Scotland: Anti-sectarian measures “a mere band-aid”, says NSS

Anti-sectarian measures announced at the summit meeting of Glasgow Rangers and Celtic football clubs and the Scottish Government on Tuesday are temporary band-aids that do not deal with the fundamental causes of sectarian animosities, according to the National Secular Society.

The NSS said that the religious divisions in Scotland are magnified by segregating pupils by religious worship and education. If state education places such significance on religious differences can it be any wonder that such differences find expression in other walks of life?

In a letter to the Scottish political parties, the NSS proposes that they include in their manifestos for the Scottish Parliament elections on 5 May moves to do away with religious segregation in Scottish state schools and to review the rules for religious education and worship.

The NSS calls for a religiously integrated primary and secondary state school system that mixes children with parents from all religious faiths and none rather than perpetuating the current system of state funded religiously segregated schools.

Given that one in three of the population is now estimated not to be religious in any way, continuing religious observance and indoctrination in schools cause distress to an increasing number of non-religious parents. Their only option is withdrawing their children from classes, religious services and activities to which they object and this, in turn, leads to children feeling excluded.

Edinburgh-based NSS Council member Norman Bonney commented: “Scotland’s renowned secular university system, where there is no enforced religious segregation or indoctrination, is a valuable example of how learning and social mixing can flourish in a multi-cultural environment where a wide spectrum of faith and non-belief is tolerated and respected. It should be a model for the other parts of the education system.”

Meanwhile, the absurdities of Scotland’s system of separate faith schools has again been demonstrated as Edinburgh councillors and education officials struggle to find a solution to overcrowding in one primary school and the underuse of another on a shared campus in the city.

Initial plans for a switch of the buildings between the state-funded Roman Catholic school and state-funded ‘non-denominational’ (Protestant) primary school were eventually withdrawn by the local authority because of community tension and opposition from parents of the latter school.

The local education authority is now proposing that a wing of the underused school should be shared between the schools with separate entrances to it but the Roman Catholic school is still insisting that religious images should be displayed in the new classroom spaces that will be available to it.

The two schools have attempted to promote more joint activities to improve relations between the two groups of schoolchildren and parents but NSS council member Norman Bonney comments how much easier, more efficient and more desirable the situation would be if the Scottish Parliament amended the laws so that there would be just one state school sharing all the facilities – happily mixing children of all faiths and none and leaving religious worship and indoctrination to home and church if that is what parents wish.