Scottish Secular Society announces backing for Yes

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The Scottish Secular Society (SSS) has today announced its support for a YES vote in the Scottish independence referendum.
 
The decision was taken after extensive consultations with its members, who have supported this stance by more than 90% of the votes cast in an online poll. Dr Elliot Bulmer, in a submission below, briefly sets out the reasons why the SSS has chosen to support Scottish independence.

The Scottish Secular Society (SSS) has today announced its support for a YES vote in the Scottish independence referendum.
 
The decision was taken after extensive consultations with its members, who have supported this stance by more than 90% of the votes cast in an online poll. Dr Elliot Bulmer, in a submission below, briefly sets out the reasons why the SSS has chosen to support Scottish independence.

The Scottish Secular Society believes the state should be neutral with regard to matters of religion, protecting the freedom of all, while privileging none. All citizens, regardless of their religion or lack thereof, should have an equal right to participate in a pluralist and democratic society, without exclusions, privileges or unjust discrimination.

As a Secular society (not an atheist society or anti-religious society), we include members who have an active faith commitment, as well as those who have none. We recognize the valuable contribution made to society by people who are inspired by their religious faith, as well as the contribution of those who, without religious faith, aim to serve the common good and to benefit their fellow human beings. We believe that all, regardless of creed or practice, are equally valuable, and that all ought to have an equal seat at the welcome table of our democratic life.

Our stance in favour of independence is based upon the realization that an independent Scotland offers the only viable prospect for the protection and reinforcement of such equality and inclusion. We welcome, in particular, the Scottish Government’s commitment to the entrenchment of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) in the future written Constitution of Scotland. This protects freedom of religion, not only as matter of private conscience, but also in its public and social manifestations.

We contrast this against the real risk that the United Kingdom, under the influence of populist right-wing Euroscepticism, could repeal the Human Rights Act, or even withdraw from ECHR, thereby undermining the freedom of speech and religion for all citizens, religious or otherwise.

We are also wary of the negative consequences of allowing religious institutions to become overly privileged or too closely entangled with the power of the civil magistrate. Corruption, hypocrisy, the oppression of minorities, and the loss of prophetic voice, are the inevitable results of such confusion.

The UK shares with Iran the peculiar characteristic of giving the clergy of one particular religious group a privileged role in the legislative process. Certain forms of Christianity are also legally and symbolically privileged over other denominations, as well as over non-Christian religions and the non-religious. Attempts to reform these and other abnormalities of the British system of government have, so far, come to naught and we see no realistic possibility of beneficial change emerging from Westminster in the foreseeable future.

In contrast, independence offers the prospect of a new, inclusive, democratic Constitution that recognizes our diversity, our freedom, and our equality.

Finally, the referendum not a choice between British and Scottish identities; just as Scots have maintained a distinctly Scottish identity in a British state, so we will maintain elements of a shared British identity in a Scottish state. Rather, it is a choice between two types of state: a choice between a state that serves the common good and one that protects the vested interests of a privileged few, between irreformable oligarchy and a new constitutional democracy, between nuclear-armed military imperialism and peaceful European co-operation, between passive dependency and the invigorating responsibilities of self-government.

In short, it is a choice between fear and hope.  We are on the side of hope.

Dr Elliot Bulmer is the Constitution expert and Board member at the Scottish Secular Society. This piece is his personal opinion in his capacity as Board member at the Scottish Secular Society. Elliot Bulmer’s book, “A Model Constitution for Scotland: Making Democracy Work in an Independent State” is available through Amazon.

The Scottish Secular Society (on Facebook and Twitter as Secular Scotland) is Scotland’s largest secular society with over 2,000 members and followers. www.scottishsecularsociety.com