SNP rivals clash after Alyn Smith says Catholic schools must teach LGBT issues

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Scottish National Party politicians have clashed on inclusive sex education, after a gay MEP called for inclusive education to be mandatory in all schools.

Alyn Smith, currently a Member of the European Parliament for Scotland, is one of four candidates bidding to become the party’s Depute Leader.

In an op-ed for Scottish newspaper The National this week, he expressed his support for the Time for Inclusive Education campaign.

He wrote: “Schools are a key part of the experience young people have, and I entirely agree that we do need to bring LGBTI issues into the classroom.

“I would have thought that the establishment of teacher training to enable teachers to provide education which is inclusive of the broad spectrum of sexual orientations and identities is surely not a controversial point. But it is.

“There are, sadly, still people subjected to the ideology that says certain sexual orientations or gender identities are inherent moral defects.

“This just needs to stop, and while freedom of religion is important, if any organisation is providing a publicly funded service then that freedom is surpassed by a duty to equality and the law.

“We have curriculum for excellence, we’re more than capable of setting what our schools need to do, we need to set the bar a bit higher on LGBTI issues. In all schools, no exceptions.”

Speaking to the Scottish Catholic Observer, Mr Smith said that Catholic schools should not be afforded an “exception” from the law.

But speaking to the same outlet, Depute leadership rival Chris McEleny attacked the comments, insisting “it should be up to [parents] what they want for the future of their children’s education”.

Mr McEleny said: “Catholic schools are protected by an act of Parliament. As far as I see it that for as long as the Catholic community and Catholic families want to keep Catholic schools I will wholeheartedly support them.

“Catholic schools came to be in Scotland due to historic discrimination and sectarianism our community faced. Without which Catholics wouldn’t have had an education.

“Therefore there is a clear and unique legacy of how they came to be. Over the years we have made great strides in fighting sectarianism however Catholic schools have evolved into a whole lot more than just a school that allows Catholics to be educated.

“My Catholic education I received made me the person I am today. In an age that practicing your faith is increasingly difficult, I’m not ashamed of my faith; it defines me.

“My faith, my family and my community are the driving forces in why I’m involved in politics, to improve the world as I see it for the better.

“We must always reject and educate the argument that Catholic schools cause sectarianism in Scotland; study after study has proven this to be completely false.”