A LOCAL authority wants to adopt a policy of reserving places at denominational schools for Catholics after a public consultation backed the move.

Of 104 individual respondents to the Falkirk Council consultation, 63 per cent agreed with the plan, with 37 per cent against, and seven out of the 10 groups, including parent teacher councils, agreed with the change.

However, secularists claimed the plan was discriminatory against non-Catholics.

The move comes after rising population rates left denominational schools oversubscribed, meaning pupils who are not ­Catholic will have to use placing requests to get into the schools, even if they live in the catchment area.

Although such schools were originally designed to serve ­Catholic communities they have a diverse population that includes pupils of other faiths as well as those of no religious background.

However, councils still have a legal duty to offer denominational education to Catholic families.

Similar plans have been adopted elsewhere in Scotland.

A council report on the issue said nearly 40 pupils were refused enrolment to Catholic schools last year, resulting in a growing waiting list for places.

The move was criticised by the Scottish Secular Society (SSS,) which said the council is "effectively sanctioning what is a discriminatory statute that results in Catholic parents being able to apply to all schools within catchment areas without disadvantage on religious grounds, while non-Catholic parents cannot".

Spencer Fildes, chairman of the SSS, said: "Falkirk Council should not be seeking to expedite religious discrimination because a child's parents have differing faiths or indeed, no faith. The Scottish Secular Society implore Falkirk Council not to pursue the implementation of these measures."

Formal group responses were received from three parent councils, two in support and one with no objection, one community council gave tacit support and another objected.

The Archdiocese of St Andrew's and Edinburgh wrote in support and the EIS teaching union took a neutral position.

A spokesman for Falkirk ­Council said: "The Secular Society have already written to us and their comments have been included in our Consultation Paper.

"The proposed changes are in keeping with the legislation and would, if agreed, come into effect for the 2015/16 admissions."

Michael McGrath, director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, said it was a fair proposal where there was no national policy and councils have put such strategies in place in ensure right of access "in rare cases where popular schools are over- subscribed".