Councillors in Orkney have questioned the presence of religious representatives on one of the local authority’s education, leisure and housing committee.
A meeting of the authority’s full council saw the appointment of a new Church of Scotland representative nominated.
The previous representative, Hugh Halcro-Johnston, has retired from the post.
Councillors welcomed Rev Fraser McNaughton as the General Assembly of the Church’s Scotland’s nomination to sit on the education, leisure and housing committee, up to at least May next year.
Full voting rights
However, a few councillors took the opportunity to raise questions about the current set-up.
Currently, there are three seats for religious representatives on the committee, at least one of which must be filled by the Church of Scotland.
The other two seats have now remained empty for a lengthy period.
Councillor John Ross Scott has previously said he feels there should be seats for a parent and student on the committee. During the meeting he said having seats for three religious representatives felt “like the dark ages”.
Councillor Steven Heddle said: “The religious representatives, who are not elected, have full voting rights throughout the whole agenda – even for the items which have no direct relevance to them.
“I would suggest that the religious representatives have the ability to petition the councillors about anything on the agenda which irks them, like every other member of the public.
“My own preference would be that there are no religious representatives on the education committee.”
However, he added: “Having said that I welcome Fraser Macnaughton to it, I have the highest regard for the man personally.”
‘It’s very much an honour’
Council convener Harvey Johnston said Mr Halcro-Johnston had only attended the committee items that he thought were necessary and he did not “wield any weight in any other issues whatsoever”.
Speaking after the meeting, Rev Macnaughton said he felt privileged by the nomination.
He said: “I am fully aware that it’s very much an honour rather than something that’s automatically given to somebody.
“I look forward to working with the rest of the committee, particularly on education, with which I’ve been involved here in Orkney for nearly 20 years.
“This has been in my role as chaplain at both Kirkwall Grammar and Papdale Primary schools, as well as having young people from the schools come to us at St Magnus Cathedral at various times of the year.