Voting rights campaigners have called on the new West Dunbartonshire council to scrap ‘votes for churches’ to avoid harming local education.

The call from members of the Humanist Society Scotland has urged the now Labour-led new council to remove the voting rights from non-elected church representatives which they call ‘undemocratic’.

In 2019, the Scottish Government clarified that local authorities have the right to remove voting rights from non-elected church representatives.

This followed controversy at Blaringone primary school in Perth and Kinross. which was earmarked for closure due to the deciding votes of unelected church representatives.

Elected councillors had voted to keep it open in a close vote, but the votes from clergy sealed the school’s fate in what one community leader described as having "a devastating effect on the community."

At the time one local councillor described it as ‘a democratic outrage’ while another said ‘I haven’t spoken to a single person who hasn’t been appalled’.

While the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 requires councils to appoint religious representatives to committees considering education matters after the Blaringone case the Scottish Government made clear each local authority could decide whether religious representatives got to vote or not.

Leading the call to remove votes for churches, Fraser Sutherland, chief executive of the Humanist Society Scotland, said: “Given Scotland’s proportional voting system for councils, new and returning councillors in West Dunbartonshire will know that every decision made will involve negotiations and close votes.

"What they won’t be considering is that any decisions they may take on education can be overturned on the say-so of unelected representatives from Scotland’s churches and religious institutions."

“West Dunbartonshire councillors need to take action now so that only those voted in democratically will have a say on local schooling.

"We urge West Dunbartonshire council to bring forward a motion or new rules of engagement for non-elected church representatives to remove their voting rights."