By Martin Kelly
An SNP MSP has written to Scottish Secretary Michael Moore asking him to explain why Scotland’s most senior Catholic was not invited to join an official UK delegation to the Vatican to meet with Pope Benedict XVI.
Clare Adamson, SNP MSP for Central Scotland, wants to know why a Foreign Office arranged Vatican trip, which extended an invite to the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, did not contact Scotland’s senior Catholic, Cardinal Keith O’Brien.
Writing in her letter, Ms Adamson says: “I am sure you will know the Catholic Church in Scotland is independent within the Holy See, represented by the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, and has equal parity with the Catholic Church of England and Wales.
“I am therefor seeking full and frank disclosure of the decision making process that ended up with Scotland’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal O’Brien, being excluded from the UK delegation.”
Demands for an explanation follow revelations on Wednesday that Cardinal O’Brien, who is the most senior Catholic figure in the UK, was not invited to join the UK delegation which was led by Tory Minister Baroness Warsi and included Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore.
Mr Moore had claimed that there was no oversight and that invitations were the responsibility of the Vatican. However this was challenged by Vatican officials who said UK Ministers should have known that Cardinal O’Brien needed to be invited.
It subsequently emerged that Baroness Warsi had herself personally invited Archbishop Nichols.
In a statement issued today, Ms Adamson said:
“It is hugely disappointing that on the day of the UK Prime Minister’s visit to Scotland, the UK Government once again appear to have forgotten about Scotland by not including Scotland’s Cardinal in the delegation.
“The Catholic Church in Scotland is independent and has parity with the Catholic Church of England and Wales. I am therefor seeking full and frank disclosure of the decision making process that ended up with Scotland’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal O’Brien, being excluded from the UK delegation.
“Sadly this is another glaring example of Westminster failing to translate their warm words about the ‘respect agenda’ into practical deeds.
“The basic bread and butter duty of the Secretary of State for Scotland is to ensure that the Scottish dimension is reflected across government departments in Whitehall – but the Tory-Lib coalition seem to be either unwilling or unable to show Scotland enough respect to even carry out procedural matters such as inviting the Cardinal with them to Rome.”
Cardinal O’Brien only found out about the planned visit last Thursday and was reported to have been angry at the snub.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said:
“The Foreign Office have obviously been involved in planning this visit for several months and should have been aware the Catholic Church is organised into three distinct Bishops’ Conferences; the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, England & Wales and Ireland.
“All three should have been represented.”
The spokesman also singled out Lib Dem MP Moore for strong criticism and claimed that an opportunity to voice Scotland’s interests had been missed.
“This situation is especially regrettable since one of the members of the ministerial delegation is the Secretary of State for Scotland, whose constituency is in Cardinal O’Brien’s Archdiocese.
“It was to be hoped that as a result of this, Scotland’s interests would have been fully represented. This, however, has not proved to be the case.”