I have just finished a cursory scan of the White Paper “Scotland’s Future” which (at long last) answers some of the fundamental questions raised by this website answered:
Q590. There will be no change in the constitutional position of the Church of Scotland. A real shame. As a disestablishmentarianist, I am strongly in favour of severing all legal ties between church and state. For a brand new state to begin by entrenching one denomination in preference to others is a bad idea. Repeal the Church of Scotland Act 1921.
Q474. Scotland will still get to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest – although prequalification will probably be lost. Scotland has no great track record in reaching the knockout rounds of international competitions, but I couldn’t care less about Eurovision, so no biggie here!
Q219. Qualification for the Scottish rugby team will be unaffected, but crucially there is no word on whether the name of the British & Irish Lions would change post-independence. WHAT ARE THEY TRYING TO HIDE???
Regarding Q590, and the constitution of the Church of Scotland, can it not be argued that the Treaty of Union itself is the real constitutional security to which the 1921 Act refers. By abolishing the Treaty of Union, the 1921 Act becomes a ‘dead letter’ piece of legislation. The Scottish Government seem to admit this tacitly on page 584 when they refer to the Treaty as providing “separate legislation” (the Act of Security) which “guaranteed the position of the Church of Scotland.” Is it not this guarantee that the vote on 18th September will determine?
As one of a few remaining antidisestablishmentarianists left in Scotland, I agree with your remarks back in 2012 that the Church of Scotland is not established, but I would argue that the Treaty of Union obliges Church and State to be established. The Free Churches (including my own – the much maligned Free Presbyterian Church) have in their constitutions a direct appeal to the Treaty of Union. Hence it is a lie and a falsehood for the Scottish Government to claim that independence would bring no change to the legal status of Churches in Scotland.
What is most surprising and rather sad is that so few in the Churches could care less about the securities from state intrusion and tyranny over conscience which the Act of Security provided for. Acts of the Scottish Parliament promising security for religion are as substantial and reliable as the proverbial sandy foundation that they are. Keeping the Union is the only guarantee for Protestant Scotland from sliding back into a dark age of religious persecution by a secularised and national socialist state. It is past time for the Churches to rise up and claim their rights and privileges established by international treaty.
Would be very interested to hear if you got a direct answer to your question from the Scottish Government regarding the future of the Church of Scotland.
No direct response from the SG. Based on the White Paper, I’d assume that the proposal is for something to be written into the constitution of an independent Scotland. As a disestablishmentarianist, I would prefer to see a guarantee of religious liberty in general written in, rather than a specialist provision for one faith, religion or denomination. State religion is bad for the Church and bad for the State.
I do agree that it is sad that so few see the significance of this.
Thanks for your interest.
Thanks for your reply Iain,
I don’t think that Scotland has had a “State religion” since the supremacy of the Pope was abolished by the Scottish Parliament in 1560. The Protestant Church in Scotland contended for a separation of Church and State in their distinct spheres, but also for a mutual co-operation in which both recognised, supported and defended the interests of each other. This could only be effected by constitutional legislation which Parliament could not reverse and that is what our old Established religious settlement involved. It has of course been systematically eroded for 150 years and today is all but rejected by the Church of Scotland as well as by the State.
As I see it, establishment is not about a “State religion” or the control of the State by the Church. That is a Roman Catholic principle (adopted and attempted by the Stuart kings in the 17th century). However the complete separation of Church and State is never possible either. The result will always be a supremacy taken by either side – depending on their relative strength and muscle to force matters of controversy. At the present time (and indeed since the 1830s in Scotland) the State has claimed and exerted its supremacy over the Scottish Church, even in matters spiritual. The Percy case in the 1990s illustrates that this would still be the outcome if push came to shove. The late Lord Roger of Earlsferry brought this out clearly in a 2008 publication – ‘The Courts, The Church and The Constitution’
The present proposals for Scottish Independence are so vague that they don’t exist. A guarantee of religious liberty in general is no guarantee and as far as the doctrine of the Bible is concerned is a rejection of the exclusive claims of Christianity. The State obviously could still function in such circumstances (many if not most states do) and it continues to have real legitimacy. However the idea that such a general and universal liberty and freedom – given to all religions and none on exactly the same level – is in reality (in my view) wishful thinking at best. It is also an abrogation of the moral responsibilities of rulers to uphold and defend the law of God. The ECHR has already shown that when Christianity comes to the courts seeking the protection of liberty, even over the use of private property, from the claims of militant homosexual agitators, that no such liberty is permitted. Your hoped for guarantees will destroy true religious liberty and usher in an atheistic and secular state – the most tyrannical of all.