A controversial move to strip religious leaders from voting on the future of Dundee’s education system could be brought back to the table after it was booted out last night.
North East independent councillor Gregor Murray failed in their attempt to have voting powers removed from church representatives and trade unions by a margin of 26 votes to two.
Councillor Murray said the presence of religious figures on the education committee was a “historical anachronism” that was no longer welcome.
However, the motion was condemned by members on all sides, while former and present councillors and education figures called on Councillor Murray to rethink their proposal.
Today, Councillor Murray – themselves a former education convener before they quit the SNP – has suggested the motion could be revisited in future.
They said: “I’m more than happy to bring it back and discuss it in more detail – but every time I’ve tried I’ve been shut down.
“I didn’t change it when I was convener because I was a member of a party and couldn’t get agreement within that party. Now I’m an independent member I don’t need to convince anyone else.
“I think that the argument that their (non-councillor) votes don’t make a difference is a silly one.
“If their votes don’t make a difference, what’s the big deal with removing them? The overwhelming result in this vote highlights the tight grip religion has on our politics and in particular, our education system.
“This is not democratic, nor is it reflective of the demographics of Scotland, or Dundee.”
In a rare intervention, Lord Provost Ian Borthwick called on the North East member to withdraw their “shortsighted and foolish” motion.
“I am concerned that if debate ensues this evening matters will be raised that could damage the very good relationship we have with churches and teacher representatives,” he warned.
Elizabeth Fordyce, a former SNP councillor and education convener, told the council she was “sad to be here tonight in these circumstances”.
Mrs Fordyce, who quit the SNP due to her opposition to same-sex marriage, said: “This organisation allows councillors and other representatives to work together.
“This ensures our young people will get the best education we can give them.”
Philip Cairns, a former assistant rector at the High School of Dundee, said it was “really important” for religious figures to have a say.
“That’s democracy – it’s about choice,” he added.
Only Maryfield administration councillor Ken Lynn sided with Councillor Murray.
He said: “I’ve never had any issue with religious representatives or teachers representatives. However, I’ve decided to support Councillor Murray because I think it’s only those elected to a body that should have a vote.”
Councillor Willie Sawers, deputising as committee convener for absent leader John Alexander, tabled a motion to retain the status quo, which was supported by 26 votes to two.