers of no faith and minority faiths. The proposals moved by the Scottish Lib Dems will enhance freedom of belief, restore equality and democracy to the education system, and help to build a more cohesive Scottish society.

The issue is expected to be debated again at the party’s Spring Conference next year.
The Scottish Lib Dems currently have five MSPs and and four MPs. The party was in government in Scotland in a coalition with the Labour Party from 1999-2007, and formed a coalition with the Conservative Party in the UK Government from 2010-2015.

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  • Gaurav Tyagi

    Every religion on this planet is full of lies, deceit and contradictions. Parents, if they send their kids to religious schools condemn the children to a life of confusion and impractical thinking. Religious schools should be told clearly to arrange their funding themselves. Govts. should not give religious schools even a single dime.

  • Vanity Unfair

    Katy Gordon, …[said] that it is:
    Liberal to believe in pluralism, and that parents should have the choice to send their children to a Catholic school if they wish to do so.
    Cole-Hamilton said:…
    A secular model of ­education is actually contrary to our values, and …we need to look at … ­inclusion of areas in education. The most important thing about liberalism is pluralism.
    Which means that in order to achieve pluralism we have to have restricted schooling. Obviously.
    The church spokesperson [Cole Hamilton] added:
    Strangely, whilst specifically targeting Catholics and Catholicism, a minority population in Scotland, the motion fails to use the word ‘Catholic’ at all.
    That’s because it affects public funding of all religious schools. Does he have some specific agenda or perhaps think Catholic schools are particularly guilty of something?

  • Dianne Leonard

    Then, of course, there is the risk that kids sent to Catholic schools may be abused. This happened in a parochial school about a mile from my parents’ home. The priests would come into the classes, choose kids, and take the kids back to the rectory next door. To. Rape. Them. On school time. Everybody–the kids, the teachers, the staff–knew this was going on. The only people who didn’t know were the parishioners whose kids were being abused. When the rapes became common knowledge, the lawsuits bankrupted the church and the diocese, and the school had to close. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  • Broga

    The Great Redeemer is well advanced in dementia to add to his paranoia according to description in Bob Woodward’s book.
    It is funny, apart from the dolt wrecking the environment and perhaps incinerating us before long. Read and see the consequences of people praying to their God. Why don’t they put him in a strait jacket followed by a secure asylum. Farage is a big friend but then ………….

  • StephenJP

    Vanity Unfair picks up one of the absurdities in the LDs’ position: “The secular model of ­education is actually contrary to our values…the most important thing about liberalism is pluralism”.
    FFS, the whole point of a secular approach to education is that it is inclusive. The whole point of a religious approach to education is that it is divisive. What is liberal about supporting sectarianism? We’ll be hearing them support sharia courts in the name of “pluralism” next. The LDs have sadly descended into querulous irrelevance.

  • andym

    At some point ,these words have taken an almost Orwellian twist. Supporting inclusivity and diversity now means doing all that you can to prevent integration and a common value system “Plurality” used to safe , but that appears to be being brought under the umbrella. Multi-culturalism has changed from a term that meant something like being accepting of difference, to a term used to at best defend, and at worst ignore, anything regressive and/or oppressive in a minority culture. It’s now almost impossible to support it and children’s rights at the same time-and if you try , expect the race card to be played against you.

  • AgentCormac

    Totally concur. Surely the whole point of a secular-based education system is that it’s 100% inclusive.
    So it’s completely counter intuitive to insist that, within the context of the education system, liberalism must equal pluralism must equal carry on allowing your kids to have their brains turned to mush by child-molesting perverts who want to brainwash them from day one.
    To my mind at least, the LibDems are as guilty as the Labour Party of being utterly clueless, useless and inept, precisely when there is a desperate need for someone, anyone, to offer up a meaningful and persuasive counter-argument to forces such as evangelism, populism, the so-called alt-right and institutions such as the RCC. All of which constantly bleat on about being victims in order to preserve and enlarge their influence. As the following article puts it, the LDs are ‘Missing their moment’. And sadly I couldn’t agree more.

  • StephenJP

    @AC, thanks for that, yes indeed. It seems extraordinary that in this country there is such a huge gulf between left and right, which ought to be ripe for colonisation by a vigorous and open-minded small-l liberal party, and yet which the LDs have failed to make their own.
    I have often thought that if one of the parties came out seriously against religious privilege, faith schools, etc, there could be a hell of a lot of votes in it for them. But the LDs have been successively led by a supposed “atheist” who let his RC wife send his kids to an RC school (and who queued up eagerly to welcome Papa Bennie when he visited the UK); an evangelistic god-botherer; and a geriatric economist.
    I value my vote: a lot of people made a lot of sacrifices to give it to me. But at the moment I can’t see too many candidates who are worthy of it.
    Perhaps we should start our own party!

  • 1859

    ‘Liberalism is pluralism’…..then liberalism can mean anything you want? Being plural and inclusive would allow fascists a political voice. Being plural and inclusive would still allow those with a religious agenda access to children. Of course, what a politician means when he/she says they are ‘pluralists’, is that they will support almost anything as long as it does not cost them votes. Whatever happened to principled politicians.

  • barriejohn

    “Pluralism” is, indeed, like multiculturalism, which I agree meant something totally different to what is touted today. All ideas are equally “valid” and worthwhile; we have to learn to see things “from the other’s point of view”; no one’s ideas must be criticised or – heaven forbid – opposed, especially if they belong to a “minority group”. As a gay man I know something about intolerance and oppression, but we can’t allow those very things in the name of “liberty”. We have to bite the bullet and make judgments about what constitutes acceptable behaviour, and what is not acceptable in our society. In the name of “liberty” we are allowing the indoctrination of children; can’t these Dim Dems see that? It’s not “freedom” for the children involved, is it?

  • barriejohn

    PS I’m another life-long Liberal voter who doesn’t know what to do with his vote these days. In our local elections on Thursday, I really liked the ideas of the independent candidate, but supported the LibDem as usual (especially after a phone call from the local party!) because I knew it would be a close-run thing between him and the Tory (one vote in it last time). As it was, the Conservative candidate was voted onto both District and Town councils (same person as well), which is a real disappointment. But as no one knocked on the door this year like they used to, what do they expect?

  • Cali Ron

    Talk about some twisted logic. Have they checked the water in Scotland for chemicals ? Did the Russians poison all the Scotch? Silly fools.

  • AgentCormac

    @StephenJP & barriejohn
    Given that so many people are turning away from religion in this country, I’m sure a party that promised to tackle institutions such as the RCC could prosper. However, like you guys, I’d vote if there was an election tomorrow, but not with any real conviction. Having said which, I know who definitely wouldn’t get my support.

  • Broga

    I would vote for the Lib Dems as the only party I could reluctantly and with wavering fingers write a cross opposite. What a bloody, sick situation when the politicians are entrenched and ignoring, with impunity, what the voters want.
    How did a dangerous, ignorant, sicko like Trump get elected. Why is the maniac still there? What about our lot: Moggy and his six sprogs; Farage wandering the country with his stupid rictus that passes for a smile and his glass of beer, unable to get elected as an MP but growing smug on EU money while he slags them off, Boris the super privileged product of a public school system that warps and perverts its pupils and leaves them with a unshakeable conviction of privilege.

  • AgentCormac

    Just to wander slightly OT, there’s a damning article on this morning’s Guardian Opinion page entitled, ‘Justin Welby is an irrelevance leading his flock into the wilderness’. Ouch! Interestingly, it was written by a former editor of the Catholic Herald. So, no inter-denominational animosity there, then.
    Speaking of which, last year we attended the funeral of a close friend who died at a tragically young age. As she had been a catholic the funeral service was, non-surprisingly, held in her local catholic church. The place was literally full to overflowing with family, friends, colleagues and others who had come to know and love her over the years. So it’s fair to say there would have been a broad spectrum of different faiths, and none, represented at the service. Something the priest must have been aware of. However, he simply couldn’t resist the opportunity, at a solemn funeral, to overtly criticise other faiths and assert the supremacy of his own brand of nonsense. My tongue had bite marks in it for days afterwards.

  • 1859

    @Broga: all of the latter part of your post above was one of the many reasons I left the UK and settled my young family in NZ. I had experienced the feudal system in Scotland where every six months I had to cycle to the Duke’s castle and pay my rent. When I researched a little I found that about 90% of Scotland was owned by just five or six of these ‘Dukes’ all of whom inherited their title and rented out their land to farmers. The farm I lived on was just one of many 500 acre farms owned by the Duke and in the mid 70’s the farmer had to pay £70 rent per acre per year. But the majority of farms were 1000 acres so you can do the sums yourself and see just how staggering the wealth of these lazy aristocrats must have been and still is. Here in NZ there are no fucking aristocrats who own 90% of the land. I’m not saying NZ is paradise as it has its own unique blend of social problems, but it just feels a much fairer society in which to live, where the only way to riches is talent and hard work. I have since renounced British citizenship and I now have an NZ passport.

  • Broga

    1859: I took a different route to escape. I grew up with my mum (my father got himself killed in a farm accident a month before I was born) and grandparents in a farm worker’s cottage in remote Galloway. My grannie remembers having to curtsy as the Laird etc passed. Men had to take off their caps.
    I sat beside his son until he was eight at the local school and then he was off to public school which, as I discovered from observation, later, of my wife’s emotionally stunted brothers was bad news for him. He was one of the group, very shy and no good at football, the only game we played, and we all liked him. My father-in-law, offered to pay for my son to go to Marlborough (the family tradition he said) and we said thanks but no thanks.
    I really got a glimpse of the life of my forebears when I read “The Land of the Leal” by James Barke in my teens and when I had been literally dragged away from Scotland. I have just looked at the book now as I kept it. It was first published by Collins in 1939 and is rightly compared to a Russian epic. The blurb on the back describes the lives of the farm workers in the extreme poverty that my forebears must have endured. And their efforts to retain their respect and improve their lives “thwarted by the authority of an uncaring society”
    I never felt thwarted or badly treated as everyone else except the Laird and his family who were accepted as entitled to very special treatment. I was delighted to be able to plough while still not into my teens., behind the shire horses (Jock and Jean) as that was a mark of being a man. Harvest time was an idyll for me. (I can still plough with horses. I tried it a year ago.)
    However, in the book “a new generation emerges to question the uncaring authority and a new hope is born.” I suppose I must have been one of those as I began to think in later army parlance “fuck this for a game of soldiers.” Why can’t I have a bit of this? The way to that was clear – education, professional qualifications and something I never imagined – my wife.
    And it really upsets me to see how easily the plebs have been suborned and bought off by meretricious crap and, although less so, religion. My other apotheosis was The Freethinker when I got a brilliant awakening in a group of atheists.
    Gone on too long, 1859, but some buttons get pressed and that is it.

  • StephenJP

    @1859 and Broga: thank you very much.
    To repeat myself from a couple of weeks ago: get all this stuff written down or recorded or on a memory stick or whatever. Personal or folk history is like gold dust. If we don’t record our histories so that our children and grandchildren can read and understand them – as my grandmother did, unknown to us, and as I made my parents do while they were still able to – then sure as hell no-one else will. And such memories can serve as a valuable corrective to the “official” histories.
    Good luck to you both.

  • John

    When saw the original story, my response mentally was to think “This is too good to be true” – and so it has turned out to be.
    At the first sound of electoral gunfire the Dim Dems caved in.
    I am not surprised at this outcome because for all their fine talk the fact is they seek electoral power and this policy measure threatened to bring them into conflict with very powerful religious individuals and institutions.
    One day a truly secular education system will emerge but it will have nothing to do with the Dim Dems.

  • Broga

    StephenJP: Many thanks. I agree.