An Edinburgh parent has launched a petition requesting that City of Edinburgh Council conducts a local vote to challenge “religious observance” (RO) in the city’s non-denominational state schools. The move is being backed by Edinburgh Secular Society (ESS).
The petition by mother-of-one Veronica Wikman was launched on 20 February to coincide with the UN World Day of Social Justice.
Under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, which repeats the legislation of previous acts, education authorities have a statutory requirement to provide religious observance and religious education in Scottish schools. This legislation originally dates from 1872. Scottish Government guidelines state every school should provide opportunities for religious observance at least six times in a school year. In England and Wales (uniquely in the world) the legal requirement in all state schools is for a daily act of (broadly Christian) worship.
However, under Section 8 of the 1980 Act, Local Authorities in Scotland are empowered to abolish RO, subject to a resolution in favour of discontinuance being approved by a majority of local voters.
Edinburgh Secular Society has warned that religious observance creates an “open door for external religious groups to target children and instil their religious beliefs”. Edinburgh residents can sign the petition here.