MOVES at Holyrood to stop councils having to appoint religious representatives to local education committees have been dropped.

Independent MSP John Finnie will not now push ahead with his bill to ensure all council committee members are elected after a co-ordinated attempt to impede his plan.

Existing laws require local authorities to appoint three ­religious figures to their education committee.

The Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church get two of the places, while the third must reflect religious beliefs in their local area.

The trio have voting rights and can influence decisions affecting schools and key budget decisions.

They cannot be removed at ­elections and unlike councillors do not have to declare financial interests.

Finnie, elected as an SNP MSP in 2011, now sits as an Independent even though he is a Scottish Green party member. He announced legislative plans last year to overhaul the system.

He wanted to remove the obligation on councils to appoint religious representatives and strip unelected members of their voting rights.

The results of council ­committee votes would also have been published and remote access to the proceedings of local authorities would be mandatory.

Finnie's purpose was to promote greater accountability in local government decision-making.

However, a public ­consultation produced a flurry of negative responses and Finnie is no longer pushing for change.

Of the 207 replies, 17% of respondents said they backed removing the obligation to appoint religious figures to education committees.

One-quarter of responses came from representative organisations, including church groups, and 71.5% were sent in by private individuals.

Many of the replies were "pro forma" letters - responses that were highly similar.

It is understood Finnie believes the consultation results would make it difficult for him to win support from other MSPs.

He told the Sunday Herald: "With public monies scarce I believed it more vital than ever that everyone involved in public expenditure - and in respect of schools that can be several millions - can be removed from further decision-making by the electorate.

"Given the nature and source of the bulk of responses received - many pro forma letters - I do not envisage getting sufficient support from parliamentary colleagues and do not intend to proceed with this proposal."

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "I've long been concerned at the promotion of unscientific ideology in our schools, and John's proposal to open up what happens in local education committees made a lot of sense.

"It's a shame that it has been misrepresented and I believe the issue of unelected religious representatives on education committees should still be debated. Scots are more engaged in democracy than ever, so these committees should expect greater scrutiny of their membership and their decisions."

The Reverend Sally Foster-Fulton, convener of the Church of Scotland's Church and Society Council, said: "Clearly, the church was not alone in recognising the added value which religious representatives bring to their participation in education committees."