17 March 2016
What Kind of Holyrood?
Next week officially marks the end of Session 4 of the Scottish Parliament. And what a session it has been. The past five years have seen numerous significant political issues debated including annual budgets, merging the police force, assisted suicide, human trafficking, the creation of a named person, community empowerment, same sex marriage and land reform to name a few. It's also been the first ever majority administration with the SNP in government. And of course it's been the focal point for the independence referendum and aftermath that has dominated Scottish political life for the duration of the session.
As an alliance it has been a mixed bag of policies and outcomes over these last five years. While we were disappointed by the redefinition of marriage and have concerns about the named person proposals, we were encouraged by the ground breaking legislation on human trafficking, the defeat of assisted suicide and the steps taken towards community empowerment and land reform.
We also recognise the genuine and compassionate efforts to tackle poverty in Scotland from politicians across the chamber. Working with others we've been able to establish Serve Scotland as a charity that seeks to build bridges in this area between the Christian voluntary sector and the Scottish Government. And with our What Kind of Nation? initiative ahead of the referendum we embarked on the biggest advocacy programme in our history connecting with some of our top politicians, media and thousands of Christians as we sought to bring a Christian perspective to the debate.
But now we must look ahead. With the Holyrood election fast approaching on 5th May it's time to our Christian engagement both individually and collectively over the coming weeks and the next five years.
New Holyrood Powers
Whatever May's result the context of the next five years will be a significant one in the ongoing story of the Scottish Parliament. With the recent agreement over the financial framework for further devolution this means that over the lifetime of the next parliament there will be significant powers transferred to Holyrood over taxation, transport, abortion, gambling and areas of welfare. With powers over revenue raising as well as spending there is real scope for the Scottish Government to develop ways to back up its priorities, whoever is in charge and whether those priorities are for increased or decreased revenue spending. In short there is an opportunity for our new MSPs to consider afresh what sort of nation they wish to build with these new powers and what values they wish to promote.
This is a key question for our election engagement then, namely how should these new powers be used? We appreciate there are many disagreements over the extent of the powers and the ideal powers of a Scottish Parliament but those are arguments for another day. As Christians we want to help bring Godly values to the table and ask questions such as how we might build a fairer economy, a stronger family, more effective community and how we might steward the environment and resources God has blessed us with.
Style and Substance
It's also time to ask our politicians what kind of Holyrood they want to create. The Scottish Parliament has already shown itself well capable of tackling challenging topics like assisted suicide and human trafficking respectfully, even when there are diverse views on how to deal with the presenting problems. As the new powers come could this way of doing politics become the norm rather than the exception? Or will our Scottish political tribalism get in the way and still be predictably reduced to 'A says this so B will say that'. In short can the style match the new substance?
It's for these reasons that at EA Scotland we're working with our friends at Care to help the church engage well with this year's election. At the EA we're producing an election resource focusing on some of these new powers and Care have a number of resources available on their election website. In the last fortnight of April between us we'll also be running a series of regional hustings events across Scotland taking in Ayr, Dundee, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Glasgow, Inverness, Paisley and Perth that will give the chance to ask some of these questions to our politicians.