Speak Out is the new way of working of the Church and Society Council - committing the Council to a long term process of advocating for and delivering change. This new way of working is much more intentional about learning from and resourcing local congregations and their partners to bring about lasting change.
There is an incredible amount of transformative work which goes on through the Church of Scotland every week; we need to learn from it and encourage even more of it. Our work must also be about learning from and working alongside those who are the victims of injustice and struggle against poverty - making real the Church of Scotland's commitment to the poorest and most marginalised not just out of sympathy but because that is the Gospel way to live.
Speak Out is built around the seven themes which emerged out of the 2015 engagement exercise 'Speak Out 10,000 Voices for Change' in which almost 11,000 people from every part of Scotland took part. Read more about our themes below, and visit our theme pages to be inspired by our film clips and find out how you and your community can get involved.
We asked 10,000 of you to tell us how to build a better Scotland in a better world. What must change and what work should we prioritise to achieve our shared vision of a fairer, more equal and more just Scotland in a fairer, more equal and more just world. In January 2016, Council staff, Council members and others with experience speaking out against poverty and injustice, came together to look at the issues and themes emerging from Speak Out: 10,000 Voices for Change. We made sure that every comment was read, every voice was heard.
You told us
Two priorities immediately stood out. What matters most to you is:
- The way we relate to one another
- Tackling poverty and injustice in Scotland and across the globe
You told us that both elements need to be at the heart of our work moving forward. We need to work together in partnership to create a world free from poverty and injustice. You also identified seven core themes that will underpin the work of the Council for the next decade:
- Flourishing communities
- Investing in young people
- Health and well-being
- Caring for creation
- Building global friendships
- Doing politics differently
- An economy driven by equality
Your responses encourage the Church of Scotland to be prophetic: to stand alongside those who are being treated unjustly; and to work fearlessly for a world that is more like what God intended.
We have heard your voices and we understand better what needs to change to make Scotland a fairer, more equal and more just nation in a fairer, more equal and more just world. Whether it is through sharing food and shelter, offering counselling and care, running youth groups or care schemes, campaigning for environmental and social justice, the Church is responding, listening and learning. We commit to work in partnership with people the length and breadth of Scotland and beyond. We promise to focus on the seven themes that you identified. We promise we will work every day to make our shared vision a reality. We promise to do it as people of faith, committed to making the world more like we believe God intends it to be.
The Seven Themes
Flourishing local communities
Speak Out: 10,000 Voices for Change said loudly and clearly that local communities must be places where people flourish. This strong emphasis on local action and activity will help the Council focus on learning from and supporting local congregations and communities. Central to this theme are a strong core of issues concerned with community spirit and cohesion on the one hand, as well as the more practical aspects of community, such as housing, social security, gender justice, homelessness and the justice system on the other.
Investing in young people
Our churches and communities engage with thousands of young people every year and we believe that young people should have their say in decisions that affect their world now and in the future. We heard from people who have spent their working lives teaching, and from others who felt that the current education system has failed them and their families. We heard your call for all young people to have educational opportunities and access to employment training and apprenticeships. You also told us to tackle the attainment gap that exists between communities.
Health and well-being
We heard that many of you have concerns about the current funding and quality of the NHS and social care services, especially when it comes to caring for and respecting the elderly. We listened to your concerns about substance misuse, mental health, isolation and loneliness. People who have experienced the scars of poor health and inadequate services will play an important part in the Church's work to improve Scotland's health and well-being.
Caring for creation
This theme contains a variety of different, and in some ways distinct issues, ranging across climate change, land reform, agriculture, the cost of food, access to green spaces and litter. Yet all of these issues relate to how we make use of-and care for- the natural resources of our finite planet. We have been challenged to think of ourselves not just as good stewards of creation, but as servants of creation and the Creator.
Building global friendships
The responses from Speak Out were not just about Scotland, but about Scotland's place in the world. As the Church of Scotland, we have a primary commitment to the people of Scotland, but we also have a passion for global justice. Through Speak Out we heard you care deeply about refugees, asylum seekers and how to view immigration. We also heard concerns about nuclear weapons, the military, terrorism, the arms trade and global inequality. Our approach will focus on improving international relations through active peace-making and building global friendships.
An economy driven by equality
Many of you highlighted concerns about economic inequality in wages, tax and unemployment. You told us that the current economic structure is imbalanced, unequal and unfair. Some of you shared profoundly challenging accounts of being pushed into low-paid work, simply because of where you live. We recognise the pain many of you feel at not being able to afford basic necessities that the great majority take for granted. Our approach will look for ways to create a more equal and fair economy for all.
Doing politics differently
Through Speak Out we heard your strong desire to do politics differently in Scotland, the United Kingdom and Europe. The Speak Out consultation raised many issues including:
- The need for more direct or local democracy
- Questions around constitutional reform
- Disillusionment with many politicians
- A desire to move beyond party politics and tribalism
As non-partisan advocate, the Church is in a strong position to bring people together across the political spectrum to make the changes you want to see.