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Commitments given on One Scotland poster after Evangelical Alliance intervention

You may recall that in the autumn we highlighted the challenges arising from the Scottish Government’s Dear Haters poster campaign aimed at those engaging in hate crime. Although well-intentioned, the campaign raised a number of challenges for us, particularly the Dear Bigots poster that appeared to be aimed at people of faith rather than protecting them as the other posters clearly did.

Understandably, this left many of our members worried that they, as people of faith, were being accused of being hateful, rather than being protected from hate crime. We had a number of members approach us concerned that, as evangelical Christians, we are not welcome in Scotland. This was particularly ironic because the wider initiative behind this campaign is actually called One Scotland.

Representing members is at the heart of what we do at the Evangelical Alliance, and so we set about engaging with the Scottish Government on this issue. Even where we disagree we always seek to engage in a constructive way, building relationships that allow us to speak directly with decision makers and share our concerns. As part of this we wrote formally to Humza Yousaf, the cabinet secretary for Justice, and Aileen Campbell, the cabinet secretary for Communities and Local Government, and in January we received a helpful reply from Campbell.

In the reply, the cabinet secretary apologised for the offence caused and also stated that the Scottish Government and Police Scotland won’t use this particular poster in future. In addition, she highlighted both the Scottish Government’s stated intention of not targeting those of faith and also the value the Scottish Government places on the role of Christian communities. 

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She said: I would like to confirm that the poster was absolutely not intended to target those of faith, and I am sorry if it appeared that it did. We have no plans to reuse this poster in the future. I would also like to reassure you that this government values our relationships with our Christian communities and appreciates the valuable contributions they make to Scottish society, including supporting many of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.” 

Our initial letter highlighted our member churches’ and organisations’ invaluable contributions to their communities and Scotland as a whole. It is foodbanks, refugee support and debt advice, among other services which are largely provided by churches and Christian organisations at no expense to the government, that help to create a positive and united nation that the One Scotland campaign is aiming to achieve – recognising the inherent dignity and value of people who are so often overlooked. It is encouraging that Campbell’s response recognises these as valuable contributions and expresses the government’s appreciation for Christian communities and the work that we do. 

We view this positive response as a step forward in building better discussions between ourselves, our members and government. While we’re not naïve as to some of the challenges ahead, it is important to recognise where the government has engaged and give credit where it is due. We will continue to have further discussions with the government relating to its approach to faith generally and hate crime specifically over the coming months, including the consultation over possible new hate crime laws which closes on 24 February. But, it is good to have these channels of conversation open and to see the value that comes from representing our members as we engage constructively with those in authority over us.

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