Humanist Society Scotland

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Humanist Society Scotland
Formation 1989
Type Nonprofit organisation
Purpose Promotion of secular humanism
Chief Executive
Gordon MacRae[1]

Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) is a Scottish registered charity that promotes humanist views. It is a member of the European Humanist Federation and the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

History and aims[edit]

Formed in 1989 out of an association of local humanist groups around Scotland, the Society's objective is "to represent the views of people in Scotland who wish to lead good and worthwhile lives guided by reason and compassion rather than religion or superstition".[2] In August 2010 it had 6,500 members. The Society also claims to have a representative role for the 28% of Scots (at the 2001 census) who identify themselves as having no religion. The Society believes that the wording of the census question tends to inflate the numbers of people identifying themselves as religious who were brought up in a tradition of religious belief but who either no longer believe or who have significant doubts. The Society has campaigned to persuade the Registrar General to amend the question for the 2011 census.

In April 2015, Gordon MacRae was appointed Chief Executive.[1]

The official symbol of the HSS is an adaptation of the Happy Human symbol which incorporates the Saltire. The Society also publishes a quarterly magazine, Humanitie.


The Society campaigns for a secular state in Scotland, and to abolish religious privilege. Its main efforts have concentrated on seeking to allow legal humanist weddings, and to secularise state education.


In January 2001, the Society lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament calling for the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977 to be amended to allow legal humanist wedding ceremonies, alongside religious and civil ones.[3] Although the Act was not amended, section 12 of the Act allows the Registrar General for Scotland to authorise temporary additional celebrants.[4] In 2005, the Registrar agreed to authorise 12 celebrants from the Humanist Society, in part because of a concern that allowing legal religious weddings but not legal humanist ones might not be consistent with the right to "freedom of thought, conscience and religion", which includes non-religious belief, in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The first legal humanist wedding took place at Edinburgh Zoo on 18 June 2005 between Karen Watts (from Ireland) and Martin Reijns (from the Netherlands).

Humanist weddings have since becoming increasingly popular and, in 2010, with over 70 celebrants authorised to conduct them 2,092 legal humanist weddings took place in Scotland, becoming the third most popular form of Wedding in Scotland after Registrars and the Church of Scotland. The Society organises training, mentoring and performance reviews of celebrants, and submits names of celebrants to the Registrar General annually for authorisation. Prior to the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014, the Society performed a similar role for celebrants to conduct same-sex commitment ceremonies and weddings, although formal authorisation by the Registrar is not required for these ceremonies since they had no effect on the legal status of individuals concerned. Since the legalisation of same-sex marriages, both sets of same-sex and opposite-sex marriages are treated the same way.

Other issues[edit]

The Society supports both the End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill, introduced in the Scottish Parliament by Margo Macdonald MSP,[5] and the campaign for equal marriage in Scotland to allow same sex couples to be legally married as an alternative to civil partnerships as well as allowing opposite sex couples access to civil partnerships. In 2013 the group, along with the Edinburgh Secular Society, started a campaign against religious representation on council education committees in Scotland.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Senior Management Team". HSS website. Humanist Society Scotland. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  2. ^ The HSS today, Humanist Society Scotland website.
  3. ^ Petition to the Scottish Parliament to End Discrimination in the Marriage Law of Scotland
  4. ^ Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977 (c.15)
  5. ^ End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill, Humanist Society Scotland website.
  6. ^ "Campaigners call for end to religious 'interference' in schools". STV. 19 May 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 

External links[edit]