The Church of Scotland and the referendum debate

Published: 28 February 2014

Chloe Clemmons discusses the aims and findings of the Church of Scotland's report on a vision for the future of Scotland. 

On 26 February the Church of Scotland launched the report of 32 community consultation events held across Scotland during 2013. The Imagining Scotland’s Future: Our Vision Report presents the collated values and aspirations of over 900 participants identified at these events. The Report can be downloaded from the Church of Scotland website.

The purpose of these events was to encourage public participation in the decision about the future of Scotland by facilitating dialogue in a safe and politically neutral space. We wanted to understand the values our communities hold and reflect these values into the public debate. The values identified were primarily about relationships within communities rather than concerns about personal benefit. It was clear that our participants wanted to see values at the heart of public discourse and were deeply concerned about fairness and justice.

We asked participants to answer the question “How can we make Scotland a better place to be?” The answers took the form of ideas which are categorised into themes 3 of which are expanded on here.

Good Government

It was notable that there was widespread dissatisfaction with the political system at all levels, not just Westminster or Holyrood; participants wanted to see integrity, accountability and transparency, and to be able to hold politicians accountable between elections. However, within these strongly expressed views was the desire to explain that the speaker did not intend these views to be applied to their own elected representatives who they knew to be honest and committed public servants. This dichotomy of views may explain another theme contained within the Good Government section of the report: the desire to see more power and responsibility devolved to local communities. Some participants called for more radical changes including more participative democracy and a written constitution decided by the people.

Economy and Employment

Regarding the economy there were repeated calls for a different attitude to money with less materialism and less focus on finance. It was felt that a modern, successful economy needs limits placed on free market forces with alternative business models which should be more focused towards the employee and more values driven. There was a willingness to consider alternative and more progressive models of taxation to build a better society.

Live Out the Gospel: Societal Values

Although all events were hosted by a Church or group of Churches many events advertised within their local communities and were attended by people with no church connection. Within this context there was still a strong expression of the need for the Church to be involved in social action and promoting Christian values such as love, hope, respect and forgiveness as the fundamental building blocks to contributing towards the common good.

Other themes included in the report are: Public Services; Nurturing Inclusive Communities; A Sustainable and Connected Scotland: Transport, Energy, Environment and Infrastructure.

These priorities, highlighted by our communities, present a challenge to the current terms of the public debate. We hope participants in that debate will respond to these concerns as they lay out their vision for the future of Scotland. 

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