Prayers scrapped at Edinburgh City Council meetings
Edinburgh City Council is to stop holding prayers during its meetings.
The local authority will instead introduce 10-minute "Pause for Reflection" sessions before meetings of the full council.
Group leaders and the Lord Provost agreed unanimously to the move.
The sessions will be open to all staff, councillors and visitors who would normally be attending the full council meeting.
The sessions will take place in the main council chamber 10 minutes before the monthly Thursday meeting.
The BBC Scotland news website can reveal that the sessions will be delivered by representatives from a wide variety of civic and community interests, including faith and belief groups, civic institutions and community and voluntary sector organisations.
The start of each Pause for Reflection session will be signalled by a bell at 09:50, at which point the Lord Provost will accompany the person delivering the session into the chamber.'Forward-looking city'
A further bell will be rung shortly before 10:00, when those not taking part in the session will take their seats for the meeting.
After this, the city officers will bring in the ceremonial mace and sword to mark the official start of the meeting.
The first Pause for Reflection session will be held on 28 June and delivered by Charlotte Chapel Senior Pastor Paul Rees.
Lord Provost Donald Wilson said: "Scotland's capital is a place of tolerance, fairness and diversity and I am more than proud to stand as first citizen in such a forward-looking city.
"As a council, we have a duty to respect the beliefs, opinions and interests of all our residents, which is why this review of the current Prayers at full council meetings seems entirely appropriate.
"These Pause for Reflection sessions will be genuinely inclusive, providing a time for contemplation open to all staff, councillors and visitors who would normally be attending full council meetings.
"The first session on 28 June will be delivered by Rev Paul Rees and I will be inviting suggestions for future speakers from all my elected member colleagues to ensure the Pause for Reflection programme covers the broadest possible spectrum of faith, community and civic interests."
Alistair McBay, Scottish spokesman for the National Secular Society (NSS), said: "We welcome Edinburgh City Council's removal of prayers from the body of the meeting and the introduction of the optional, more inclusive pause for reflection that will now precede meetings.
"It will permit councillors and members of staff who do not wish to participate in prayers from having to do so without having to absent themselves."