The present system that imposes three Church appointees on Local Authority Education Committees is a plain violation of equality, since it creates positions within education governance that are reserved for members of specific denominations. Regarding this, EHRC stated in February 2014  and reiterated in November 2016  that
"Section 149 of the Equality Act requires public authorities in Scotland to give due regard to the need to:
• eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation
• Advance equality of opportunity between different groups
• Foster good relations between different groups
The 1973 Act (as amended by the 1994 Act) of course predates the public sector equality duties; however, the Commission believes that, as concerns have now been raised, an appropriate course of action for Scottish Ministers may be to assess whether these provisions and the policies and practices which flow from them meet the requirement to give due regard to the three elements of the Equality Duty listed above."
As we see it, the present arrangement violates both the letter and the spirit of equality legislation for several reasons.
• There are positions of power from which non-believers, and believers not affiliated to the particular churches represented on their own local Education Committee, are excluded. This is an unjust deprivation.
• Even within those churches, there is no public accountability for the individual selection, which is made by the denomination’s hierarchy in direct correspondence with the Local Authority.
• And, perhaps most seriously, on divisive issues related to religion, the particular interests of the churches have double if not triple representation: believers elected to the Local Authority, and among the general public, can and should make their views known through all the normal channels; there is separate specific provision for consulting the Churches where their interests are involved; and the Churches’ viewpoint is represented by their appointees, over and above these processes.
Moreover, the public are free to bring matters to the notice of their own Councillor. If the issue is one where someone thinks that the interests of religion have not been sufficiently taken into account, he or she will also be able to bring it to the attention of the Church appointees. But if the concern is that excessive attention has been paid to religious interests, as may happen on matters ranging from the siting of schools to the content of the curriculum, no such two-pronged approach is possible. Such asymmetry is unjust, creates inequality between faith groups and others, and by implication damages the relations between the various groups.
The Society currently has a petition before the Scottish Parliament asking for the removal of the unelected Church appointees, and our arguments are developed at greater length in the Petition statement  and further submission . However, it would be most unfortunate if the petitions process and the present consultation were allowed to interfere with each other, and indeed if that were to happen, it would undermine the independent nature of the petitions process, which we regard as one of the strengths of Scotland’s participatory democracy.
We further draw attention here to the complete lack of accountability of the Church appointees to anyone except their own specific Church hierarchy. This is worth separate mention, since the consultation document (p. 5) explicitly repeats the OECD’s emphasis on accountability.
Finally, we draw attention to the presence on the General Teaching Council of representatives of the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church. Although they fall outside the scope of our petition, our arguments apply to them equally.