Last week’s letters


Should the ‘state religion’ of an independent Scotland be secularism ?

The recent upsurge of the press with regards to sectarianism as manifested in that ancient and revered tribal stooshie, the Old Firm Gemme, has led to the usual suspects blasting off on ‘the Curse of Scotland’.  Even on forums such as here and on blogs on the ‘national broadcaster’, we have had much halloing and whooping along the lines of shoes and Bovril.

(For those unfamiliar with this monologue by the great Glaswegian philosopher, it can be easily found with search engine terms “Billy Connolly Old Firm Shoes Bovril”).

I’ll start with a personal tale from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  It may even be familiar to some of you.

I come from Edinburgh.  Some will argue that sectarianism isn’t a problem there.  I know that I wasn’t called any names based on the primary school that I went to, but that, as so many of us have experienced, suddenly, when we went up to the Big School from nursery, there were some missing faces from the sandpit and the reading corner.

They had gone off to their school.  My next door neighbour who was born within days of me was suddenly different, untouchable.  We lived no more than 20 yards apart.  I could see into his bedroom from my garden.  We didn’t speak to each other for 12 years until we met on the terraces at Easter Road one afternoon when we were both 17.

I’ve had a personal issue with religion since as far back as I could remember.  I could go on about a few specific reasons why but that is personal and not why I am writing this article.

But I have railed against religion ever since I was small.  I am not just an atheist.  I am a secularist.  I do not believe in a divine or supernatural being or power.  Here we are.  This is, literally, it.

And I want no part of religion in the governance or the societal structures of my country.

So, to the substance of the article.

I take for my text this morning the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.  Worth examining in full as it is much quoted and misquoted.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Anybody see anything there that we wouldn’t want at the heart of the constitution of an independent Scotland?

Regardless of this, religion is at the heart of American life and society.  No president in modern times has ever been elected without professing a deep and personal faith that Jesus Christ is his personal saviour.  The president is sworn into office on a Bible, and Barack Obama was famously asked at the end of his oath, “So help you God?”

Despite the best efforts towards making the great events of life civil rather than religious, we all have been to matches, hatches and dispatches, mouthed with degrees of enthusiasm or participation the songs and rituals.

So, cutting a long article short and mindful that the discussion comes from the readers and not the writer, my points are these.

The place of religion in Scottish life goes back long before the first Christian missionaries set foot on these shores.  We cannot do anything other, however, than acknowledge that much of what Scotland is today was built on from the foundations laid by the Church.  From the time of the Bruce through to the Covenant, the Reformation and the Enlightenment, the Christian Church in Scotland has been a part of it.

I would like to see the government of an independent Scotland be divorced from religion.  I don’t want the first independent parliament “kirked”.  Or even “mosqued”, “synagogued” or “templed”.

I would like the parents to educate their sons and daughter in religion or lack thereof at their own choice and time and not in the classroom other than as an academic subject.

Believe or don’t believe.  Yes, have that choice enshrined in our law from the day that the Saltire flies proud above the Castle.  But that time would be the time to separate the churches and the state forever.

Our new Scotland will not be very different from the old.  Visit an independent Scotland in a time machine.  Glasgow will still be Glasgow.  Edinburgh will still be Edinburgh.

I want that separation into us and them at age five to stop and our children to be educated together.  Black, white, brown, red, purple, Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, Sikh, Jedi, Protestant or Catholic.

I feel that there is a fundamental problem.  It’s us and them.  Whether that be Highlander vs Lowlander, East vs West, Weedgie vs Edimbourgoise.  Religion and a split education system is only part of the problem.

We are too small a country to be divided!

We have too many other problems than to add division.  The “politics” played by certain political parties that encourage and enhance “divide and rule” are a shadow and a stain on a modern society.

It’s time for a new Enlightenment in an independent Scotland.  A secular Scotland where man and woman and child come before God.

Because we are all Jock Tamson’s Bairns.

Ewen McPherson, AKA Chiefy1724



Newsnet Scotland encourages contributions from readers on any subject.  We will publish a collection of these letters once a week.  To submit a letter simply compose it in a word document then hover your mouse over the Opinion tab and click on the Reader’s Letters – Submit menu to send your letter.