There’s been a thread of progressive home rule agitation from the christian left in Scotland for a very very long time. It’s a tradition that encompasses the christian socialist movement, the peace movement and much beyond and before them. This week it rose to the challenge when more than 30 Church of Scotland ministers signed a declaration of support for independence.
Among the signatories was the Right Rev Andrew McLellan, a former moderator of the Church who also served as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons until 2009.
He said: “The worst thing in Scotland is Trident. September 18th is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remove the worst thing in Scotland. Speaking against nuclear weapons is good, campaigning against nuclear weapons is good, and praying for their abolition is good. But what will change everything is voting Yes in the referendum.”
John Harvey and Norman Shanks were also signatories. The declaration was also signed by Peter Macdonald, the leader of the ecumenical Iona Community.
Explaining his support for independence, Mr Macdonald said: “I no longer believe the Westminster Government is capable of delivering the socially just and equitable society in which I want to live. The British state no longer serves the needs of all its people. Economic policies pursued have favoured the wealthy who have grown richer and stigmatised the poor and vulnerable who are paying for the failures of the private financial sector.”
For many of those making the declaration this was the end of a journey, not an established position. This was the case for Rev. Ron Ferguson, Retired Minister, St. Magnus Cathedral, Orkney. he said:
I have changed my mind on the issue. Why? The answer is simple: A Tory UK government that brought us Margaret Thatcher and the Poll Tax and a Labour UK government that brought us the war in Iraq: not in Scotland’s name. And now I watch with dismay what a government we did not vote for is doing in terms of immigration, education, the health service, attacks on the poor, the failure to put pin-stripe fraudsters in the dock, and nuclear weapons. Here is an unpalatable truth: by 2018 we could be out of Europe, and under the jurisdiction of a UKIP-influenced Conservative government led by Boris Johnson (who doesn’t want to give Scotland any more powers). We would have more of the baleful Iain Duncan Smith, and more portentous lectures to other countries about weapons of mass destruction, while we spend even more billions on Trident. Without getting carried away with ourselves, surely we can make a better fist of producing a more just and fair society than that.
The driving force behind this new ethical dimension to the indy debate has three elements: the democratic deficit, the immorality of WMD and the social injustice of the austerity union.
The ministers have this week been joined by Canon Peter McBride, Parish Priest of St Thomas Catholic Church, Riddrie, Glasgow who declared:
“Westminster has proven it is irreformable. With government from Edinburgh, social reform and a more equitable distribution of resources and wealth is a distinct possibility. Vote with HOPE, not in FEAR.”