BY Ryan McDougall | September 14 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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No more assaults on Catholic education from our party, vows Lib Dem MSP

A Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP has vowed there will be no more assaults on Catholic ­education from his party, after he helped defer a motion at last week’s Lib Dem ­conference that would have called for the end of Catholic schools.

During a heated debate on ­September 8, party members quashed the divisive motion at the ­Dunfermline conference.

The motion called for the Scottish Government to ‘pursue a single ­secular model of state-funded ­education,’ ‘remove religious belief as a placing criteria for Scottish state funded schools,’ ‘remove faith as a criteria for selecting or recommending teachers for employment or ­promotion,’ and ‘remove the non-elected church ­positions from local authority ­education boards and replace with elected positions open to residents residing in the local ­authority.’

The issue is expected to be debated again at the party’s Spring Conference next year. However, Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh West who spoke against the motion on Saturday, told the SCO after the ­conference: “We’re going to take the ­abolition off the table for future ­conferences, and in future I genuinely can’t see another assault on the ­existence of Catholic schools in ­Scotland. It was clear from the ­reaction of the room that there was opposition to the original motion.

“There is a recognition that Catholic schools are very good, and they are sought out by many other Faiths, especially the ­Muslim and Sikh populations, because often people of other Faiths look for grounding and spiritual learning environments for their children.”

The MSP for Edinburgh Western said that although he is not Catholic himself, he believes that eliminating Catholic schools from the country would go against the Liberal ­Democrats’ principals.

“A secular model of ­education is actually contrary to our values, and without doubt there is anxiety within our party that we need to look at in terms of ­inclusion of areas in education. The most important thing about liberalism is pluralism,” he said.

Mr Cole-Hamilton was one of several party members who fought the corner of faith schools in Scotland.

Katy Gordon, a Scottish ­Liberal Democrat activist, echoed the words of Mr Cole-Hamilton, telling the conference that it is ‘liberal to believe in pluralism, and that parents should have the choice to send their children to a Catholic school if they wish to do so.’

Lib Dem councillor Eileen McCartin also stood in favour of Catholic schools, having previously said that she would argue for them at the conference.

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