Want my cash? Expect my scrutiny

22nd December 2006 at 00:00
James Forbes Corstorphine High Street, Edinburgh

Cardinal Keith O'Brien (above) can't have it both ways. If, as you reported last week, he expects selective schools to be financed by all taxpayers, regardless of their religious beliefs, he must also accept that the public will exercise its right to question whether its funding of such schools is justified.

If the public can't do this through political parties, which seek to be all things to all men, it can do so through letters to the press. The reader will judge which reflects public views more accurately and I suspect that the Cardinal knows, too, which is a better barometer of public opinion.

Raising such questions is not the same as anti-Roman Catholicism. It is the right of free citizens living in a democratic society with a free press, and it maintains effective use of public funds for all taxpayers.

Unlike the Cardinal, I have not had time since August 6 to count all the letters to the press on the subject. But I am certain that I have read as many letters from the militant Catholic lobby as those questioning the continuing need for such schools.

It seems to me that those letters interpreted as "attacking" Catholic schools have in fact been correspondence from tax-paying voters who have questioned: i) the public funding of what is perceived by many as a "jobs for the boys"

culture ii) the wisdom of separating five-year-olds from their friends on the grounds of their parents' alleged religious convictions iii) the need for separate facilities for adults of the same gender on shared campuses.

I am aware that I shall now be accused of being anti-Catholic, which I am not. I have no objection to seeing denominational schools continue in the same way as all other selective schools - through the funding solely of those who use their services.

However, should any educational institution wish to receive funding through my taxation, it must submit itself to my scrutiny, as befits any publicly funded body.

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