WHEN it comes to Scotland's culture wars, many would view this last week as a catastrophe for the Scottish Secular Society (SSS), and a success for the country's religious fundamentalists.
The blow to the SSS was dealt when a parliamentary petition calling for tough guidelines banning the teaching creationism in school science classes was holed below the water line by the SNP Government and Scottish teachers' union, the Education Institute for Scotland (EIS). Creatonists believes the story of Genesis to be literal fact, including the idea that the earth was created in seven days. To account for fossils creationists claim that dinosaurs shared the earth with humankind.
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However, the society is blaming the setback on an administrative error by the Scottish Parliament, which it claims mislaid key evidence. It says it will stage a last-ditch attempt in January to stop creationism being taught by Christian fundamentalists in Scottish schools.
Secularists say an error made by Holyrood clerks damaged their campaign, and the advice from Government education chiefs and the Scottish teaching union not to legislate would have been vastly different if a vital piece of evidence from some of Britain's leading scientists had been put forward on time.
Last week, Tim Simons of the Scottish Government's curriculum unit said there were "no plans" to issue guidance preventing creationism or intelligent design from being presented in schools. His statement was a brutal blow to the hopes of the SSS.
The EIS followed up two days later, saying it also did not believe legislation was necessary.
The secularist petition had been backed by the renowned Society of Biology on November 10, a full month before the Government and EIS stated their position - but the endorsement was overlooked by Holyrood staff and key decision-makers did not get to see it.
Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology, said the body did not think creationism or any other religious doctrines should be taught alongside scientific fact when explaining evolution to children.
An error in the clerk's department meant its submission was not published until December 17 - after the Government and EIS came to their current decision not to move against the teaching of creationism.
The SSS's scientific adviser Paul Braterman claims the Society of Biology's statement to the Public Petitions Committee was considered one of the strongest supporting statements it had received.
He said:"We have been invited to make a final submission to the committee before its next meeting in January. We hope the new evidence will invite the Government to reconsider. If it does not, they are giving hostages to fortune because it's only a matter of time before further scandals accrue, forcing them to think again."
One such scandal is that of Kirktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride, where creationist ministers were found to be preaching in the school. The missionaries were reported to be from the US Church of Christ, and are understood to have told children denounce the theory of evolution. The sect was later removed from the school and two headteachers were dismissed.
Pupils at Glasgow's Bellahouston Academy received a visit from Dr Alastair Noble, director of the Centre of Intelligent Design, during the 2011-2012 school term.
Noble wrote one of 30 submissions made to the Public Petitions Committee about creationism in schools, in which he insisted intelligent design should form part of science lessons.
In 2012-13 Kelso High School in the Borders had a visit from a creationist who took part in a Q&A session with pupils for a religious education class.