The Archbishop of Glasgow has expressed dismay over the treatment of nine fire-fighters who will undergo diversity training as punishment for refusing to hand out safety leaflets at a Scotia gay pride event last June.

Mario Conti questioned the Strathclyde Fire and Rescue (SFR) service’s decision claiming “the duty to obey one’s conscience is a higher duty than that of obeying orders.”

Conti is well-known for his hostility towards gay and lesbian people. In 2003 he attempted to interfere in the political process by asking Roman Catholic members of the Scottish Parliament to follow church dogma rather than their party.

Most rebuffed the Archbishop, despite his claims that gay relationships were “subversive.”

Now he has attempted to interfere in the secular operations of the emergency services, saying: “We have followed this case with concern. There was no question of these officers’ competency or commitment being called into question, nor was there any suggestion that they were refusing to come to the assistance of people in danger.

“They were asked, while in uniform, to hand out leaflets during a demonstration where they had legitimate concerns about being the subject of taunts and jokes, and in which in some cases, their religious sensibilities would have been grossly offended by people dressed as priests and nuns lampooning the Church.

“That the officers concerned are being forced to undergo ‘diversity training’ is alarming. The duty to obey one’s conscience is a higher duty than that of obeying orders.”

Some have questioned the wisdom of suggesting that members of a religion should put their personal beliefs above their professional duties.

One officer has been demoted from watch manager to crew manager, with a £5,000 pay cut.

The officers’ have now admitted that they should have performed their duties at the festival, and have received written warnings for their actions.

Stonewall welcomed the decision by SFR, a spokesman said: “It is not political correctness to ask public servants to do their job. Lesbian and gay people pay taxes too.

“Had these fire-fighters refused to go to a mosque or church there’d have been justified outrage.”

The SFR said: “fire-fighters are well aware that fire prevention education and spreading the fire safety message is not a minor part of their job – it ranks alongside fire-fighting as a core, statutory duty.”

“Fire-fighters cannot, and will not, pick and choose to whom they offer fire safety advice,” they added.

SFR say that they view the punishment as appropriate, and the matter closed.