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18 April 2013

Scotland's Independence Day?

Scotland's Independence Day?

After all the discussion, speculation and debate Thursday, 18 September 2014 is the date Scotland will have its independence referendum.

Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes or no? That will be the simple question put to the people of Scotland in a decision that either way will leave a mark on history, not only that of Scotland, but of the UK, Europe and in the wider world. In simple terms it will be a decision on whether to continue the union that has made up the United Kingdom since 1707 or whether to start afresh as the independent nation of Scotland (albeit with the Queen, the UK pound and open borders to the rest of the UK – at least initially). Whatever way we choose to look at it, as Scots, this is the biggest political decision we are ever going to make. No wonder then that some experts are predicting an 80 per cent or 90 per cent turnout for the vote.

This is an issue that raises enormous questions at a policy level, many of which have yet to be answered. Will Scotland be an automatic member of the EU or not? What will happen to the UK’s nuclear deterrent in its fleet of submarines based on the Clyde? How will assets and liabilities be divided such as the national debt, pensions and welfare, oil revenues and the part-nationalised Scottish banks of RBS and HBOS? 

But perhaps even greater than the policy questions are the individual and social questions the independence debate raises and as I write this on the day of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral I can’t help but think of her impact on Scotland. Many commentators credit her polices in areas such as the poll tax and her approach to the old Scottish industries with inadvertently leading to the creation of the Scottish parliament. And it is arguably a perceived legacy that the Scottish Conservatives have yet to recover from.

Identity and society

What is our identity as Scots? Do we see ourselves as a confident nation or are there still echoes of a ‘chip on our shoulder’ harking back to some of our darker days? What distinctively makes us Scots and how do we see our place in the world? Socially what kind of a society do we want to live in?  Do we actually want the socialist society as is often claimed (with the taxes to pay for it) or are we happier being individualistic consumers whose number one concern is ourselves? (We have had tax raising powers since the advent of devolution but have never actually used them).

These are areas in which we as Christians have an interest. We know that the question of identity is written deeply into our story as believers and that our core identity is that of children of God, adopted into God’s family by His grace. What impact does our Scottishness have on who we are as Scottish Christians (if any) and perhaps as importantly what impact does the Christian faith have on a Scottish national identity, and Scotland’s past and future stories?

Similarly on the question of society we have a contribution to make to the debate. As believers we want to promote a society that is just, caring and compassionate and churches up and down Scotland work towards this daily. We must ensure this voice is heard in our national conversation and these values are not drowned out in debates simply driven by the bottom line.

As Christians in Scotland these are areas with which we must engage and the Evangelical Alliance Scotland is committed to doing that over the course of the next 18 months. We are planning a major initiative in this area over the coming months and have recently launched our Evangelical Alliance Scotland Facebook (www.facebook.com/eascotland) page where you can keep up to date with the latest developments.

It will come as no surprise to know that we will not take a position on the answer to the referendum question but we do want to stimulate discussion, engage the Church and ask the fundamental questions about Scottish identity, Scottish society and the role the Church should be playing in them.  It’s time for us to join in the conversation…