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1-MCDONALD

MP says he regrets Catholic school ‘indoctrination’ tweet

- By Peter Diamond and Ryan McDougall

A Glasgow MP has said he regrets making comments that suggested Catholic schools were indoctrinating children.

Stewart McDonald, SNP MP for Glasgow South, made a number of comments on Twitter suggesting Catholic schools fuel sectarianism and should not be funded by the state.

The comments were made in 2011 and 2012, before Mr McDonald became an MP. However he was employed at the time as a caseworker for SNP MSP James Dornan.

In 2011, Mr McDonald tweeted: “Why should tax payers of no faith fund indoctrination of children? Surely the church should respond to the demand for that?”

Mr McDonald also indicated that a reason to abolish Catholic schools was summed up ‘in two words… Northern Ireland. Or one: Glasgow.’

In another 2012 tweet, the MP spoke about ‘Catholic political agitation in state schools.’

Flippant

When asked by the SCO to explain the comments, Mr McDonald said: “These are tweets from the best part of 10 years ago when I was in my early/mid twenties—long before I was an MP.

“Two represent the sharing of articles I found of interest and one was a matter of fact in relation to a debate on equal marriage at the time.

“Whilst I am a supporter of secularism, the term ‘indoctrination’ was, on reflection, flippant and poorly understood on my part.

“Readers of the SCO can be assured that the issue does not keep me awake at night and I hope it won’t for them either.

“All my constituents regardless of race, religion or creed are treated with equal dignity and respect by myself and my staff.”

Asked by the SCO if he still believed that Catholic schools fuel sectarianism and that state funding should be removed from Catholic schools, the MP failed to respond, with his office citing the busy parliamentary schedule on the day of the Brexit EU withdrawal debate as the reason.

Church response

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: “Last year MPs and MSPs from across the political spectrum joined celebrations to mark the centenary of the historic 1918 Education Act and recognised the positive contribution Catholic education has made to Scottish society.

“An inclusive and tolerant society upholds the rights of parents to educate their children in accordance with their deeply held religious and spiritual beliefs, particularly those who form 16 per cent of the population.”

A spokesperson for Call it Out, which campaigns against anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism, said: “Mr McDonald displays a deep antipathy towards Catholic education, which his own party leader has praised in recent times.

“He is not the only politician from his party, and others, who have done so.

“They would never dream of treating another faith in this way and that tells it’s own story about the continuing anti-Catholic prejudice in Scotland in 2019.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is an unequivocal supporter of Catholic education. We value the contribution Catholic schools and faith schools make to a modern Scotland.”

Attacks

Mr McDonald is the third Scottish MP in recent years to have made comments questioning the existence of Catholic schools.

In 2016, the SCO revealed that SNP Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard had said at a Humanist Society Scotland event that he wanted to ‘chip away at the power organised religion has within our school system.’

His comments were condemned by the Church as ‘chillingly intolerant.’

In August 2018, comments by Mhairi Black, the SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, were criticised by the Church as ‘very disappointing.’

The MP had said that a debate was needed on the future of Catholic schools.

Last year, the Scottish Liberal Democrats debated a motion at their party conference to adopt a policy to end state-funded Catholic education.

However, the motion was defeated after opposition from MSP Alexander-Cole Hamilton.

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