Church of Scotland report on referendum issues
The report was issued in February 2014 and, while taking a neutral position on Independence, called for the referendum debate to focus on issues like social justice:
Report by STV, 26th. February 2014:
A Church of Scotland study suggests people are more worried about fairness, justice and sharing for their communities as a whole.
People are not basing their decision on how to vote in the independence referendum on financial gain or loss, a church report suggests.
The Church of Scotland study suggests the referendum is about far more than the question “what’s in it for me?” It found congregations across Scotland are deeply concerned about fairness, justice and sharing for their communities.
The report, titled Imagining Scotland’s Future: Our Vision, is based on the views of more than 900 people who attended 32 community events run by the Kirk as an alternative national debate on the referendum. The Church has adopted an impartial position in the independence debate.
The study found dissatisfaction with the political system at all levels, not just Westminster or Holyrood, with participants calling for integrity, accountability and transparency. There were calls for politicians to be held accountable between elections and for the party system to be less powerful.
Sally Foster-Fulton, convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, said: “It is an inspiration to see that people in communities across Scotland are challenging the political status quo. The Church of Scotland is committed to finding ways to transform our political debate to ensure that wellbeing and values, such as justice, cohesion and sustainability, become the measures for economic activity.”
The consultation asked participants what values are most important to them for the future of Scotland, how can we make Scotland a better place to be and how do we put our aspirations into action?
The Right Reverend Lorna Hood, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, told BBC Scotland: “We wanted to take the argument out of the political sphere, out of yes or no, and ask people about the real values for the future. The top ten values turned out to be equality, fairness, justice, education, respect, honesty, community, opportunity, compassion and tolerance. Strangely the word prosperity didn’t appear until about number 53, people weren’t concerned particularly about their own wealth, people weren’t concerned about ‘will this make me slightly better off or not?’, people were concerned about different aspirations.”
The report recognised a modern, successful economy needs limits to be placed on free market forces and said that business models should be more focused towards the employee and more value-driven. It also indicated a willingness to consider alternative and more progressive models of taxation to build a better society.
The study suggested that participants were not just thinking about themselves when deciding how to vote in the referendum. It said: “Discussion in the media has examined the idea that being £500 better off or worse off would affect how people vote in the referendum. This consultation clearly found that participants wanted to see values at the heart of public discourse and were not making their decisions on the basis of financial gain or loss. Congregations across Scotland are deeply concerned about fairness, justice and sharing for their communities as a whole.”
Participants in the study also showed “robust support” for well-resourced and competently-delivered public services.
Defence and Trident were discussed in just under half the events, largely focusing on a need for a reduction of spending on defence and more focus on peace. Of those who mentioned nuclear weapons, the majority opposed them, both in Scotland and beyond, the study found.
Dave Thompson MSP, convener of Christians for Independence, a cross-denominational group of Christians advocating a Yes vote, said: “We enthusiastically welcome today’s Church of Scotland report as a powerful reminder that constitutional change is not an end in itself but a means to creating a more socially-just society with the dignity of the human person at its foundation. Christians for Independence firmly believes that a vote for self-governance in September’s referendum gives Scottish Christians the best platform upon which to work collaboratively with others in building a more socially-just society at home and abroad.”