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Two religious discrimination cases launched against Scotland’s largest grant-making trust

January 2021

Kenneth Ferguson
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The former Chief Executive of Scotland’s largest independent grant-making trust is suing for unfair dismissal and religious discrimination.

Stirling Free Church is also taking legal action against The Robertson Trust in a separate but related case.

The Robertson Trust awards more than £20 million in grants each year. Former CEO, Kenneth Ferguson, claims he lost his job due to his Christian beliefs.

His case was due to be heard by Glasgow’s Employment Tribunal just as this edition of ET was going to print.

Ferguson is also an elder at Stirling Free Church, and the church is taking a separate legal action against the Trust.

The church claims it was unlawfully thrown out of a rented property controlled by the Trust. A court hearing on the church’s case is expected in the spring.

Ferguson’s employment case and the church’s case both centre on the actions of the chair of the Robertson Trust, Shonaig Macpherson.

The church had signed a £6,500-a-year agreement to hire the Trust’s premises for Sunday services at The Barracks Conference Centre in Stirling.

Ferguson claims Macpherson went ‘ballistic’ when she discovered the Free Church was renting the property. He claims she is outraged by the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

Within days, the church had been given notice to quit the property. The Trust claims it has a policy which does not allow religious groups to take out a rental, but lawyers for the church say no such policy exists.

The church has since lodged a legal action citing breach of contract and religious discrimination. Ferguson said his relationship with Shonaig Macpherson, which had previously been very positive, suddenly changed.

Ferguson’s involvement with the church was declared on the Trust’s register of interests, and had recused himself from all negotiations about the rental.

Nevertheless, disciplinary action was started against Ferguson over the church rental. Yet the Trust’s dismissal letter of March 2020 cites vague ‘performance issues’ and makes no reference to the rental. The two related cases are being backed by The Christian Institute. Spokesman Simon Calvert said, ‘Their actions in relation to Kenneth Ferguson and Stirling Free Church suggest somebody there has a problem with people with orthodox religious beliefs.

‘They’re trying to claim the rental agreement with the church was against policy when no such policy existed. And they’ve kicked out a much-loved and highly successful CEO while shifting ground on their reasons.

‘There’s clearly something going on here and we hope these legal actions will bring it to light and secure justice for the Christians who have lost out as a result.’

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