Carys Moseley comments on recent opposition in Scotland to introduce LGBT education to young children.
In December 2020, local councillors in the Outer Hebrides in the west of Scotland voted overwhelmingly to commend Roman Catholic materials for sex education rather than those of the Scottish Government for Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood.
Most councillors in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (the Western Isles Council) are independent (23) with seven SNP councillors and one Conservative. All seven SNP councillors voted for the Catholic material. This vote is of huge moral significance not only in Scotland, but also for the UK and internationally. It is the first time that any local council in the UK has signalled outright disapproval of the new sex education material due to come into schools.
Parents and Christian groups have been warning about the new Scottish sex education curriculum for some time now. In October 2019, the Scottish Family Party published a video on YouTube of its leader Richard Lucas challenging Education Minister John Swinney about it. In January 2020, the Highland Times published an article by James MacDonald expressing his outrage that his six-year-old son was being exposed to pornography in school lessons.
There is a Scottish government website showing the curriculum materials. Studying this website, it is clear that material is available for teachers to teach children as young as 5 (First Level or P2) about sexual orientation. They can also be taught about sexual organs from that age. The excuse given is that there is NSPCC material covering this as well. Same-sex parenting can be introduced at pre-school level, with recommended books for children including ‘King and King’ and ‘Mommy, Mama and Me’. The interesting question now is how many teachers will choose to teach this kind of material.
In October last year, the Presbytery of Lewis in the Church of Scotland warned the council about age-inappropriate sex education materials. The Council’s education lead Rev Hugh Stewart is a Church of Scotland minister on the Isle of Lewis. The presbytery was proactive in seeking out better alternatives:
“Other Relationship, Sexual Health and Parenthood materials exist which satisfy Education Scotland and can be tailored to our island culture and the Presbytery pledges to support the Comhairle in this endeavour.”
It also recommended that the council formulate its own sex education policy that would be appropriate to the Western Isles.
“Following the large volume of parental and teacher concern expressed to the Presbytery about Relationship, Sexual Health and Parenthood it feels that the best solution is for the Comhairle to weave its own, distinct policy on Relationship, Sexual Health and Parenthood, one that is tailored to meet and reflect the unique cultural, social, linguistic and religious richness to be found across the Western Isles.”
This is an extraordinarily comprehensive rebuttal of progressive sex education. Below I shall explain why this is significant not only in Scotland but also much further afield.
Conservative Christian islanders are ‘well-informed’
It is not uncommon in these kinds of disputes for parents with traditional Christian views to be cast as at best ignorant, at worst bigoted. This is a tactic that enables dissemination of controversial material ‘for information only’. In this case it backfired. When the Times asked the council leader Gordon Murray why should the Western Isles refuse a curriculum accepted everywhere else he answered as follows:
“If everyone is doing it, does that mean it’s right? I looked at these materials and felt some were age-inappropriate. Western Islanders are very well-informed about these materials — are other parts of the country as well-informed?”
He is saying that when adults get to see what sex education materials actually contain, they are more likely to oppose their introduction. In other words, knowledge can lead people to conservative conclusions, ones that look out for the welfare of all of society.
Attempts to corrupt Catholic materials failed
Edinburgh-based psychotherapist Bruce Scott issued a warning to Christian parents and those of other religions in January 2020. He pointed out that Time for Inclusive Education (TIE), which campaigns for LGBT indoctrination in Scotland, spoke at the Scottish Secular Society in 2016. Allegedly the aim was to marginalise religious faith convictions in education, and subsume religion to LGBT ideology.
Scott also reveals that LGBT activists tried to persuade the Scottish Catholic Education Service to produce material that was aligned with Queer Theory. Given that the council commended traditional material by the Service, this attempt had clearly failed.
Traditional Gaelic culture at risk
This vote goes to the heart of the culture wars in Scotland and indeed all of the UK and the western world about sex education. Under the surface there are major demographic challenges to the culture of the Outer Hebrides. The statement by the Presbytery of Lewis implies that the council vote was also partly motivated by deep concern to preserve local Gaelic-language culture and local way of life, which is at risk of terminal decline. The Outer Hebrides is the Gaelic-speaking heartland in Scotland. As recently as 1971 the Census showed over 75% of inhabitants of the Western Isles spoke Gaelic. By the 2011 Census this figure had fallen to 52%. It is not hard to see how Gaelic may face extinction during this century. Whilst there may be many reasons for this trend, it is relevant that the Total Fertility Rate for Western Isles Council, and indeed for all of Scotland, fell to the lowest level since 1991 in 2019. The significance would not have been lost on the local councillors, parents and teachers.
It is obvious that they understand that such a community needs, among other things, a replacement-level birth rate and a strong family culture to survive in future generations. It can ill-afford the hyper-individualistic and amoral sexual ‘ethic’ inherent to the new sex education.
Scottish institutions stay silent
The vote was taken a month ago now, yet the major Scottish institutions such as the Scottish Government and the Scottish National Party have stayed silent. This is significant because here is a traditional community that has scrutinised the curriculum and found it wanting. It is particularly embarrassing because the SNP is very active in the area. Both its Holyrood MSP and its Westminster MP are from the SNP. Moreover, in voicing preference for Christian materials, the community has been proactive for the future of its own children and indeed its own future. Without taking such precautions, whole cultures can and do decline. Smaller ones in particular are at heightened risk of collapse.
The silence of the Scottish Government and the SNP about this vote shows up the limits of progressive sex education and of the culture wars in Scotland and elsewhere. Neither the Scottish Government nor the SNP which is currently the governing party can afford to be seen to hit back at a vote which strikes at all these problems. Many of these concerns are shared by wider sections of society. There are also arguably international implications here which are worth pursuing, ones that might help safeguard fundamental freedoms.
Claim that Christian ethics is an unjust imposition
One of the major concerns with the Scottish curriculum is that it introduces transgender ideology to children. This is important because the recent High Court judgment restricting puberty blockers does not apply to Scotland. Nor has the Scottish government changed guidelines as in England to ban school staff telling children they could be ‘born in the wrong body’. Those guidelines also ban schools from working with groups that say this. This means that transgender groups such as Mermaids could still get into Scottish schools to bolster the new curriculum. In 2019 Mermaids held a training session for teachers in a Church of England primary school. Mermaids implied that criticising transgender indoctrination was akin to racism. This bizarre claim has been made for years by transgender activists, but has been spread globally on social media more recently. As it turns out, the case of this Scottish council rejecting the curriculum helps show up the falsehood of this claim.
The claim that objecting to transgender indoctrination is like racism features quite prominently in Canada among other countries, in disputes over the new sex education, and the government’s push to ban ‘conversion therapy’. I have heard it quite a lot from younger people in the UK. The argument is twofold. First that transgender identity is a ‘natural variant’ in human nature, therefore it should be accepted and celebrated. Second that individuals within indigenous groups have social roles equivalent to transgender and non-binary identities. Therefore, to criticise or oppose transgender indoctrination is to be racist and colonialist. The Christian view is said to be a British and European colonial imposition.
Christian ethics safeguards everyone
This argument falls down on two basic grounds. The first is the total lack of biological causes for transgenderism. The second is the fact that the Scottish case breaks this dichotomy down completely. There is a long history in Scotland of comparing Scottish Gaelic culture to indigenous cultures in Canada. This is because many Scottish Gaelic people emigrated to Canada. However, Scottish Gaelic culture has no trace of alternative gender identities in its history. Neither do any other ancient cultures recorded in Europe. The assumption that opposing transgender indoctrination is an unjust external imposition collapses. Given that it isn’t true in Europe, it isn’t universally true. Parents, teachers and politicians in Canada should take note of this as they oppose their government’s bill to criminalise ‘conversion therapy’. For that bill will erode parental rights and affect schools.
The Scottish council signalled its disapproval of (among other things) LGBT indoctrination in primary schools. In doing this, it did nothing that could be construed as prejudicial to the traditional culture of the area. Indeed the Presbytery of Lewis made it very clear that it wanted materials that respected the traditional culture. It is clear that this was a Christian argument. Far from being an attack on nature, Christian ethics seeks to honour how God created us all, and to safeguard this in a fallen world. This Scottish council vote therefore has the potential to teach the whole world about responding to progressive sex education.
What about the future?
Opponents of the vote, including some of the local press, tried to downplay the significance of the vote. It was dismissed as purely symbolic, with councillors increasingly derided as confused. There is little doubt that there is more to do in terms of pushing back against this curriculum. It is reasonable to worry that the Scottish Government could still make teaching these materials mandatory and remove the right to withdraw children from sex education.
However this may well be the beginning of a new de facto policy in some schools. Given that the entire council voted for Christian materials, it is perfectly possible that the entire staff of particular schools might make a similar choice. Could more councils act in this manner? What was key there was that parents and local politicians looked at the sex education material. They did not automatically assume that everything would be fine once it was introduced into schools. The moral issues involved are universal. So are the lessons that can be learnt.