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25 September 2014

What next for Scotland?

What next for Scotland?

For the past two years, people in Scotland have been debating whether Scotland's future should lie within the Union, or as an independent country, and finally we have answered the question. On one hand, it's great to resolve the question, but on another, whilst many people are happy with the result, there are a large number for whom the result was very disappointing.

So, whilst we have answered the "big" question – should Scotland be an independent country? – our focus needs to move on to the next. What next for Scotland, and what is the Church's role going forward? There are two things to think about going forward: firstly, we need to address some of the divisions in society highlighted during the referendum campaign;secondly, we need to recognise and utilise the opportunities the result of the referendum brings, even though for some, they may be different – or less – than we hoped.

An ICM poll in June suggested that 21 per cent of people had arguments with their friends or family over conversations about Scottish independence, and given the significance of the issue, that's probably not surprising to many people. Thankfully, this has been acknowledged, and on Sunday, St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh held a service of reconciliation, with representatives from both sides of the campaign present. The service was full of symbolic gestures – hymns of unity, the lighting of candles, people offering the hand of friendship to those who, days before, had been foes on the campaign trail. This is a great start, but going forward, we need to live this out, and that will be much harder.

Some people who voted "Yes" voted that way because they are committed nationalists, but not all of them. Many people who voted "Yes" saw it as a chance to change Scotland for the better. However, that doesn't mean that everyone who voted "No" would change nothing about Scotland. People on both sides of the debate are affected by issues like poverty. They are equally affected by issues in their local communities. The question of independence was never going to resolve these issues by itself.

Many local churches know the needs of their communities very well, and already seek to meet them. Going forward, we need to continue to do that. Many people feel like politicians don't understand their needs and frustrations. They feel powerless to change anything. The Church has a significant role to play in bringing transformation, but it must be more than just physical transformation.

Scotland needs more than that. It needs spiritual transformation too. Our churches are not united in political unity, but by unity in Christ. In Ephesians 2, Paul tells of the unity Jesus' death brought to Jews and Gentiles. Policies can bring about temporal transformation, but our ambition needs to be bigger than that, and everything we do needs to come from the heart of our faith in Jesus.

Our manifesto, What kind of nation? builds on the Christian values of wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity, and we hope that going forward, we would effectively point people towards Jesus as we long for Scotland to be transformed.

Noel Slevin, advocacy volunteer, Evangelical Alliance Scotland.