Politics The Free Church

The Scottish Elections – Results, Analysis and Moderator’s Letter to the First Minister


The Scottish Election results are in – and they are fascinating.  I have written to the First Minister to pass on our prayerful good wishes (see the letter below).  The new Scottish Parliament will be made up of 63 SNP MSPs, 31 Conservative MSPs, 24 Labour MSPs, six Green MSPs and five Lib Dem MSPs.

Ten points of interest:

  1. The SNP have once again done an extraordinary thing – becoming the governing party for a third time, winning over 46.5% of the vote in the constituencies and 41% in the list vote.  In a five party system that is extraordinary.
  2. Despite this they will be a minority government – falling two short of the 65 required.   This is good for Scottish democracy and will end the jibes about Scotland becoming a one party state.   It also shows the advantages of a PR system.  If it were first past the post the SNP would have had 59 out of 73 seats.
  3.  Scotland is no longer a Tory freezone – if it ever was.   With an astonishing 31 MSPS they have been the clear victors over Labour who are in disarray.  I suspect that the Tories, who were once firm opponents of PR, are now truly converted!
  4. Although the Lib Dems did not collapse, they are now the fifth party, having been overtaken by the Greens.
  5. There is almost no chance of another Independence Referendum in the next five years.  The Unionist vote (combined with the Greens in Edinburgh who gave Ruth Davidson her great win) held up.
  6. The Named Person scheme is now in deep trouble. This and the focus on other socially ‘liberal’ policies such as the Third Gender proposal, put forward by the metro elites who have invaded the SNP, worked against the SNP and turned some ordinary people against them.
  7. Interesting that the Scottish Christian Party beat RISE (the extreme left) wherever they stood. However their result was overall insignificant.
  8. UKIP are totally irrelevant in Scotland.
  9. 45% of people did not vote.  This is not good in any democracy.
  10.  There are some fine Christians MSPs who have been either re-elected or elected for the first time.  I am very pleased to see some personal friends now in parliament.


search  Letter to the First Minister.


Dear First Minister,

I am writing to congratulate you on your re-election as First Minister and your party as the party of government. As Scottish citizens and Christians we pray that your government will bring a period of peace and prosperity for all the people of Scotland. The Free Church of Scotland hopes that our congregations will be able to work with you on issues such as poverty, education and justice.

We were delighted that you were able to visit one of our works, the Milnafua Hall in Alness. Your visit was much appreciated (especially by my sister who helps there!). As a church we seek to serve the whole community and in the words of Jesus to be ‘salt and light’. Unusually in this era of seemingly increasing secularisation and declining churches, we are seeing our church grow and develop. This means that we have resources, especially people, who are committed to the good of the places where God has called them to serve. I wonder if it would be possible to meet with you to discuss areas of mutual concern and co-operation?

In particular I would like to highlight three areas of concern perhaps best summed up in the words equality, diversity and tolerance.

Equality – we are concerned at the number of food banks and what appears to be an increasing gap between rich and poor within society. We appreciate your government’s concern that decent housing, employment and opportunities in education should be provided for all. We are not just concerned for ourselves. We believe that Scotland has many resources and we would like some of these resources to be used to welcome genuine refugees from parts of the world where war has ravaged their lands, and who do not have the same opportunities we have.

Diversity – We are especially concerned about education. As you know it has always been a fundamental belief of the Scottish Church that education is essential for the good of all. Knox’s maxim, ‘where there is a church, there should be a school’, resulted in the Scottish people becoming one of the most educated and literate people in the world. We are concerned that that is changing, and especially that the poor are being denied the opportunities given by a good education. We know that you share that concern and so we would like to discuss with you one part of the solution. We believe that there should be more diversity and choice within education. It is wrong that the only people who get to choose are the wealthy (whether by sending their children to private education or paying the housing premium to live in an area with a ‘good’ school). The one size fits all of modern state education, where social engineering seems more important than education, is not working. We believe that children should be taught ‘how’ to think and not ‘what’. That is why we would like to have the opportunity to re-establish Christian education and have schools based upon Christian principles such as equality, diversity and tolerance. Speaking of which:

Tolerance – We are also concerned at an increasingly intolerant, mocking and authoritarian attitude towards those of us who don’t accept the current moral zeitgeist on whatever happens to be the fashion of the metro-elites. For example, you emphasised in your election campaign a desire to create a ‘third gender’ and to encourage within our schools the view that children can choose their gender. We do not accept this and regard it as a dangerous and harmful position, with the potential to cause a great deal of harm to Scotland’s children. Of course we accept that there are people who feel that they are not the biological sex they were born with, and such people need help and support. But accepting the unscientific philosophy that there are more than two genders, and that gender is fluid and something we choose, is something that is destructive to humanity. I suspect you may not agree, but what disturbs us is the lack of debate on this and other important subjects. We are just told by lobby groups that this is the ‘right’ position and that anyone who opposes it is reactionary, right-wing and regressive. We hope that in the new Scotland, opportunity for debate and discussion will be allowed, so that ordinary people can have a say – even when it disagrees with what the self–appointed ‘experts’ tell us.

Again we pray for you, your government and indeed all our politicians. May the Lord guide, encourage and bless you. I look forward to meeting you.

Yours etc.

Rev. David A. Robertson
Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland.

6th May 2016





  1. Was reading this on my phone and fell out of a lift. It had failed to stop at ground level and I hadnt noticed. So am blaming you for my very sore knee!


    1. Agreed
    2. Agreed
    3. Only in Scotland and Wales. Suspect they see no value for in Westminster.
    4. Mini-collapse. Fall in total number of MSPs.
    5. Probably not. The Greens didnt give Ruth her seat. Unless you think the SNP gave the Tories lots of seats on the lists.
    6. Wishful thinking on the Named Person. Very wishful thinking on Gender. Tories got a lot of seats as they are unionist, not social conservatives.
    7. Agreed.
    8. Agreed.
    9. Agreed.
    10. Likewise on the humanist MSPs.

    I agree with the section of your letter on Equality.

    “resulted in the Scottish people becoming one of the most educated and literate people in the world.” – only if they were boys remember.

    Disagree that choice would result in better education. And only those who are unhappy that society is changing blame social engineering. I do agree that children should be taught how to think. Not sure that religious education is the best example of that. Your letter fails to say you want the secular state to pay for exclusive Christian education.

    Tolerance. I would welcome discussion and debate. You could even set the terms so you can have nothing to complain about after. You then get to have our say.

    And then what?

    Although you are vocal in the media and have a prodigious written output you seem to think you are being excluded. I want to change that. I want you to have your say in front of everyone as loud and as long as you want. I think you are odd for claiming that Christianity is excluded from the public sphere. Its not. Its just that people disagree. I want you to be able to exhaust every avenue of public discourse.

    Why? Because I believe you are wrong on things like sexuality and gender. I am so convinced of that I want you to be able see the faces of people who have listened to you 1-2-1.

    I want to get to a position where you can at least acknowledge that you haven’t been excluded just, only, finally understand that people disagree with you. As they are free to do.

    Although even then I am sure that you will find something to complain about.

    Tolerance goes both ways remember. Just as people like you should be able to put forward your point of view that you disagree with politicians on issues like sexuality and gender, others should be able to say that they disagree with Christians and Christian politicians.

    1. I don’t know how right you are about girls being denied the educational opportunities offered to boys in earlier years, Douglas,
      but i know that it was not a universally bleak picture. Thomas Boston was a minister in what might have been the least advantageous part of the Scottish Lowlands for learning but while his educational efforts might have been exceptional in the early 18th Century, I don’t think his inclusion of female students in his catechising classes was that unusual:

      ‘It had been my manner of a long time, besides the catechising the parish already mentioned, to have diets of catechising those of the younger sort; and they met in the kirk, sometimes in my house. … By this course I got several young people of both sexes, trained up to a good meansure of knowledge; some of whom unto this day are solid and knowing Chrristians; but it suffered some interruptions.’ [Boston, “Memoirs”]

      You might know better and have evidence of it but I suspect that even peasant girls in Scotland had a far better chance of being educated than anywhere else at that time.


      1. Hello John

        I’m sorry, I wasnt being clear and I do agree with your final statement that the Church offered something to girls that wasnt available elsewhere and did raise their educational standards. Its just that they were treated differently than boys. Sewing was compulsory, they were not expected to learn the higher branches of various topics and were allowed to leave school earlier. In certain parts of the country, like the Highlands, this was closely linked to household labour requirements. When David makes his arguments about getting state Church schools backs, the fact that it wasn’t until after the 1928 Education Act that female attainment in schools really started to rise and the old mindsets of the schools in every parish started to change. This lack of recognition of the failings of those schools is concerning coming from a minister of a church that has clear views about the role of women within his Church.


      2. You are right to be concerned, Douglas,
        especially if those charged with safeguarding nations are either not concerned or only concerned with their own narrow agendas. A cogent example of a blinkered political approach was the Prime Minister’s irritated instruction to the Church of England to ‘get with the programme’ when the house of laity – out of their own legitimate concerns – delayed their approval of appointing women to be Bishops. Your concern stemming from what you confess are ‘clear’ views about roles of women in the church must be shared by others. There will be a debate about the perceived denial of opportunity to women which the Free Church and the other Reformed Evangelical denominations for that matter will give the (inadequate?) answer that we don’t see it as a lack of opportunity. That in itself should not concern you but it should be a matter of concern to you and to ourselves if our gender-specific ministry doctrine were to be illegitimately extended to other areas of life. Is there evidence that it extends to other areas of life?

        You are concerned about the failures of Free Church sponsored schools when they were previously in existence; before they were handed over to state control on the promise that they would continue to be ‘schools with the Bible.’ What sort of failure are we talking about here, please? It does sound as though your concerns are limited to their failure to prepare pupils for Utopia, preferring rather to prepare them for the real world. You might see it as a failure to put equality of education before all other considerations. Not wanting to put words into your mouth but such a concern seems to be implied by your examples of girls having to learn to sew; of not having expectations of higher learning placed upon them; and of being allowed to leave school earlier. It ought to be argued that safeguarding, social inclusion, and assessing abilities all have priority over education in schools because without them education itself is both diminished and dangerous.

        It seems to me from my understanding of history that giving girls compulsory sewing lessons was remarkably enlightened. Because being a seamstress was good cover for prostitution, it might have been expected that the skill would have been denied to young girls lest they be corrupted. Instead, equipping every girl with the ability to darn her husband’s socks was as effective a way to safeguard marriage as any.

        On the other hand, when ill-thought-out and undebated inclusion and education promises are made with apparent cavalier disregard for safeguarding, we have a right to be concerned and we ought all to be concerned. There is a potentially catastrophic failure of care taking place before our eyes.


      3. Hello John

        My concern is not for what I percieve as a denial of opportunity of women within the Free Church. Although I think it is, I would not ever seek to change that as that is for the Free Church to decide as an aspect of their faith (I also think Cameron was wrong to comment on the Church of England and women bishops but the issue is complicated due to the Church being the established Church). However, David takes great care to extend what he (and the Church) believes to other people who dont share those beliefs. That is my concern about any religious schooling. Segregating children on the beliefs of the parents, who have then outsourced that religious upbringing to a state financed school does mean that I am concerned about equality and shared community.

        I am not the one talking about a utopian change. David is with his desire for state funded church schools.

        Instead of darning socks being the desired outcome of school I believe girls should be (and should have been then) taught and aspired to so much more. Ada Lovelace, Jane Austen, Caroline Herschel, Lillian Lindsay, Nightingale & Seacole, Maria Mitchel and Mary Shelley could have been excellent role models across a number of disciplines. I have seen a SOLAS CPC colleague of Davids write to newspapers question the idea of girls going to study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineers, Mathematics) subjects at university and the idea of a mechanically gifted lead character of the new Star Wars film. The subcontext was clearly asking why they werent chained to a kitchen sink.

        Safeguarding is important but there is little that isnt debated about it. Catastrophic seems to be a little far fetched unless you think it will result in increased child deaths?


      4. But, Douglas,
        causing the deaths of children is exactly the charge brought against clause 28 when you and I both know that was never the intention of it. There were teachers who callously, for political ends, ignored the homophobic bullying that was blatantly carried out in front of them on the grounds that clause 28 prevented them from acting. If the framers of clause 28 did not know that they would subsequently be blamed for causing the deaths of children even after the fierce debates around its enacting and its appeal, then how hubristic will it be to wave away calls for current proposals to be properly debated?

        And something can be catastrophic without it leading directly to the deaths of children.

        — 0 —

        Am I wrong in identifying three connected reasons you have for rejecting the Schools-with-the-Bible proposals? 1. The alleged Free Church failure historically when they had schools, to run them equitably. 2. The supposed danger of contamination: that a putatively inequitable doctrine adhered to in one sphere is almost bound to subvert equitable practice in the other. 3. The acknowledged intention of Christians to use every means possible to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

        1. You misunderstood me when I made my ‘Utopia’ remark. I merely meant that it would not have benefited girls to have given them an education that would have made them unfit for the world in which they had to live. Look, it is right to examine the history of Free-Church-sponsored school performance to see if a modern manifestation of them could be fit for purpose. Only, making hindsight the judge is not going to help. The question has to be about how the running of Free Church Schools compared with contemporary institutions. If they were then, consistently behind the game as it were, then there ought to be reservations about their possible contribution now.

        2. Opportunity for what, Douglas? There are multitudes of mission-minded women who are glad of the opportunities that are opened up to them because the pulpit is confessionally barred to them. Be that as it may, misogyny is a bad thing and you may or may not have a case against your letters-to-newspaper writer but what you are suggesting is that a charge of institutional misogyny could be brought against the Free Church. Maybe so, but the case would have to be substantiated and I don’t think you could do that.

        3. What if you were to have a public investigation to discover if the Free Church is institutionally misogynistic? There would always be the danger that the Christian agenda is exactly as you fear. In they come: willingly or unwillingly; fearful or expectant; seeing the need or resenting the intrusion; but all intent on using every means possible to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I don’t know how you’d get on with the historical investigation but it seems to me that you’d be ill-advised to chain the male-leadership principle of the Free Church to the school sink or to any other part of your inquiry. Why not just go for the jugular? The real offense is that a Christian School will let it be known that Christians worship Jesus Christ as God; believe – with good evidence – that God has raised him from the dead; and that confession of these two things confers real and lasting salvation from sin and destruction on all who will believe. Question is: is there evidence that the change in lives and families brought about by belief in this Good News is good for the nation or bad for it?

        What if Free Church schools were brought back, not in spite of the Gospel, but because of it?


  2. Excellent summary and letter. Dont know where you find the time but glad you do. I submitted a message through your church website but no response so far. Looking forward to it when it comes.

  3. Gender:

    The point David has made repeatedly is that there has been no debate, particularly on gender fluidity.

    It certainly has not been on anything like the level that Trevin Wax covers in this:


    It is also interesting that Mr Mclellan seems to have predetermined his stance from certain immutable “fixed” beliefs with no knowledge of the outcomes.

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