25 January 2018, The Tablet

Archbishop laments Scottish MPs’ failure to support Catholic education

Five more Scottish MPs at Westminster have added their signatures to a motion celebrating Scottish Catholic education, after the Archbishop of Glasgow scolded parliamentarians for their lack of support. Before last weekend, only 10 of the 59 MPs from Scotland who sit at Westminster had signed the motion marking the centenary of the 1918 Education (Scotland) Act, which brought Catholic schools into the state sector.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, president of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, criticised the response as “disappointing”, saying: “During the past century Catholic schools have made a significant contribution to Scottish society and it is reasonable to expect that our MPs might acknowledge this.”

The Early Day Motion, lodged in December by SNP MP Chris Stephens, at the time of going to press had been signed by 12 SNP, two Scottish Labour, one Scottish Conservative, two English Labour and one DUP MP. It declares “the anniversary year will provide an opportunity to rejoice in the academic, cultural, civic and social achievements of pupils who have attended Catholic schools in the last 100 years, and is a chance to mark publicly how Catholic schools are not just good for Catholics, but good for Scotland”.

Brendan O’Hara, MP for Argyll and Bute and a co-sponsor of the motion, said that Catholic education had made an “overwhelmingly positive” contribution to Scottish society and to leading the country in a “tolerant and progressive direction”. Mr O’Hara pointed out that signing an Early Day Motion is discretionary and said he was “delighted” with the numbers who had taken the trouble to sign.

The question of support for the parliamentary motion came in the same week as controversy arose in Scotland about an invitation to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to deliver the Cardinal Winning Lecture for 2018. The late cardinal was a staunch supporter of Catholic state education. Protests on social media argued that Ms Sturgeon’s views on abortion make her an unsuitable person to deliver the lecture. Bishop John Keenan of Paisley, while not responsible for issuing the invitation, pointed out that Ms Sturgeon was invited as first minister, not for her views on any particular matter.

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