JODY Harrison’s article on the forthcoming “peace talks”’ between the Bishop of Paisley and Fraser Sutherland, campaign manager of the Humanist Society Scotland, or HSS, once again raises the issue of religious representation on local authority education boards (“Peace talks over ‘attacks’ on Catholics”, The Herald, February 10).

In the case of the Catholic Church, the presence of church representatives on selection panels for promoted posts in RC schools, the majority of whom are apparatchiks, highlights the nature of the nebulous Catholic approval system.

This subjective system often results in candidates for posts in RC schools being selected on the basis of their Catholicity rather than their teaching abilities and personal strengths.

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Bishop Keenan interprets the HSS criticisms of religious representatives, erroneously, as “gratuitous attacks on Catholics”. This does not bode well for any meaningful dialogue on the rationale for religious representatives on local education boards or, indeed, for a much-needed discussion on the arcane approval system.

It may be perceived that Bishop Keenan has no intention of seriously debating this issue. To engage Bishop Keenan in dialogue we should perhaps first point out that Catholic schools are highly inclusive in Scotland, despite the archaic involvement of the hierarchy, and often serve a community of “all faiths and none”.

This country still enjoys a Catholic education system but, within this system, are schools that are no means exclusively for Catholics, practising or otherwise. It is ironic but not surprising that Bishop Keenan should have reacted aggressively to Mr Sutherland’s comments, which were directed at the appointment of a Christian Evangelical to South Lanarkshire’s education committee.

We can only hope that the Bishop experiences a Damascene conversion to what constitutes the nature and requirements of Catholic schools in 21st century Scotland following an open discussion with Mr Sutherland.

Owen Kelly,

8 Dunvegan Drive,

Stirling.

SCOTTISH education has a great heritage of which to be proud. In 1711 the Scottish Parliament passed the “Act for setting schools”, mandating the establishment of a school in every parish and the right of every male child to be taught to read and write.

As a result, Scotland’s literacy rate would be higher than that of any other country in the world by the end of the 18th century. This provided an audience not only for the bible (the intention of the act’s originator, John Knox) but also for books about science, engineering and philosophy beginning to appear as the barriers of religious censorship were pulled down. It was not long before Edinburgh became a place of spiritual and intellectual ferment, producing many of the greatest minds of the period including Adam Smith, James Watt, Robert Adam, Robert Burns and John Hume. The great French philosopher, Voltaire, famously said: “It is to Scotland that we look for our idea of civilisation”.

Many Scots took these ideas throughout the world. Almost half the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence were of Scots descent; an amazing accomplishment for a country with a population of about one million. Today evidence suggests that less than 50 per cent of Scots profess to believe in any religion, so why do local authorities consistently refuse to appoint to membership of their education committees those who would ensure that all Scottish schools allowed their students to learn about the great contribution our nation had made to the world and to take pride in it?

Why, with the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence, which encourages pupils to examine the available evidence and formulate their own conclusions, is there only one subject area where pupils are still told what they should believe?

Clare Marsh,

14 Merryburn Avenue,

Glasgow.