Dave Thompson’s answers:
Firstly, I’d like to congratulate the Kirk – and the Free Kirk – on hosting these debates as we believe it gives a great opportunity for the explain why we as Christians for Independence believe that our Christian vocation to care for the most vulnerable in society is best served by a Yes vote in September.
The Reverend Doug Gay will tell the General Assembly how he wants to continue the social union with the rest of the UK – indeed his dad and his wife are both English – but wants to end the parliamentary union of the United Kingdom which, he will say, has shown itself totally incapable of making the journey of reform it needs to make. In short, the social justice that so many Christians aspire to can only come through independence.
Are Christians more or less likely to vote for independence?
Christians will make up their minds based on a range of factors but their religion will certainly be an important factor. What we CAN say with greater certainty is that Christians are an important constituency within Scotland as we approach September’s vote. Yesterday, for example, there was around 500,000 Scots at church. That’s 10 times the number you’d normally get at a Premiership football on a Saturday. So Christians are big players in this debate. That’s why the work of our group, Christians for Independence, is so important.
Have issues such as same-sex marriage put some Christians off the SNP and Independence?
I think there’s a fear that it has made many feel that ALL political parties don’t listen as it was all parties who passed that bill against the majority wishes of those who took part in the consultation process and, almost certainly, against the views of a majority of Christians. If that’s true, that’s a worry.
To make sure that doesn’t happen again, though, we’re very keen to hear from Christians across the country in the run up to the referendum. From today, folk will be seeing this advert in papers across the country advertising Christians for Independence “Faith in Scotland’s Future” project. We want to listen to Scotland’s Churches in a series of events up and down this country because we believe Christians are a crucial part of social life in Scotland – past, present or future.
Do you think the Kirk’s idea of a reconciliation service after the referendum is a good idea?
I suspect what the Kirk and the new Moderator John Chalmers are trying to do is to host a service of “national unity” rather than “reconciliation”. The term “reconciliation” can infer that there will be bitterness and conflict during this campaign. I actually don’t think that will be the case. Indeed, Scotland’s path to independence has been nothing but peaceful. But I’m certain the Kirk know that and are trying to stress “unity” and even “thanksgiving” rather than “reconciliation” and for that they should be applauded.
David Cameron recently said the UK was a Christian Country. Is Scotland a Christian country?
Scotland is certainly a country with a rich Christian heritage. Indeed, as the First Minister said a few years ago (2010) without the Church there would be no Scotland.
Is Scotland still a Christian country? I think sometimes we can vastly underestimate the widespread force for good that is Christianity in modern Scotland. Over 50% of us identify ourselves as Christians. There’s also all the food banks, homeless shelters, credit unions, crisis pregnancy centres, boys brigade and other such ventures run by Christians across the country who give their time and effort out of love of God and neighbour.
So we’re not as Christias as once we were — but we’re still pretty Christian and, crucially, the decline of Christianity is not inevitable. That’s why Christians are an important part of this independence debate and, through Christians for Independence, an important part of the Yes coalition.
What about love thy neighbour? How can you abandon the poorest in England, Wales and Northern Ireland?
Without being flippant, the Good Lord said “love thy neighbour” not “be governed by your neighbour”. As Scots and as Christians we love everybody and, in this particular situation, we believe that independence will bring about a fundamental realignment of power, wealth and influence across the British Isles that will help rather than hamper the poorer regions of England in the North West and North West.
As we heard yesterday from the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, the economic dominance of London and the South East could lead to a housing bubble that could damage all of the UK economically. We have to redistribute that wealth and power across all the British Isles for the benefit of everybody who lives on these islands and that process can begin on September 18 with a Yes vote.