The Church of (an independent) Scotland

Spotted on obscure blog (hey, it takes one to know one) “The Jacobite Intelligencer: Jottings of a Jacobite Antiquary” an article on “Why ‘Devolution Max’ is not enough”, and at the foot of that article, the following:

Furthermore, few have realised that an independent Scotland would almost inevitably result in the disestablishment of that strange monster, the Church of Scotland. An independent Scottish Government would be unlikely to look with favour on the idea of an established church, especially given the growing population of Glasgow and its Catholic majority.

And my posted comment on that same point:

The Church of Scotland is not established. It is the national Church, but the Church of Scotland Act 1921 confirms its independence from the state in matters of discipline, doctrine, worship and government. The head of the Church of England is the Queen, the head of the Church of Scotland is Jesus Christ. As recently as the late 1990’s, the Court of Session have confirmed this position. The Scottish Parliament (independent or not) is in no position to alter the constitutional position of the Kirk.

Strange, but true.

Posted on Absolvitor: Scots Law Online.

This entry was posted in Blawgs, Ecclesiatical Law, Scottish Government and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Church of (an independent) Scotland

  1. Stegokitty says:

    There is only one Head of the Church, and it is the LORD Jesus Christ! Christ is Lord, and He alone!

  2. Pingback: Church of (an independent) Scotland – Part 2 | Absolvitor: Scots Law Online

  3. Calum Ross (16) says:

    Sorry for slow reply. In fact the CoS is established. Granted, not in the same way as the CoE, but it is. Until the 1950s it was known formally as the Church of Scotland by Law Established, to distinguish against the Church of Scotland, Free – which is known known as the Free Church of Scotland. It gets grants, it is approved by the Queen. It is favoured by the government over other churches. I think you should have done your research, there is more types of church establishment than the most famous type. This was the reason why there was so much controversy in the 1929 union. It was a voluntary (anti-establishment) church uniting with the Church of Scotland by Law Established.

    • Hi Callum,

      The constitutional position of the Church of Scotland was my dissertation topic, so I’ve done a reasonable amount of homework on it! Certainly we can argue about what is meant by “established” – but regardless of the title, the Church of Scotland was not “established by law” and the secular courts of Scotland have recognised that the Church’s spiritual jurisdiction is pre-existing and merely recognised by them. Thus the phrase, “national, but not established”. The Church of Scotland is not state funded and receives “grants” in the same way other charities do e.g. lottery funding for historic buildings and council funding for social work services. It is not “approved by the Queen” – she has the right to attend the General Assembly but not to take part and there is no state intereference of any sort permitted in matters of worship, doctrine, discipline or government.


  4. Calum Ross (16) says:

    Hi Iain
    Sorry I sounded so harsh – that was my draft, I pressed enter by accident. I do respect your expertise!
    The very fact that the CoS is recognised by government, shows establishment (at least in religious terms, which is probably why we disagree)
    I’m probably wrong, but is the proceedings of the GE not said to the Lord High Commissioner, who as the Queens Rep, then approves it?
    Wasn’t the Church established by the Reformation Parliament?
    I’m way over my depth here =P

    • No offence taken. I’ve never been to General Assembly (although I was once a delegate at the National Youth Assembly) so I don’t know for sure, according to the CofS website, the Lord High Commissioner “is appointed by the Queen as her representative at the General Assembly, taking up residence for the week in the Palace of Holyroodhouse. By custom, he or she addresses the Assembly at its opening and closing sessions, and attends much of the daily business, but is strictly not able to influence the debates.”

      I am pretty confident there is no approving to be done.

      As far as the establishment (or founding) of the church is concerned, again the website is my source. The CofS traces its origins back to St. Ninian, but it does also say: “The succession of William and Mary to the throne in 1688 changed the situation, and the Revolution Settlement of 1690 finally established the reformed, presbyterian Church as the national Church of Scotland.”

      I still argue that this is very different to a church being founded by the State or Monarch – it was secular authority recognising a pre-existant spiritual authority.

      But, I should also concede that you have made your point about it being “established” as the national church by its recognition (as above). It is very different from the position of the Church of England, though.

      Thanks for your continuing interest,


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