Equality Ethics Justice Politics Religion Scotland

Petition on Religious Freedom in Scotland – Rejected.

During the SNP leadership election I put forward the following petition to the Scottish Parliament. It is a petition that I was asked to draw up by others who were prepared to sign and argue for it.  It is about a key issue for Scotland and for the Scottish parliament.   The response to it is fascinating and reveals a great deal about the inner workings and prejudices  of the Scottish government.

Petition Asking for the Scottish Parliament to reaffirm its commitment to religious freedom in a pluralistic society.

We believe that Scotland is and should be a liberal pluralistic democracy where different perspectives and cultures are welcomed.  In recent weeks we have been concerned at the level of attacks upon a member of the government, the Finance Minister,  who has been told that her religious views are not welcome in modern Scotland and should even exclude her from public office.  Many in the media, and many members of parliament including members of her own party in the Holyrood and Westminster parliaments have attacked her on the basis of her religion and belief.  Given that her views are those of the Roman Catholic Church, most other Christian churches worldwide, Islam and other religions, we consider that declaring that someone cannot be in high office unless they effectively renounce the teachings of their religion is discriminatory and dangerous.  It is also contrary to the Equalities Act where religion and belief is a protected category.

The attacks on religious freedom by media and politicians has not gone unnoticed by the general public.  A recent YouGov opinion poll suggested that merely being an evangelical Christian or a Muslim was deemed to be sufficient reason by at least one in five Scots to bar someone from holding a top government job.   We are deeply concerned that Scotland’s pluralistic liberal democracy is being threatened by the de facto introduction of a new Test Act – whereby those who don’t agree with the current social doctrines of those in power, are excluded from civic life. In the name of tolerance we are not to be tolerated.  In the name of diversity our views are not to be permitted.  In the name of inclusion we are to be excluded.

Therefore, we (people of all faiths and none) petition the Scottish Parliament and urge them to reject this divisive social anti-religious sectarianism and to reaffirm that people of all different religions and viewpoints are welcome to participate in civic life in Scotland and that there is no barrier to such participation for those who hold to minority views.

David A. Robertson – former moderator of the Free Church of Scotland.

My first response was to be ignored.  Despite the issue being a current one it was weeks before I even received a response.  The response I eventually got was this one.

Dear David Robertson,

Thank you for submitting a petition to the Scottish Parliament.

We are not able to accept your proposed petition “Ask the Scottish Parliament to reaffirm its commitment to religious freedom in a pluralistic society”.

Your petition is about something that is not within the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

We only reject petitions that don’t meet the petition standards:

If you want to try again, click here to start a new petition:

We’re sorry that we’re not able to take your petition forward on this occasion.

Kind regards,
The Citizen Participation and Public Petitions team
The Scottish Parliament



But the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions team have not read or are being highly selective about their own rules – which state that “petitions must be about:

  • something that is within the powers of the Scottish Parliament – it is.
  • an issue of national policy or practice”- it is.

To affirm that there is no barrier to involvement in public life because of religious belief IS an issue of national policy and practice – and it is competent for the Scottish parliament to restate that basic fundamental freedom.  So why are they refusing to do so?

We are also told that petitions must call for a specific action that the Scottish Parliament should take.  Mine did.

So the question remains – why could the Scottish parliament not bring itself to affirm religious freedom within a pluralistic Scotland?   Why were they not even prepared to let it be debated?    Can you imagine that happening if the Scottish Parliament were being asked to reaffirm a commitment to womens rights or gay rights?


Meanwhile another petition I signed will be debated next month in the UK parliament. “Update the Equality Act to make clear the characteristic “sex” is biological sex”.


It will be interesting to see the result….

‘Kate Forbes shows Christians are expected to hide their beliefs’ – Interview by Kevin McKenna in The Herald

Kate Forbes: Would a Christian be permitted to lead Scotland? – CT







  1. No law restricts what we believe. And don’t worry – Jesus wasn’t a politician.

    We will always have the freedom to exclude people in our hearts. And even if our politicians want a liberal inclusion policy, OUR GOD has the final say.

  2. Sadly, I am not surprised.

    Thank you for trying, David. I have been reading your blog for some time, and if there is one thing that you have taught me – it is that even if the world accepts people for who they are; God and His people will condemn them. We will stay true to this.

    God bless you

  3. I’ve been away from Scotland for a while – what is it that’s created this intensely hostile view of religion in some parts? Is it the Rangers-Celtic divide?

    Growing up in the central belt, I got the impression that a lot of people were culturally “Catholic” or “Protestant” but didn’t actually believe what either branch taught. It was simply a tribal thing. People who took Christianity seriously were few and far between, even within the established churches.

    I also got the impression that many young Scots wore ignorance and parochialism almost as a badge of honour. This never made sense to me until I read a book on the Scottish reformation which explained that the Scottish mentality includes a deep dislike and mistrust of anyone who tries to excel above everyone else. If that’s the case it explains why our education system went down the drain. I’m not surprised that wokeness has taken root to the extent it has.

    1. I’m not sure that any of those analyses explain the situation. I am reluctant to use national stereotypes to explain complex situations. I’m pretty sure the Rangers-Celtic divide has little to do with it as well…

      1. Fair enough. Do you think there’s anything specific to Scotland or is it just part of the general religious decline in the West? We seem to be descending into wokeism more quickly than England,

  4. David, have you tried seeking the help of Christian MSPs to help pursue this petition?

  5. Maybe a Church, absolutely detached from political processes, and very much on the fringes, will be a blessing in time? Being ‘established’ has hardly helped the CoE or its leader AB JW. Modernity and tradition are in the wake behind us. Postmodernity has headaches for Christians. But free sharing of ideas is a blessing: online, in print, in debate, on social media. Being gagged may prove an advertisement, plus it’s almost impossible to really gag anyone these days in any case……

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