A More Just Scotland, In A More Just World


It would appear from newspaper adverts that there is a Christian view on the Scottish independence referendum.  A group of Church of Scotland Ministers signed an advert supporting a yes vote and only this week a group of Catholics have also put their names to an advert.  Are they right and is theirs the only voice which should be heard? 

To a certain extent religion has been absent from the much of the debate.  This is interesting because it could be argued that religion was central to history of Scotland and in particular of its identity.  It could be argued that it was the Presbyterian settlement in Scotland which prevented Scotland being assimilated into a single British identity at either the Union of the Crowns or the Union of Parliaments.  The other side of that coin is that it was the Protestant identity of the United Kingdom which gained support from Scots and which motivated Scots to be amongst the most enthusiastic builders of the British Empire.  The end of Empire and secularisation over the past 50 or 60 years has surely played its part in the rise of a new Scottish identity which looks for a political voice either in a devolved or independent nation.  Until the last 10 or 15 years the most implacable foe of Scottish nationalism was the Scottish Catholic community with its roots in the Irish diaspora of the nineteenth century.  This community feared Scottish nationalism because they felt they would be seen as not Scottish enough and that an independent (and in the 1970s even a devolved Scotland) might replicate some of the worst aspects of Stormont in Scotland.  According to some opinion polls Scotland’s Catholic community is now amongst the most enthusiastic supporters of independence.

As a historian I find the history of identity very interesting.  However it is surely also a matter of some rejoicing that the religious aspects of the debate today are not about Empire and while it is not totally eradicated neither is it about sectarianism or the fear of sectarianism.

The official positions of Scotland’s main churches are ones of studied neutrality.  The main denominations all recognise Scotland as a nation, if you look at the Church of Scotland there is even a clue in the name.  Despite being organised to some extent along national grounds it is clear that Scotland’s churches recognise that there is more to their witness than what goes on within the boundaries of Scotland.  The Scottish Catholic Church is clearly part of a world-wide, one might even say universal or even catholic organisation with a fairly long history of antagonism towards nationalism, it has been fairly coy in neither agreeing with or denying Pope Francis’s view that Scottish independence could be at worst unjust and should at least handled with care.  These examples show that like a lot of Christian views on politics there is often not a settled answer.

I know many of the people who signed the two adverts which I mentioned at the start of this piece and I respect them.  I do not doubt their sincerity in voting in a way which they think is right.  I know that for many of them it is the issues of nuclear weapons and of poverty which influence their view.

I am opposed to nuclear weapons, I would want to see an end to nuclear weapons in the world.  Scottish independence would not free the world of nuclear weapons.  It probably doesn't even result in a fall in the number of nuclear weapons.  Moving the UK’s nuclear weapons is not what I want, I want nuclear weapons eradicated from the world.  Moving the UK’s nuclear weapons does nothing to improve the prospects of peace in the world.  I will continue to argue that the UK should give up its nuclear weapons and encourage others to do so as well.  I campaigned against the UK replacing Trident and I think that the money could and should be put to a better use like dealing with poverty.

On the issue of poverty there are disgraceful levels of poverty in modern Scotland and in the UK.  I would say that all of the major political parties are at fault for this, Labour and indeed the SNP included.  Over the past few weeks I have felt on a number of occasions that I wish we had a campaign against poverty and for fairness in society which was as strong and as passionate as the campaign for and against independence has been.

Foodbanks have been used as a short-hand in this debate.  We are told that we should not live in a country that has foodbanks, and I agree.  I am not sure how telling my brothers and sisters in Liverpool or Cardiff that foodbanks there are not my concern is a particularly Christian outlook.  In any event just changing the flag doesn’t eradicate foodbanks or any of the other symptoms of poverty.  What needs to change in my view is to change to a political culture which sees poverty as the main problem that we need to deal with.

Is there a definitive Christian view on the Referendum, I would say no.  I have highlighted a couple of issues where I think there should be action.

I will be voting no because I believe that we are all made in the image and likeness of God and this means that there should be fewer or even no divisions in the world and that we should be working towards that rather than creating division.  In the Old Testament the division into different languages and different nations is portrayed as a consequence of the fall of man.  In the New Testament it is clear that Jesus came to do away with the old divisions.

Fundamentally I want my political actions to reflect the actions promoted by Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 25 Verses 35-45.  Where are we best placed to feed the hungry, give water to thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and visit the prisoner?  The people of Scotland and Christians will have different interpretations of how this is done but I hope that in good conscience they will make their decision.

The Referendum campaign is coming to an end.  There have been divisions in Scottish society and these must be healed in the aftermath of the vote no matter what the result.  The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has called for prayer after the vote and we should support him.

I am campaigning for a no vote but whatever happens I want to live in a country which has at the heart of its political concerns the eradication of poverty both in Scotland and beyond Scotland.  I want to live in a peaceful Scotland for that to happen we need create a just Scotland I think that Scottish Labour is the best means to achieve that.

Richard McCready is a Scottish Labour & Co-operative Party Councillor on Dundee City Council, he has a PhD on the influence of the Irish Diaspora on Scottish politics and is a former National Secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland, he writes in a personal capacity.

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commented 2014-09-19 12:30:27 +0100 · Flag
Now the dust has settled it is evident that the Yes vote has its greatest suopport in the areas of high deprivation in Scotland. This is no accident and we need to learn that nationalism (as opposed to patriotism) is frequently an expression of feelings of powerlessness and lack of control experienced by those who do not feel the benefits of the society they find themselves in. Across the world and throughout history we see groups of individuals drawn together under ostensibly nationalist groupings which prey upon a sense of injustice, inequality or past wrongs. In fact nationalism is a dangerous yet inevitably compelling weapon which can indeed promote radical social change, but is more frequently used by those who wish to exploit the suffering of others for their own ends. As a christian who strives for unity yet weeps for the plight of the socially alienated and powerless I pray that the deep divisions and wounds which might have been openned by this event are healed. At the same time I pray that the lessons from today are learned and that the church will not only look to draw people together but will take up the challenge to prove that being better together does not mean better for a few. The recovery from the cult of the individual and indvidual success has not yet happened. If the Union exists for the benefit of all its members it is not evident to a significant proportion of its membership and if we continue to push the boundaries of people’s tolerance we will one day reap the whirlwind. It was a close call, if we don’t learn from it we are fools.
followed this page 2014-09-19 12:12:19 +0100

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