essay 2015

Dave Thompson MSP, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch Constituency

Notes for Andy Flannagan, Christians in Parliament, Westminster

I was christened in St Gerardines Church of Scotland, Lossiemouth and went to Sunday school until I was 14 when I discovered the world and more or less forgot about Jesus. Fortunately, he didn’t forget about me and, 30 years later in 1993, after talking to a friend , my wife, Veronica, and I started going to Kinmylies Baptist Church, Inverness.

I eventually accepted Jesus as my saviour and was baptised, along with Veronica, on the 21 April 2002 and haven’t looked back since. I have changed a lot on my journey with Christ and but still have a long way to go. I am now back in the Church of Scotland at Kinmylies Parish Church, Inverness.

I have always had an interest in politics, inherited from my father who was an active Trade Unionist in Morayshire which was a very Tory area. Lossiemouth was also the birthplace of Ramsay MacDonald, Britain’s first Labour Prime Minister and I was born just across the road from the house he built for his mother. My family new him well and all this added to the political mix.

I have always had a sense of Social Justice and for standing up for what is right and led a walk out of boys who worked in a local fish factory after school when I was 14, following a dispute over pay. I joined the Scalemaker’s Union when I started work just before my 16 birthday and also joined the SNP in Elgin a few months later. I was a founder member of the Lossiemouth branch of the SNP the year after in 1966.

I spent 34 years in Local Government, ending up as Director of Protective Services for Highland Council which I left at the end of 2001.

I first stood for the Scottish Parliament in 2003 for the Ross, Skye and Inverness West seat and was also on the SNP’s list for the Highlands and Islands Regional seat. I failed on both counts. I next stood in 2005 for the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Westminster seat and failed again.

Then in 2007 I stood again for Ross, Skye and Inverness West, where I failed once more, but got elected for the Highlands and Islands Regional list seat. I was the very last MSP elected but only after a recount, which I forced, after challenging the Returning Officer who had made a mistake. My seat gave the SNP 47 seats, just one more than Labour and put us into  government for the first time ever, but as a minority..

At the last election in 2011 I won the revised boundary seat of Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch with a handsome majority and am now a member of the first ever majority SNP government.

As a Christian I believe we should be salt and light in the world and that God put me into politics and that we should not isolate ourselves from worldly matters. In doing so He gave me good guidance in 2 Corinthians 6:17 where he says “Be ye separate”. Spurgeon interpreted it like this “You should be separate from the world in your actions, if a thing be right though you lose by it, it must be done. If it be wrong, though you would gain by it, you must scorn the sin for your master’s sake.”

In my nearly eight years as an MSP I have always been open and upfront about my faith and have often spoken in debates where I highlight the fact. I am active in sponsoring the group, Scotland United in Prayer for Parliament (SUPP) and attend the monthly Parliamentary Prayer breakfasts. I am also a member of the Scottish Bible Society and a Trustee of the National Prayer Breakfast Scotland. I also helped found Christians for Independence (CFI) in 2009 which is a cross party group promoting God’s word in politics and, of course, independence.

Most politicians will tell you that faith is a private matter but I believe that, as my views are coloured by my Christian beliefs, as other’s are coloured by their particular beliefs, they can’t remain private.

There are many “moral” issues raised in parliament like assisted suicide, gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, poverty, nuclear weapons, slavery, prostitution, poor housing, fair trade, asylum seekers, immigration, war, gambling and the environment to name but a few.

The bible has much to say about these issues but any politician who goes into a debate just quoting scripture, which is often misunderstood and misused, is foolish to say the least. The point is that all of God’s values are eminently suited to good logical arguments and we must marshal these to win our case.

The problem for a politician who is a Christian, however, is that you must overcome the perception that you are biased and bigoted from the start. To do this, more of us have to put our heads above the parapet and enter politics. I can, of course, sympathise with Christians who are already in politics but who keep their faith to themselves but wonder what Jesus would say?