THE SNP government has been urged to scrap Scotland’s “archaic” blasphemy laws.

Campaigner Mark McCabe has launched a petition at the Scottish Parliament calling on the government to end the laws relating to blasphemy, heresy and profanity.

Although last used in 1843 to prosecute against Edinburgh bookseller Thomas Paterson, the laws have never been repealed or ruled defunct through lack of use.

Comparable laws were scrapped in England and Wales in 2008.

The government says that since no one has been charged with the crime in over a century, the law is irrelevant - a legal principle known as desuetude - and abolition unnecessary.

However in his petition, Mr McCabe says: “It seems unfathomable that Scotland still has this archaic crime when the rest of Great Britain has abolished it, and all that theoretically stands between a person and prosecution is the good grace of the police and prosecutor.”

Scots blasphemy law covers denying the existence of God, while profanity takes in “indecent scoffing at religion” and “profaning Sundays by working or engaging in amusement”.

The last person executed for blasphemy in Great Britain was Edinburgh medical student Thomas Aikenhead, who was hanged in 1697 after his friends reported a casual remark.

However it was only in May that police in Ireland dropped a blasphemy case into comedian Stephen Fry after he said God was “clearly a maniac” on an Irish TV show in 2015.

A blasphemy law passed in Ireland in 2009 carries a maximum fine of around £22,000.

The Catholic Church said: “There is little concern in wider society that people of any faith or none could face prosecution under this historic law. It appears to be a rather cynical attempt further remove any vestige or religion from civic and political life.”

A new Scottish Social Attitudes survey this weekend revealed 58 per cent of Scots say they have no faith, up 18 points since 1999.

Young people were the least religious, with three-quarters of 18-34s saying they had no faith, compared to just a third of over-65s.

The Church of Scotland suffered the biggest decline in adherents, with 18 per cent of Scots belonging to it compared to 35 per cent at the start of devolution.

The proportion of Roman Catholics (10 per cent of Scots), other Christian affiliations (11 per cent) and the non-Christian faithful (2 per cent) have all been relatively stable.

ScotCen researcher Ian Montagu said: “As each generation coming through is consistently less religious than the last, it is hard to imagine this trend coming to a halt in the near future. “However, if the Kirk is able to push through liberalising measures such as allowing ministers to oversee same-sex marriage ceremonies, it is possible that its appeal may broaden somewhat to younger, more socially liberal Scots.”