SECULARISTS have launched a last ditch bid for new guidance to be introduced to outlaw the promotion of young earth creationism in schools.

Last year, the Scottish Secularist Society (SSS) petitioned MSPs to urge the Scottish Government to bar the "presentation" of young earth doctrines as viable alternatives to the established science of evolution in the classroom.

The SSS believes schools are being subjected to what they describe as an "attack" on established scientific theories from imported US doctrines known as creation science and intelligent design.

However, School Leaders' Scotland (SLS), which represents secondary headteachers, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country's largest teaching union, and the Scottish Government all wrote to the committee outlining their objections.

These organisations backed the long-standing principle that protection from extremist views in Scottish education relies on the professionalism of teaching staff and the regulatory role of bodies such as local authorities, the General Teaching Council for Scotland and the schools inspectorate.

However, in a new submission to the public petitions committee the SSS said sufficient safeguards were not in place and creationism was "institutionalised".

It said: "Inaction will be seen, as it has already been seen, by creationists worldwide as a licence to continue their activities, causing damage to Scottish education, and to Scotland's proud reputation for the advancement of knowledge, on which so much of our economic future depends."

Professor Paul Braterman, SSS board member and scientific advisor, added: "The problem of embedded creationism within Scottish education can no longer be ignored.

"The Government says it has no present plans to issue guidance, but given the evidence that we have presented, and the interest that the issue has aroused, we hope they will think again."

However, the EIS reiterated its view that legislative "interference" was unnecessary because teachers were already aware of their responsibilities.

A spokesman said: "We are confident that our members would not support any set of beliefs which would undermine the current curricular guidance in science or in religious education, and procedures are already in place to deal with any potential issues.

"As such, we would question the evidence base for the claim that the teaching of young earth creationism is embedded' in schools - this is contrary to the collective experience of our members, the teachers who work every day in schools across Scotland."

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of SLS also criticised the SSS petition, arguing schools were fully aware of the need to protect pupils from "extremist" views.

Tim Simons, head of curriculum at the Scottish Government's learning directorate, previously wrote to the parliament's petitions committee saying there were no plans to introduce new guidance.

He said: "I can confirm that there are no plans to issue guidance to schools or education authorities to prevent the presentation of creationism, intelligent design or similar doctrines by teachers or school visitors. The evidence available suggests that guidance on these matters is unnecessary.

"However, Education Scotland will continue to monitor, through the school inspection process and by other means, any instances where schools are not ensuring the teaching of science is based on well-established science and scientific principles."