A FIFE MSP has highlighted the "distinctive" contribution of Catholic schools and pledged her "unswerving" support for faith-based education in Scotland.

Annabelle Ewing, MSP for Cowdenbeath, spoke during a members debate last week.

She said the schools had made a positive contribution to Scotland’s education system and wider society.

“I am proud, as the MSP for Cowdenbeath, to say that there are many excellent Catholic primary schools in my constituency: St Brides RC primary school in Cowdenbeath, St John’s RC primary school in Rosyth, St Joseph’s RC primary school in Kelty, St Kenneth’s RC primary school in Ballingry, St Ninian’s RC primary school in Cardenden and St Patrick’s RC primary school in Lochgelly," she said.

“The teachers and staff in all those schools are to be congratulated for all their work in helping young people to be the best that they can be. I also take this opportunity to commend the teachers and staff in all the schools in my constituency, who do so much to improve the life chances of young people in Fife."

"I argue that they are, indeed, a national success story," she added. "The background to Catholic schools becoming part of the state education system is the Education (Scotland) Act 1918. Under that historic concordat, Catholic schools, which were at that time set up voluntarily and were largely underfunded, were brought into the state education system and were therefore able to access state funding while retaining the right to maintain their Catholic ethos."

Ms Ewing said this proved to be a "game-changer" for young students.

"As facilities in their schools improved significantly, so did – which is important – their prospects. The legislation also served to signify a different relationship between the Catholic community and the state," she said.

“The legislation reflected, in Scotland, a new level of trust through which Catholic schools considered that they could play a full role in the development and wealth of the nation.

“Over the years, we have seen the distinctive contribution that Catholic schools have made, with a high level of achievement and attainment. That reflects the truism that diversity is a source of strength that should be celebrated, because it enriches and shapes our society for the better."

Ms Ewing added: “I am proud to endorse those sentiments and to pledge to my constituents that I will always support the role of Catholic schools in our country.”