Church leaders hold talks with Scottish Government

Church leaders met this week with Aileen Campbell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, to discuss a range of issues including climate change, Brexit and the way government works with churches as key stakeholders in Scottish society.

Church leaders in parliament
Back row from left: Revd John Bremner, United Reformed Church; John Wilson, SCPO chair; Alan Donaldson,Baptist Union of Scotland; Most Revd Mark Strange, Scottish Episcopal Church; Rev May-Kane Logan, Congregational Federation in Scotland; Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, Church of Scotland; Joan Cook, Scottish Unitarian Association; John Fulton, United Free Church; Ian Boa, ACTS Front row from left: Major Carol Young, Salvation Army; Joyce Taylor, Religious Society of Friends; Aileen Campbell MSP

Representatives from 10 of the main Christian denominations in Scotland joined Ms Campbell and government officials at the Scottish Parliament where they discussed issues of importance to churches.

Concerns were expressed regarding the Scottish Government consultations on funeral poverty and loneliness and isolation. Churches believe they were not adequately considered given their expertise in these areas. A hate crime campaign at the end of last year also drew criticism as many Christians felt it misrepresented believers.

Ms Campbell offered further opportunities for discussion to explore how the Government and Scottish churches could work together better and more effectively.

Irene MacKinnon, research officer at the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office (SCPO), said:

"It is vitally important that church leaders and representatives from the Christian denominations in Scotland have the opportunity to encourage and challenge those who represent us in Government, and to partner in solutions where people in our local communities are affected."

Church leaders were united in their desire to bridge divides as Brexit disagreements continue to create disquiet and fear within local communities. They voiced deep concern that the current stalemate is leading to distrust in the political system and political representatives.

The Scottish Government's stance on the climate emergency was welcomed along with the new targets set to make Scotland a net zero greenhouse gas emissions economy by 2045, and the creation of a Just Transition Commission.

But the government was challenged on its commitments to oil and gas exploration in the North Sea and asked to consider taking the approach of the Norwegian Parliament who are looking at stopping further oil exploration near the Lofoten Islands.

The meeting was organised by the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office (SCPO) and the following church leaders and representatives took part in the discussions: Rev Alan Donaldson (Baptist Union of Scotland), Bishop Hugh Gilbert (The Bishop's Conference of Scotland), Anthony Horan (Catholic Parliamentary Office), Joyce Taylor (Religious Society of Friends), the Most Revd Mark Strange (Scottish Episcopal Church), Joan Cook (Scottish Unitarian Association), Rt Rev Colin Sinclair (Church of Scotland), Rev May-Kane Logan (The Congregational Federation in Scotland), Major Carol Young (The Salvation Army), Rev John Fulton (United Free Church of Scotland), Revd John Bremner (United Reformed Church), and Rev Ian Boa (Action of Churches Together in Scotland).

They were joined by Parliamentary Officer Chloe Clemmons and chairperson John Wilson of the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office (SCPO).