Letters: Can the Kirk still claim to be the country’s national church?

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, pictured by Gordon Terris in 2019
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, pictured by Gordon Terris in 2019

WRITING in his church’s in-house magazine, Life and Work, the Church of Scotland Moderator, the Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, says that Scottish society “feels little need for God”.

Citing plunging membership and an ageing demographic, he suggests their solution might be “hard work and renewed gospel commitment.”

If this “gospel commitment” means further promoting unscientific beliefs or illiberal attitudes we wish him luck, at least as far as young people are concerned, but for us there is no schadenfreude in this development if the Kirk now gracefully accepts its minority and private status.

A continued insistence on access to schools, local government and a privileged exemption from tax and equality laws will only propagate the public resentment of which Rev Greenshields complains.

The Church of England has had its own private problems recently with an ongoing internal dispute about same-sex marriage, but this necessarily becomes a public concern as it is the established state religion, running a quarter of primary schools and sending unelected bishops to the House of Lords, where they can promote their discriminatory ideas with irremovable impunity.

The Kirk, to its credit – and, no doubt, the relief of gay Christians – has voted to allow its clergy to conduct same-sex marriages. Some oppose this new equality saying that it is “unbiblical and sinful” and are glad of the “conscience clause” allowing them to turn away gay couples, but is this law breaking “religious freedom” or brazen privilege?

In another piece of writing, Rev Greenshields quotes Christian author Philip Yancey: “The saddest [church] groups were those whose vision did not extend beyond their own building”. Such evangelists are free to try to convince fellow adults, but our schools must not be recruitment grounds for bolstering the declining fortunes of a minority religion.

Could it be that the Kirk itself might welcome a complete break from any notion that it’s “Scotland’s national church”? It would then be free to promote its own interests, follow its own lights and serve its own believers without political friction of any sort. Secularism, the separation of church and state, is good for everyone.

Neil Barber, Edinburgh Secular Society, Edinburgh.


I WAS puzzled by the Labour activists who scorned Kenneth MacAskill MP, for creating Alba, a new political party.

The answer is quite brilliant, but simple.

As one of Scotland’s finest political thinkers and historical authors, he realised that the system of allocating the votes cast in a Holyrood election is unfair to the most successful party. In this case, the SNP.

Thus, if high numbers of votes are given to one party, but deemed superfluous, they are slipped over to the weakest parties such Labour and Tory, as we saw in the last Holyrood election.

Mr Martin Whitfield, Labour, and Mr Craig Hoy, Conservative, are earnest fellows, but as election losers, they had to rely on borrowing List votes from the SNP to become MSPs for Scotland South.

These men are as Class II MSP’s but have the voting power to deny Scotland from developing into a nation of confident, humanitarian citizens.

One has turned his back on the workers and trade unionists, the other has abandoned any sense of Tory decency by their treatment of the poor, the disabled, the aged, the hungry, the homeless and those who find themselves on the wrong end of every social stick.

Mr MacAskill’s vision of Alba, as an additional party which could reduce the number of Labour and Tory List MSPs, but increase those MSPs in favour of Scottish Home Rule, is a commendable concept. It is worth supporting.

It will, too, add momentum to the dream of Scotland as an independent nation as set out by the late Labour MP, Professor John P Mackintosh, in his speech on October 10, 1974, in which he advocated independence “providing that it is the will of the Scottish people”.

On May 21, 1997, Donald Dewar supported that view. He said, in Hansard: “I should be the last to challenge the sovereignty of the people if they want to go for independence, I see no reason why they should not do so. In fact, if they want to, they should. I would be the first to accept that.”

Arthur Greenan (founder, The Professor John P, Mackintosh MP Memorial Lecture Fund), East Linton.


A RECENT Herald article by Caroline Wilson made for very interesting reading indeed.

In 2020, my elder brother was diagnosed with vascular dementia. He was living in Winchester, Hants, at that time, and all of his close family were based in Scotland.

It was decided, in his best interests (and was welcomed by him), that he would move back to Scotland so that the best care solution could be found for him, but with family nearby.

It turned out to be a minefield: various organisations, when contacted, said they could not help as it was “outside of their remit”. I cared for my brother until it was no longer possible.

He spent five weeks in Inverclyde hospital but it was clear, after that time, that they “needed the bed”. It was during the peak of Covid when I tried 27 care homes. Hardly any even got back to me but I eventually found one.

I was shocked at the cost of self-funding care. North Ayrshire Council Adult Care said that no financial assistance could be awarded as my brother had only recently moved to Scotland.

In addition to the weekly fees, a cash float averaging about £50 per month is also requested to cover “extras”. The family also have to provide toiletries over and above the fees and monthly float. Initially, family members had to pay the care home fees.

This was a man who was born in Scotland, and began his journalistic career in the Barrhead News and worked for the Daily Record/Sunday Mail.

He moved to the north-east of England, then Ireland, and eventually to the south-east of England, editing at the Hampshire Chronicle. He had worked and paid his dues for 49 years and yet receives no assistance whatsoever, from anywhere, towards his funding.

It is just plain wrong.

The Scottish Government needs to take this matter much more seriously than it has done thus far. Too many people, and their families, are suffering and sacrificing every day resulting in untold stress, and all that comes with it, but which cannot be avoided.

Catherine Docherty, Largs.