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What a Government Sex Scandal and a Preaching Ban tell us about Modern Scotland

This weeks column on Christian Todaybrings together the two main issues I have been writing about (and a lot of you have been reading!) and looks at the broader state of Scotland.  If you have the misfortune not to be from Scotland (the world is divided into three groups of people – those who are from Scotland, those who want to be Scots, and those who have no ambition!), then this is still for you….there are lessons for all to be learned….and there is hope…perhaps, just perhaps there are a few signs of turning…

(Photo: Unsplash/Liam Macleod)

Scotland is an amazing country. I accept I may have a wee bit of bias but it has so much going for it – stunning countryside, a rich culture, incredible people and a society built on several hundred years of Christian civilization. However Scotland is in danger of throwing at least the last part of that wonderful heritage into the dustbins of history.

The Change in Scotland

The Scotland that anyone over 50 grew up in is now almost unrecognizable – at least in spiritual and societal terms. In the past twenty years, I believe we have secularized faster than any nation in human history (although our Irish cousins are doing what they can to beat us in the race to the bottom!). And that has not been a change for the better.

Of course not everyone sees it that way. They believe that we are moving out of the Christian dark ages into a progressive, secular Nirvana. Tom Nairn over 50 years ago summed up the aim clearly: “Scotland will only be reborn when the last minister is strangled with the last copy of the Sunday Post.”

His wish has come true. Scotland’s clergy have been effectively neutered – the Established Church has now become little more than the spiritual wing of the secular thought police. Christianity is barred in all but name from much of public life – and the thought police want to ensure that it is limited in terms of private life as well.

Signs of the Times

This past week has seen two incidents that show just how far things have gone. Franklin Graham was banned from the SEC in Glasgow – at the request of Glasgow City Council (and a Church of Scotland minister) – on the grounds that his expressed views on homosexuality and Islam could mean that the meeting was illegal.

Glasgow’s motto is “Let Glasgow Flourish”. Or at least, that is, the version you will get today. The real motto is “Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of Your Word and the praising of Your Name”. It is this city that now wants to ban the preaching of that Word on the grounds that it might be illegal. 

Then this week the Scottish government’s Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, was compelled to resign from his post and suspended from the SNP over accusations that he was grooming a 16-year-old boy by sending hundreds of unsolicited messages. This has shaken the Scottish political establishment. They fear that worse is yet to come with the trial in March on charges of serious sex abuse (including attempted rape) of the former First Minister, Alex Salmond. I have written more substantially about this here.

A Systemic Problem

This is not just a case of sex scandals from outliers – there have been too many of these. They are indicative of a wider, more systemic problem. We are reaping what we have sown. The trouble is, that having decided to jettison Scotland’s Christian values, no one seems quite sure what to replace them with, other than whatever happens to be the ‘woke’ cause of the moment.

There is a distortion of priorities. In education, millions are spent on social engineering – not least in promoting the latest Queer Theory philosophies – whilst thousands of pupils are unable to read or write. I visited one classroom for 7- to 8- year-olds where the posters on the wall urged pupils to ‘respect others’ pronouns’. I would have been impressed if the children could have told me what a pronoun was!

The Scottish government having removed God, Christianity and the Bible from the curriculum are struggling to replace Him with themselves. They seek to control all kinds of private and individual appetites. They regulate eating, drinking, smoking and driving. The only drive they do not want to regulate is sex, which is seen as an appetite to be indulged.

Government Grooming?

The problem with this philosophy is the fruit of its outworking. Whilst it would be a bit much to call it grooming, I don’t think it goes too far to say that it enables and makes grooming easier. When you are teaching vulnerable young children about anal sex, pornography, and other things that I don’t want to mention in a family-friendly column, what do you expect when they want to experiment with these things?

It is beyond ironic that video material which is used by Scottish schools when posted on YouTube comes with an age warning! When schools are teaching children about sexual positions as documented by this parent, then you know that something is deeply rotten in the system.

Meanwhile the poor suffer as the bourgeois values of the elites are imposed upon all. Schools are under resourced, teachers are demoralized and the devastating effect of family background is seen at its worst in the poorest housing estates. It is beyond irony that having sidelined Christianity (and now actively discriminating against it) we have moved to a situation where the once most literate country in the world, the land of ‘the people of The Book’, now has one in five of its population functionally illiterate. In the name of science we have removed Christianity and as a result fewer people are studying science than ever before!

Depressed and Dumbed Down

Scotland, rather than being a progressive Nirvana, is becoming a deeply confused, depressed and dumbed down society – one in which we are no longer truly shocked when the latest sexual or corruption scandal is unveiled. We are a warning to the rest of the Western world of what happens when you jettison your Christian foundations and have nothing tried and tested to replace them with, except the woke theories from academics in Harvard, Edinburgh and Oxford.

Hope – A Straw in the Wind!

It’s not all doom and gloom. Sometimes the darkness causes the light to shine all the more brightly. When the Finance Secretary resigned it was the day he was supposed to introduce the new Scottish budget. His deputy, Kate Forbes, stepped into the breach and did a remarkable job – acknowledged as such by even her opponents. In fact, she did so well that the latest odds have her as the favourite to replace Nicola Sturgeon when, as many expect, Sturgeon leaves sooner rather than later.

As the journalist Stephen Daisley commented,

“India-raised, Cambridge-educated, Gaelic-speaking, pro-life, Bible-believing Christian. Kate Forbes is not your ordinary Scottish nationalist but, when placed in an extraordinary situation, she showed what she’s made of.”

Who knows but that may be a straw in the wind of something better to come for my beloved and beleaguered country. We can only pray so. O flower of Scotland…when will we see your like again?!

David Robertson is director of Third Space in Sydney and blogs at


  1. “although our Irish cousins are doing what they can to beat us in the race to the bottom!). And that has not been a change for the better.”

    As a full Celt – Mother from Northern Ireland (Irish) and a father from Scotland/Glasgow (Scots), I truly believe – sadly – that the Irish (progressive, not traditional/conservative) have beaten you to the punchline, and have now become fully fledged social and moral ‘bottom feeders.’

  2. Even in my time as a forty-one year old the pace of change has been scary. When I was a kid divorce was unheard of. Now it’s completely flipped the other way.

  3. David, I hear your pain and I share it. You are on the other side of the world perhaps looking on in disbelief at what is going on in this beautiful little country, whilst I am living in the midst of an Orwellian nightmare. Scotland, my adopted home of more than 40 years is in dire straits just now and the changes I have seen are truly heartbreaking My sorrow, and I suspect yours, is coupled with outrage at the indoctrination of little children by the use of such material described in the article written by that parent, referred to above. The outright hatred of Christianity by those in positions of power is very troubling if this curriculum is a forerunner of what else may be imposed upon our children under the guise of relationships ‘education’. When did the Scottish government decide that totalitarianism is the way forward? My own MSP, a Conservative, trotted out the line about promoting diversity and tolerance in Scotland when I wrote expressing my concerns about the inappropriate subject matter being forced upon our primary school children with no consideration whatsoever given to the concerns of parents, grandparents and anybody who has every child’s welfare at heart. This MSP went on to say that “there is no room for bigotry in modern day Scotland”, a thinly veiled hint obvious that I must be a bigot to object! I’m afraid that I do not think that there is the slightest possibility of Sturgeon going in the foreseeable future. Unfortunately Scotland appears to have become a one party country, the other parties having been shunted into the sidings. I can only pray for a miraculous turnaround, as humanly speaking, it appears to be a hopeless situation. But let’s not turn the lights out just yet?

    1. Indoctrination of little children.
      Christisnity has been doing this for centuries.
      You teach about david and golith and how its ok in Gods eyes to sling a stone deep into the foretemple of a man so his blood and brains drip out.
      You teach that its ok for david to betray the people philistines who offered his personal army of 300 men santuary from his king Saul by night raiding villages and slaughtering every living thing in it ,man, woman child beast all recorded in first and second Sammuel.
      Oh you hypocrite woe unto you!

      1. You are stuck in the Old Testament. Read the New Testament where Jesus brought a new covenant and performed miracles and healings. Try it you will be encouraged and blessed.

      2. Perhaps, Elaine, we should get rid of all forms of Christianity and go down the
        road of the feminist prof – Patricia MacCormack, a professor of continental philosophy at Angelia Ruskin University – who practices witchcraft and promotes the occult, and who lectures on such scintillating topics such as “Vulvic Deamonitalia.”
        Her enlightened suggestion is that we should all support the idea of total human extinction in order to save the planet?
        No more silly Christians to mess things up ….mind you, no more anyone to mess things up!!
        How about that idea, Elaine?

  4. All is not gloom. This is from The Daily Telegraph –
    “First Christian garden at Chelsea Flower Show
    Gardeners use shrubs and decorations to portray ‘Lord is my Shepherd’ psalm.”

  5. A good article spoiled by your encomium for Kate Forbes. She is young and totally untested. We know nothing about her save her place of birth, where she was educated, which church she belongs to and that she can read a preprepared script. Can we not have one decent analysis of the depths to which Scotland is sinking led by a pernicious and destructive nationalism (of which Kate is an adherent) without lapsing into the Scottish malaise of sentimentalism, “Wha’s like us etc?”

    We are in real trouble here and if the solution lies in a young untested woman then we are in even more trouble than I thought. The SNP has created an Augean stable of Scotland and it needs to be thoroughly cleaned out. This will be a Herculean task and, as far as we can tell, not one for a slip of a lass who herself inhabits the fountainhead of these stables.

      1. I’m sorry David, I can’t see where I have judged or condemned her. What I have not done is confer upon her the attribute of hope, as you have done. I simply do not see hope or light coming from the party which more than any other is causing the deep malaise in Scotland. Of course, Karen may be the person through whom things begin to change. It is far too early to say. Until then I reserve my judgement.

      2. As I often say to people – the fact that they can’t see something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. You made a snide comment about a ‘prepared speech’ and a patronising misogynistic one about ‘a slip of a lass’. You questioned her lack of qualifications although you don’t actually know what they are. You were not ‘reserving’ judgement. You were making it. Perhaps on further reflection, you will see that that is not the best way to go at this point…Maybe it would be better for you to reserve judgement.

      3. I think you need to step down from your self righteous high horse. Your snide remarks about me are quite uncalled for. Where do I question her lack of qualifications? Your attempt to use of a particularly charged term in order to silence me is not only snide it is a technique used by those who do not wish to discuss. She is young and in all probability lacks experience in the world she has chosen to work in. I seem to recall that Derek Mackay was once lauded as the youngest councillor in Scotland, leader of Renfrew Council at 29, the golden boy of politics . I wonder what happened to him. If only some people of influence had taken more time to examine him.
        By the way, as a Christian I am very aware that there are things we cannot see but that exist.

      4. David, Did you fall out of the wrong side of the bed this morning. I’m usually in agreement with you but your responses to Gordon are a bit unwarranted.

      5. No – I did not fall out of the bed on the wrong side. Kate Forbes is a young politician who has come into the spotlight. She is a committed Christian and deserves our prayers and support not our condemnation. Gordon chose to post on my blog a number of sneering and derogatory comments on her. Only capable of reading a ‘pre-prepared script’ (ignoring the fact that all statements are pre – prepared and that she actually did really well in the Q and A that followed. Despite acknowledging his ignorance of her background and qualifications he went on to use that ignorance to justify dismissing her. He then dismissed her as ‘a slip of a lass’. If you choose to come on here and make such comments fine – but you will get push back – as I cannot stand ignorance, bullying and misogyny – and will call it out when I see it. If you can’t cope with being challenged then don’t make the comments here. With friends like this who needs enemies? Sometimes Christians make me despair!

      6. David, What I am saying is that your responses could be seasoned with salt. The tone of your response to me demonstrates my point aptly . Just my view though!

      7. But what gives you the right to judge ‘tone’? My response to you is just a simple straightforward explanation of why I challenged the remarks made about Kate Forbes. You don’t deal with the substance – you complain about the tone. I’ve noticed this tendency – when people cannot deal with the facts they resort to complaining about the tone. I suspect that you would have complained about Paul’s, Elijah’s and even Christ’s tone! Don’t worry about perceived tone (which is really hard to get from the Internet anyway). Instead of being concerned about how it affects your feelings and perceptions – think of what is being said. The comments about Kate Forbes were unnecessary, demeaning and degrading. I called them out as such. You don’t like the tone. Sorry – but there is nothing I can do…

    1. You’re a Christian? Does that mean that your words are Christ-like and God honouring? Have your forgotten how young Christ was when he taught in the temple, how young David was when God ordered Samuel to anoint him as God’s choice for King? Have you forgotten how Paul warned young Timothy not to allow others to judge him because of his age?

      Have we ALL forgotten that The LORD God Almighty is a fully sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient being who chooses whom he will to accomplish whatever he pleases when he pleases???

      Have we also ALL forgotten our command to love sacrificially, even to the point of death, and to actively encourage one another and build one another up. Let us ALL seek to live a life of repentance and to seek to become more like Jesus Christ, not less. Otherwise I fear that the judgement upon Scotland, by a God who has been betrayed by the people AND the shepherds, will only continue, and may even get much worse.

      We have had ample warning in the New Testament that we will be persecuted, and that in this persecution we are to love our neighbours, pray for our enemies, and to be holy and humble in our walk with, and dependence upon, our Lord. Let us not become Shepherds who preach “Peace, peace, when there is no peace”, and who fail to prepare the sheep under our care to “overcome”. Remember that “Faith without deeds is DEAD” – not struggling or needing a bit of improvement, but DEAD.

      1. Yes, she is certainly not what we have come to expect in ‘progressive’ Scotland’s government.

  6. There is no need for ‘God bothering’ in education. What is needed is moral education which accounts for everyone – not just those who believe in following a cult.

    1. There is a clear need given your perjorative and ignorant comment about ‘God bothering’ and a cult! But how do we determine what is moral? Who determines? Can you answer that?

    2. Allyson, where do you believe we get our sense of morals, conscience and sense of right and wrong? Is it genetic? If so, could you explain that mechanism for us to understand.

      Many thanks

  7. Having grown up at the gateway to the Highlands in beautiful Perthshire (Methven) I wonder how many bible believing churches are reaching out to the lost today. Even back in my day, 70’s I only knew of one pastor in Perth who reached out beyond his santuary walls; Reverand Bruce Rossiter of the United Free Church. Even in Glasgow where I studied at the College of Building and Printing I only knew of one evangelist in the Nazarene church denomination I attended John Leach was a layman and an elevator salesman. But John’s heart was for the lost and he arranged many outreaches for the Nazarene youth of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
    Now in America I wonder how many Bruce’s and John’sare there today with a commission to Go. As dark as things in the West do we not still have the opportunity to go into the highways and byways of life where we are planted.

  8. ‘Government sex scandal and preaching ban’ as a headline is rather sensationalist and smacks of click bait.
    This was one minister, and the objection to a rather mediocre preacher wanting to fill big arenas like his father, another average preacher.
    Also, scandal has been happening ever since Judas helped himself to the disciples expenses account.
    There is nothing new under the sun.

    1. No- it was not click bait – it was a precise headline which summaries what is in the article…..there were several sex scandals mentioned there (all of them in my move stemming from the greatest scandal of all – the false philosophy they are teaching about sex). There is indeed noting new under the sun – but not sure what your point is? That we shouldn’t write about anything – because there is nothing new?!

  9. JohnFEBRUARY 10, 2020 AT 4:38 PM
    “Why don’t you explain it all to us “Dr” Irvine?”

    I note “Mr” John, that you don’t supply a reply feature…interesting!

    1. Good to see you’ve restored the reply button, “mr” John.
      My question was directed to Allyson. I await her reply.
      I see by several of your contributions that you’re a firm supporter of Richard Dawkins.
      What a pity.

      1. You can call me John, it’s how I appear on this blog when David is kind enough to publish my contributions.

        Not sure why you insist on using Dr. A good friend of mine is very close to finishing his dissertation for his doctorate. I expect he may use “Dr” when applying for jobs but would be extremely surprised if he used it elsewhere, like say when posting comments on a blog.

        I have no control over the “reply button”; that is a feature of this blog – nothing to do with me. In order to have replied to my comment under your initial comment you needed to hit the reply button under your first comment. Surprised a “Dr” didn’t figure that out.

        Not sure if you could say I am a “supporter” of Dawkins, though I have read a few of his books and agree with a lot he has to say – if perhaps not the way he expresses it on occasion.

        Fond regards – Just simple ol’ John.

  10. It is said Nicola sturgeon signed a document about not going for independance not sure of this Westminster is dictating on what Scotland can and cant do is this agreement binding why did she sign this

  11. “Not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord! will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but ONLY he who does the will of my Father in Heaven.”

    Where is the holiness and love of Jesus in any of these replies? Is it any wonder the LORD has seen fit to strongly discipline his people in Scotland. He will not tolerate adultery with the world nor unfaithfulness toward him. It will only end IF we repent and return to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave his life for us and commanded that we “GO, and make disciples of all nations”. Our under-shepherds, called by the Great Shepherd, are not making disciples of anyone, but seem content to preach to loyal white-washed tombs that fill our churches – a nest of vipers, like the Pharisees etc before them. The whole nation needs to be called to repentance BUT it must begin with the people of God, the Church visible and invisible.

    We seem to do nothing more than dishonour the Name of the LORD – we do so at our peril, our eternal peril. Let us begin with ourselves, here, now – stop this blog witness becoming a disgrace to Jesus. Remember “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”.

    Perhaps we are being persecuted, not because we are good faithful Christians but more because the world sees us a group of hippocrites. Remember “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

    1. Dear Caroline, I empathise with much of what you write. However it seems you are painting everyone with the same wide brush. There are still many faithful ministers and congregants in Scotland striving to do God’s will, live holy lives and seek the lost. We live in a messy sinful world and the reality is if we are engaged in reaching the world our garments will get messy. The alternative is to become a recluse and live in a holy huddle. I personally believe David’s blog site is a tool of the Lord being used to cross, national, denominational, cultural, race and ethnic boundaries. Like John Knox of old Reverand Robertson is speaking out definitively, timely and scripturally. His aim is to draw people to the Lord Jesus that they may find salvation and sanctification. He does not control the replies and neither did our Lord. Unfortuantely the problems you mention are also common in other parts of the Western World. Let each of us work diligently in the field where God has called us, using the unique tools given to each such as this great blog

  12. As a Christian Scot abroad, I sometimes despair about where our society (and everyone else’s) is headed. It is a reaping of the whirlwind of declining worship, poor education and cultural homogeneity that comes with technology over time and other factors. My own personal belief is that we are witnessing a collective loss of identity and community. When we no longer have a locational, religious, linguistic, work or even family community, we turn inwards to base and accentuate our identies on the marginal, the niche, the base proclivities; the self. It is the death of the community and the family unit. It is the loss of skilled jobs for life and the union comradari that came with it. It is the absence of family meals and Christian fellowship. It is the lack of genuine struggle, adversity and sacrifice in life for a greater good.
    In this mess, it is not a surprise that people reach either for what remains of national identity or search for a new one based on what they think is the new reality (meaningless supranational institutions, new secular religions like climate change, gender politics activism). At the core of it is a complete erosion of spiritual and cultural identity. Nature abhors a vacuum so multiple golden calves are shaped almost overnight. When I still lived in Scotland, I loved the Scottish culture but despised the “Whas like us” stuff. It was shallow and wreaked of hubris then too. It smells even worse now. And why? Our cultural, linguistic and spiritual identity is at its lowest ebb, yet I’m told to believe that Westminster is the cause of my people’s ills. What rot. Being an electorate that votes largely on imagined grievance has been our weakness for decades. We replaced the Labour mafia with another one in the SNP and care nothing for what kind of person represents us beyond tribal label. Nothing has changed on that front since the 1970s. And what differentiates ourselves from our neighbours? Nothing at all and that’s why we’re struggling across all our societies. We have to manufacture false grievance to give ourselves an identity. And that’s what always seemed to pass for ‘Whas like us’ even 30 years ago.

  13. This is spot on, sir. I just discovered your blog the other day, and I do thank you for tackling so many thorny issues head on. I’m a Scot now living in the USA, and I’m thankful for the privilege of growing up in our beautiful country. That said, it is dismaying to see the full-throated attacks on civil liberties, free speech and freedom of religion pervading Scotland. Couple that with having to hear the drivel, circular logic, and rank disdain for any dissent from LGBTQ orthodoxy that accompanied Franklin Graham’s banning, and it’s clear that we need to pray for old homeland more than ever. Every country has problems — nothing new there — and the Bible tells us that “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord,” so it’s certainly no time to give up on Scotland, but the Church has work to do to say the least. I pray we’ll do it, that we’ll put the great commission given us by our Savior front and center, and refuse to stay silent while the real voices of intolerance endlessly rant and rave. It’s what we’re here for.

  14. In the name of science we have removed Christianity …

    And the name of science has been misappropriated in that! Science itself has been subverted to only accept naturalistic explanations (this is labelled “methodological naturalism”), even though that’s not how modern science started (which was by Christians). So Christianity has actually been removed on the authority of a competing unscientific worldview—naturalism. I say “unscientific” because science is supposed to go with the evidence, but on the basis of “methodological naturalism” rejects any evidence that would favour God as being the explanation.
    As Dr. Scott Todd wrote in the world’s leading science journal, Nature, “Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such a hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.”

    1. This is such a terribly confused comment Phillip.

      You cite this quotation from something Todd wrote in Nature, describing it as the world’s leading science journal as though this lends authority to Todd’s quote , while simultaneously using the rest of your comment to portray science as something akin to a conspiracy against the supernatural generally and Christianity specifically.

      The bit you cite from Todd was actually a letter he wrote to the magazine – not an article – published back in 1999. I’m not exactly sure what you think the fact that it was in Nature indicates.

      Your statement that “Science itself has been subverted to only accept naturalistic explanations (this is labelled “methodological naturalism”), even though that’s not how modern science started (which was by Christians).” – makes no sense whatsoever.

      There is just science, Phillip – just as there is, for example, maths. There is no such thing as Christian science or Christian maths. To state that modern science got its start in an era where Christianity dominated society says absolutely nothing about the methodology or truth of science.

      1. A “Letter to Nature” is not simply a letter to the editor as in a newspaper. Nature has one “article” per issue, and several “letters”, which are described as “short reports of original research focused on an outstanding finding whose importance means that it will be of interest to scientists in other fields.”, and they are peer-reviewed.

        It’s not correct to say that science got its start in an era where Christianity dominated society. Christianity dominated European society, but not many others, yet Christianity started in Christian Europe, not in other, non-Christian societies.
        And science was not started by Christians just because Europe happened to be Christian, but because those Christian applied Christian principles. For example, Christians saw God as a law-making God, and figured that He would have made laws for the governing of the universe, so set about to discover those laws.

        That science is often done according to the principle of methodological naturalism is well-acepted. See for example here Methodological naturalism is a philosophical position that is not integral to science, so science doesn’t have to be done on that basis. That is, you can do science without assuming that the explanations have to be natural. It is therefore false to say that there is “just science”.

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