CATHOLIC schools across Scotland are facing a recruitment crisis with a shortage of teachers and headteachers who are members of the faith.

The dire position has prompted Archbishop of Glasgow Philip Tartaglia to issue an urgent plea to Catholics currently working in non-denominational schools to return to the fold.

Archbishop Tartaglia, who has warned of "significant consequences" for schools if his plea goes unanswered, has also called for more young Catholics to consider a career in the teaching profession.

The move comes amid growing concerns that not enough teachers from a Catholic background are being recruited and trained in Scotland.

It has been suggested that part of the problem is the controversial requirement for teachers at Catholic schools to be vetted by a priest before they are given a job. Critics believe different schools operate different policies and the uncertainties put off teachers from applying.

Teacher shortages are also an issue nationally with rural areas complaining of unfilled vacancies and particular shortages in key subjects such as science, technology and maths.

Archbishop Tartaglia, president of the Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES), said: “Given the current shortages of teachers and headteachers, I want to appeal to Catholic teachers who are not currently working in Catholic schools. My request is this: Please seek an appointment in a Catholic school.

"We are working hard with the University of Glasgow and others to improve the supply of teachers. I must stress that this is a critical issue that may have significant consequences if we cannot produce more teachers soon."

Archbishop Tartaglia said Scotland’s bishops had appealed to Scottish Government ministers to ensure that sufficient teachers were being educated to work in Catholic schools.

The St Andrew’s Foundation for Catholic teacher education at Glasgow University has also recently began a series of talks aimed at school pupils in an bid to increase teacher numbers.

Michael McGrath, director of SCES, said councils had been contacted to make it easier for Catholic teachers to transfer to Catholic schools?within council areas when vacancies arise.

He told the Catholic Observer: “There is a general shortage of teachers across the country, but very particularly councils are finding it hard to recruit teachers for Catholic schools who have got a qualification for religious education and are available to do those jobs.

“How can you deliver the Catholic education that you are expected to, that parents want you to, if you don’t have people who understand that and are committed to it and are able to deliver it?”

Mr McGrath said a number of issues were contributing to the acute shortage including low salaries and a boom in retiring teachers who came into the profession in the 1970s.

However, Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association, said reviewing the "unfair" system of Catholic approval for staff would be a significant step forward.

He said: "The system is unfair because it is down to the discretion of schools and so that can make recruitment difficult.

"The same rules should apply across the sector, but we are concerned that teachers don't always know what is expected of them in a Catholic school.

"The interpretation of what constitutes a Catholic ethos can vary from school to school and this is a good opportunity for a review."

In 2014 Anthony Finn, the former head of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, the teaching watchdog, said Catholic headteachers believed the approval policy was being implemented inconsistently.

The comments were backed by anecdotal evidence from Catholic teachers with one saying said she had been asked by a priest whether she was "still living with her boyfriend" when seeking approval. Another claimed that being in a same-sex relationship had counted against him. However, other staff spoke of being waved through without being asked about their lifestyle.

Although non-Catholics who want to work in denominational schools are also required to get approval, they are asked to give a reference, which is seen by some as an easier route to employment.

A spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland said: "There are recruitment challenges across all sectors of Scottish education and faith schools are not immune from this pressure."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “As a result of the teacher workforce planning exercise, which includes consideration of the needs of the denominational sector, we have increased student teacher intake targets for five consecutive years.

“The newly established Strategic Board for Teacher Education, which includes a representative of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, has been tasked with reviewing the current teacher workforce planning arrangements."