Anniversary Article – The Smoke over Scotland
Each year on December the 19th I remember coming out of hospital after a serious illnesson that day in 2011. I will never forget it. It was a cold December day – and I vividly remember the glorious feeling of the cool air – and the joy of being home. I vowed that each year on this day I would remember with thankfulness the Lord’s goodness to me and reflect on whether I have used the extra time he has given me, wisely.
A few days before I got out Annabel wrote this:
I continue to thank God for his constant goodness and mercy to us. When I look back at the last 9 weeks it overwhelms me… mainly because of God’s amazing grace and sustaining power (talk about supernatural!) and most of all for the miracle of restoring a treasured husband, David to a measure of health that we cried out for. He has a long way to go in terms of standing and walking by himself however he is making good progress. He successfully managed to persuade his surgeon yesterday to allow him home on Friday with his limited movement. However they found today that he a DVT and will not be allowed home after all. Value your continued prayers.
A few months later I was interviewed by Sally Magnusson on the BBC and she asked if I had had a spiritual experience ‘did you go to heaven and have St Peter turn you back at the pearly gates” was the somewhat cynical observation. When I told her no she opined “that’s a shame, you could have made a fortune on the New York Times Bestsellers list!”. What I didn’t tell her was that I did have ‘spiritual’ experiences – but they were generally very dark – a strong sense of evil and overwhelming darkness. Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship spoke to me after I got out of hospital and he was able to share his very similar experience.
Occasionally after getting out of hospital, I would experience what Psalm 90 calls ‘the terrors of the night’. Thankfully these have become less. However this past week I had that same sense of foreboding and darkness – only this time is was not personal. I have been so burdened for the UK in general and Scotland in particular. I believe that we dodged a bullet in avoiding a Corbyn government. But I think Scotland is either under, or going under, a dark cloud. Just as Sydney has experienced dark days because of the smoke haze, I think there is a spiritual haze over my beloved land. I feel a wee bit like Knox in exile watching Scotland suffer under the reign of Queen Mary.
Darkness over Scotland
There are many indicators of this. I think of Dundee where life expectancy for men continues to fall and is four years below the Scottish average (and its not all due to drugs – even though we are the drugs death capital of the world!). https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/local/dundee/1042676/dundee-life-expectancy-for-men-falling-at-faster-rate-than-elsewhere-in-scotland/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Courier%20daily%20newsletter%202019-12-16&utm_term=Courier%20Newsletter
I think of the breakdown of families and the subsequent breakdown of society. I think of a society where seven year olds are taught in school that they can choose their own gender. I think of the increasing mental health issues and the despair and hopelessness that grips so many. Even worse is the hope that grips some. There is a growing fanaticism about the possibility of independence which is frightening.
The SNP use the carrot of an Independence referendum, which they know they won’t get and almost certainly do not want until after the 2021 Scottish elections, to keep their troops keen. They feed and encourage the discourse that Scotland is different, that Scotland is hard done by and the victim. They ran an election campaign based on the twin slogans of “Stop Brexit’ and “Lock Boris Out”. The fact that they were successful with neither doesn’t cause them to bat an eyelid, because now they say that the 45% vote they got was a mandate for Indy Ref 2. And so the tribal wars continue.
Leading to Disaster
But my major concern is the desperate state of our civic leadership, especially our government and our First Minister. Holyrood is not a happy place. I was the Free Church’s political officer there for some years – and I got to know a number of people (including MSPs) there. There are many good and hardworking people with a real sense of civic duty – but it is also a place full of bitterness, adultery, greed and power hungry people.
Nicola Sturgeon’s reaction to Jo Swinson is revealing. Swinson is a young ‘progressive’ female party leader, the kind of politician Sturgeon is supposed to want to work with. But her reaction was that of a football fan who sees a goal scored against their bitterest rivals. At best it was graceless. At worst it shows the ruthless and tribalistic attitude of Sturgeon.
Sturgeon – Fake or Foolish?
I have been trying to work her out for a long time. She was Alex Salmond’s protégé, but seems to have fallen out with him. His upcoming trial may prove difficult for her as well as him. IF he is guilty of the serious crimes he is accused of, it is hard to believe that no one in the SNP knew. Even I was aware of his nickname (‘the octopus’) amongst the Edinburgh establishment – although I did not want to believe, and still don’t want to believe, the implications of that. Mind you to be fair, there is a world of difference between hearing rumours and knowing things. However there is certainly the danger that a lot of dirty linen might be washed in public – some commentators consider that the upcoming trial was a reason why Sturgeon wanted to have the general election first.
I had thought that Sturgeon was a smart and intelligent political operator – but now I’m not so sure. I once asked a journalist about Sturgeon and how she didn’t seem to be as politically bright or astute as Salmond – his response was revealing. He suggested that the problem was she didn’t know Scotland, and that her world was really limited to West of Scotland, Glasgow politics.
I got to observe her first hand when I conducted Gordon Wilson’s funeral in St Peters. She was very impressive at pressing the flesh and meeting with ordinary people, but I found her to be quite cold and distant. In fact one of the most surprising things about Sturgeon is how little we know about her- even having read the biography I know little. We all know about Corbyn’s affair with Dianne Abbott, or Boris’s infidelities – but nothing about Sturgeon. Is that because she is squeaky clean or just very good at controlling and manipulating the media? Good lawyers, media manipulation and patronage are powerful weapons. There are politicians who are very adept at using injunctions.
I have come to the reluctant conclusion that Sturgeon either does not know what she is doing, or she is fake. She, together with her husband, Peter Murrel, are Scotland’s most powerful couple. It is a politically convenient marriage. He runs the party and she runs the country.
The Party and the State – C’Est Moi!
The lack of dissension within the party is disturbing. No SNP politician dares question the leadership or government policy – indeed they sign an agreement not to do so. Sturgeon (or her husband) can just make up policy as they go along. A great example of this is when she decided that SNP policy was to support a second Brexit referendum (despite the consequences this would have for a second and third Scottish Indy referendum). There was no discussion. It was just done.
Gender Recognition Act
Within the SNP government there are some good people – but there are also those with an attitude of superiority and contempt for ordinary people who dare to question their dictates. Take for example the Gender Recognition Act. The Scottish government this week announced a ‘consultation’…but you need to understand what that means. It’s not what you and I would call a consultation. The government have already decided what they are going to do – their version of a consultation is telling interested parties what they have already decided to do.
Last year I was called into Bute House to meet with a couple of civil servants who were responsible for drawing up and implementing the GRA. I was asked: “Is there anything that would help you support this?”. To which the answer was no. They objected to me calling it state sponsored child abuse and then asked what amendments I would want. I listed four. Firstly that Queer Theory and ‘gender as a social construct’ would not be taught to children. Secondly that women’s sport and spaces would not be affected. Thirdly that the proposal NOT to allow people to detransition (the idea was that once you changed it was for life!) be dropped. And finally that I would not go to jail for saying that marriage was between a man and a woman, and that biology did have to do with gender. What struck me was their response. None of my requests would be granted – but the one they found most difficult was the latter. Can you imagine that? I was sitting in Government House discussing with two government civil servants how they could keep me out of jail for teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman and that we don’t get to choose whether we are male or female.
It got worse. As a result of that ‘consultation’ I was invited to Holyrood to speak with the minister responsible. I offered a word of personal advice as an SNP supporter – I suggested that the GRA could end up being the SNP’s ‘poll tax’ (a policy that was so unpopular that it harmed the Tories for decades) – and that she should listen to people like Joanna Cherry (one of the more impressive SNP ministers) or Joan MacAlpine. I suggested to her that if the Tories had sense (admittedly not a given) they would exploit this. I also told her that if she ever debated on the subject before any group of parents in Scotland, she would lose by a massive majority – not because I was brilliant, but because parents know that they don’t want their children to be taught they can just choose their own gender. Her response? “Parents are ignorant”. I was shocked. And still am. It’s the contempt of the elites for the ordinary people (although they claim to be ‘of the people’). But it is the attitude of the Scottish government – they know better than parents.
And again you see how Nicola Sturgeon and her husband dominate everything. I suspect that most female members in the Scottish government are opposed to the GRA – but none dare take on the Great Leader (who always has the mob on her side – if you combine trans activists and cybernats you have a mob that would terrify anyone!). Sturgeon shows a double face – on the one hand she is ‘the voice of reason’ and persuasion to the Guardianistas in the UK; on the other she is the demagogic leader stirring up the troops.
Dog Whistle Language
An example of this is when she complained this week about Scotland ‘being held prisoner by Westminster’. She knows this is nonsense – Scotland is not held prisoner. Scotland voted to stay in the UK. Only 45% of Scots who voted (30% of all the electorate) voted for the SNP – the rest voted for Unionist parties – and many of those who voted for the SNP did so because of the ‘Stop Brexit’ slogan. But that does not stop Nicola whipping up the troops into some kind of Braveheart frenzy. She knows they won’t get IndyRef2 but once she gives them the expectation and they experience the frustration of having their hope disappointed – she will have an army of angry troops ready to battle in ‘the most important election in the history of Scotland – since the last one’!
Then take this example – “Scotland has said it doesn’t want a Tory government and that wish should be respected”. Think about what she is saying….that there can be no government in the UK which the SNP does not approve of…It’s astonishingly illogical and hubristic. It’s like Orkney and Shetland saying we did not vote for an SNP government and that wish should be respected!
The trouble is that this ‘dog whistling’ to the mob is heard. Take another example this week. I am one of those blessed with regular missives from Cybernats and this week observed a thread on Facebook about Michael Gove was scary. Gove is a Scot and after he stated the government would not grant a 2nd referendum he was called a “Quizling” “Wee rodent”, Slithering back stabber” “as a Scotsman this man is without doubt one of the biggest traitors to his country”. “And you know what happens to traitors”. The SNP are building up expectations that will not be fulfilled. The anger and bitterness that will come from these unfulfilled expectations is dangerous.
I see that Iain Blackford has just been unanimously re-elected as the Westminster leader of the SNP. Which guarantees more harangues about what ‘Scotland’ says and wants, as he speaks on behalf of 30% of Scots.
I have already written about Iain Blackford– and I am still sick to the pit of my stomach that a member of the Free Church, a professing Christian, not only advocates anti-Christian policies like SSM and abortion, but actively seeks to impose them upon other countries and acquiesces in the intimidation of SNP MSPs like Dr Lisa Cameron, who are brave enough to challenge the abortion policy.
Blackford also symbolizes the hypocrisy within the virtue signaling SNP. They complain about the Tories and millionaires and yet Blackford has links to arms manufacturers who sell weapons to Saudi Arabia. He is the chairman of Golden Charter Trust, a funeral plan provider that indirectly benefits from arms manufacturers who have ties to Saudi defence. He claims he doesn’t benefit directly from that – but he ‘earns £3,091 per month for less than three hours work per month! It’s nice work if you can get it. And then there is this nice little earner as well – https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/big-payout-for-ian-blackford-after-45m-telecoms-sale-q26t272hj?fbclid=IwAR1CAcsZAhSdr4iTHpqH7FxjNGwb6UuwS6Hbd2vicf2K8Q0lnPbTo44ZDeU
The Peoples Crofter is doing rather well in private out of the ‘Tory’ financial millionaires he so despises in public!
An Authoritarian Government
The Scottish government has done some good things….and is generally competent in its operations. However it has failed on education and it’s record on the NHS is not good. The biggest danger though is its imposition of ‘progressive’ policies and its increasingly authoritarian and intolerant methodology. Because Scotland is a small country and so much is dependent on the largesse of the State, it is much easier for a large State in a small country to dictate everything. In Scotland, it is generally accepted that if you don’t support ‘the values of the Scottish people’ (which means Scottish Government policy) then you are unlikely to get arts subsidy funding. The civic elites who run the arts, media, political, academic, legal and economic establishments all know each other, are all dependent on one another and thus are far easier to control. Step out of line and it is far easier for your career to be over.
Another example of how this works in practice. A while ago I recorded a TV interview about Brexit. The reporter wanted to speak to a businessperson who was pro-Brexit – but they told me that they could not find one. Or rather they could not find one who was willing to speak in public lest it harmed their business – such is the atmosphere of intimidation. I have similar examples from within the church and media – of subtle and not so subtle influence and control. Much of the church has either at best come to an uneasy truce with the civic powers that be – or at worst become the spiritual arm of the ‘progressive state’. There is little chance of a prophetic voice.
Something Rotten in the State of Scotland
As I sit in my ‘unit’ in Sydney the air is thick with smoke and the stench really gets up your nose. I can’t see the fires that are 80km away – but I can see they are there. That’s analogous to the current climate in Scotland. There is a confused haze over the country and the stench of corruption and nepotism is nauseating. But….
There is hope. 30 years ago a pastor of the Hungarian Reformed Church in Rumania, Laszio Tokes, was having an effective and growing ministry in Timisoara. The Rumanian State saw this as a challenge to their authority – especially his popularity amongst students and the young. They believed that religion should have been irrelevant in the age of Lenin. I read this article this week that deeply resonated with me.
“Tokes mourned for his town and his country. The secularism of the atheistic regime had bitten deep into the hearts of the people. Still, he knew the church could help set those hearts on fire. His Reformed faith had given Tokes eyes to see what could happen when the church understood its identity, when the people stopped thinking of their faith as just a Sunday morning ritual and understood that the church was the community of the people of God that could infiltrate the world.’
As he reached out his church grew to over 5,000 people, many of them young people who were more than just nominal Christians. They were disciples. And as such they were a threat to the all knowing, all powerful State. The story continues:
“Both the Securiate and the ecclesiastical superiors knew they could not allow the church to continue like this. Tokes’ booming voice proclaiming the Word of God from the pulpit echoed in their minds like a bad dream. There was no place for this passionate Christian faith in Ceausescu’s Romania.”
They tried intimidation, exile and even violence and something snapped in the people. Thousands gathered in the public squares to protect their pastor. The unrest spread and the rest as they say is history. Ceausescu fell and Rumania was freed from communist dictatorship.
Hope for Scotland
Scotland is not a communist dictatorship. Sturgeon is not Ceausescu. But there is a darkness coming over Scotland – a fear and an authoritarianism from which the people need to be set free. The only thing that overcomes the darkness is the light. The only thing that will disperse the smoke is the cool fresh wind of the Spirit working in our land. We need revival. This week I read in Sinclair Fergusons’ marvellous In the Year of our Lord this wonderful truth: “There is a deep mystery attached to revival. But one of its features often seems to be the way in which God prepares and brings together a number of like minded people in prayer, commitment to holiness, and a deep burden for those who do not know Christ”.
When I lay in the High Dependency Unit I had a very deep impression that I was going to get out of hospital and that when I got out, I had one task – to preach Christ’s word. Whether it was to be for five months, five years or fifty years was none of my business. It was the Lords. My duty was simply to obey. That is the duty of all the Lord’s people. I thank God for faithful Christians and Christian leaders – the 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal and I plead with the Lord that he will once again restore righteousness and justice in our land.
I miss my country. I long for its renewal. I long for a better country.
Its winter in Scotland…its spiritually dark and cold….but Christmas is coming….light of the world you came down into darkness…Do it Again!
PS. This has always been on my heart –
Right on cue a friend provided me with proof of the poison that has infected our society
Dave , I’ve just blocked you , your arrogance of opinionated drivel is akin to throwing rocks from afar , you have moved away please keep your rhetoric , local to your new locale , you’ve given up the right to degenerate our little country’s potential future if you having nothing positive to say with your little
“ sycophantic i met so and so in bute house etc “ please refrain dripping your poison , you’ve left scotland put your sarcastic Little Rock’s in your pocket and repurpose your big unwanted boot into oz politics goodbye
This is the world in which we live. People can’t disagree. People block. People abuse. They stay within their own comfort bubbles and any questions are met with this type of response. They don’t correct or inform or think. They just emote. It is profoundly depressing. And the cowardice of it. Someone writes this kind of message and then blocks any response. We live in intolerant times. (on a small note we also live in illiterate times – the writer does not know what sycophantic means!).
I should also answer a question I was asked. Is this why you left? In part, yes. Although I would not have allowed myself to be driven out I have to say that today’s Scotland, with all its intolerance and hatred for those who don’t ‘share the SNP’s values’ is not a welcoming place for any who think differently. It goes get wearying….