First of all, sorry about the gap in posting. I’m going to try and post a bit more often now.
In my absence, the Scottish and UK Governments have agreed the “Edinburgh Agreement” which will allow a referendum on independence to take place in 2014. And while there has been recent controversy about the impact of independence on EU membership or the nuclear detergent currently located in Faslane, near Rhu; the major issue for this blog remains that of institutional religion.
Previous posts have tracked the lack of a reply to my very reasonable question to the Scottish Government – in the event of an independent Scotland, what (if any) will be the constitutional position of the Church of Scotland. Previous readers will know that the Kirk has an interesting relationship with the state, guaranteeing some independences but still entailing some fairly close ties between Church and State. They will also know my own personal preference for severing all ties. I am (as I delight in typing) a disestablishmentarian!
It seems, however, that I was going about things all wrong. What I ought to have done is make some big splashy headlines across BBC Alba about “provoking God”. That is the approach taken (back in June) by Rev Allan MacColl of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The Treaty of Union currently guarantees Protestant religion and Presbyterian church government in Scotland, and Rev. MacColl raised concerns that a new independent Scotland, involving – necessarily – a change in constitutional arrangements puts that position at risk.
Education Minister Dr. Allan, stated – with clarity that the government e-mail has not provided this website (!) – “the SNP has no plans to alter the present role of the established church upon independence, and is respectful of the role of religion in Scotland.”
This has passed without too much comment, but I wonder whether this is, in fact, compatible with the liberal, multicultural Scotland we might plan for ourselves. Being respectful of the role of religion in Scotland is one thing, but in drafting a new constitution for Scotland is the SNP really setting forth a proposal that the Church of Scotland be the established religion of that new state? And, if that is what is being said, will the people of Scotland be in favour of it to the same extent? And, does it really matter any more? As Brian Taylor of the BBC observed: “Few, I suspect, will fret about the establishment or otherwise of the Kirk. Fewer still, I suspect, will alter their views on independence on the basis of advice from the Free Presbyterian Church.”