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.
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:
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