Dyslexic minister urges MSPs to speak up for people on the margins of society

A dyslexic Kirk minister has urged MSPs to stand up for vulnerable people on the margins of society.

Rev Margaret Shuttleworth said she had personal experience of what it is like to be in that position as she encouraged politicians to reflect on their purpose.

Delivering Time for Reflection in the Scottish Parliament, the minister of Sauchie and Coalsnaughton Parish Church in Clackmannanshire described her difficulties at school which led to her leaving with no qualifications.

Mrs Shuttleworth worked with people with learning difficulties for 25 years before studying at the University of Glasgow - a move that led to her becoming a "proud" parish minister.

Margaret Shuttleworth
Rev Margaret Shuttleworth addresses MSPs in the Scottish Parliament

Mrs Shuttleworth said: “Members of the Scottish Parliament.

“May I first of all thank you for the honour of the invitation to speak to you this afternoon.

“An honour and something of a shock to me to be asked.

“And I know that most of my old teachers would have been astonished.


“I had a very bad experience of school.

“I left school with no qualifications, and when I was there I was for the most part educated in what were then called remedial classes.

“Among my most vivid memories of school are being given the belt for repeatedly confusing the letters b and d.

“You will I hope by now have identified the problem which they did not.

"I suffered from dyslexia. I still do.

“My script in front of me today is in a special font which is designed to help my reading.

“I was told to leave school and given the careers advice that I should find work as a hairdresser.

“Thanks to a start in the old Youth Opportunities programme, and that dates me, I worked for 25 years with people with learning difficulties.

“Now I am proud to serve my parish of Sauchie and Coalsnaughton as their minister.

“To do that I had to go to Glasgow University and there eventually I got a degree, ironically, given my difficulty with letters, a BD.

“Or it might be a DB - I’m still not always sure.

“I tell you this story neither to cultivate your sympathy or your admiration.

“I tell you this story because I want to say that I know what it is to be a person on the margins.


“A person for whom in some way the system fails, which for many of us throughout our adult life, translates into us being a failure.

“Jesus operated from the margins and for the margins, and called the powerful and the leaders to care for them.

“In his Kingdom values, and I hope in ours, the vested interest should be the selfless serving of those who cannot speak up,

“Or when they do speak up are not heard.

“It’s where policy should start.

“After all it is at the margins, on the edges where the real shape of society is defined.

“I repeat my thanks to you, Presiding Officer, and to this parliament for being invited to come here.

“And I wish you God’s blessing on your work.”