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Celebrating 20 years of the Scottish parliament

Helping Christians to connect with their MSPs

During his speech on the opening day of the Scottish parliament in 1999, Donald Dewar, the first First Minister of Scotland, declared that “The past is part of us. But today there is a new voice in the land, the voice of a democratic Parliament. A voice to shape Scotland, a voice for the future”.

The opening of the Scottish parliament 20 years ago was celebrated for giving the people of Scotland a voice. The parliament is set up in such a way that it is accessible for all. Additionally, with regular surgeries and a number of simple ways to contact our MSPs, it is easy to speak to MSPs and for the ordinary citizen to have their voice heard.

We should celebrate the 20th anniversary of the parliament and the fact that with the parliament came new opportunities and increased ease at which Christians in Scotland can have their voice heard within the political system but we need to ask ourselves two questions. The first is, are we using our voice?”. The second is, how are we using our voice?”. 

There are two main areas where Christians in Scotland have a tendency to fall short when it comes to engaging with their political representatives. Firstly, a large majority of us simply do not do it. We sit back and think there are others who have more knowledge than us or are more capable than us that will do it instead. Or we pay organisations (like the Evangelical Alliance) to lobby on our behalf and assume that will be enough. We at the Evangelical Alliance want you to know that we do have a strong voice within parliament, but that voice would be even stronger if it was reinforced by normal church-going, evangelicals if they were to do something as simple as email their MSP about issues of which they are concerned. Think about how many people there are in you church and imagine the impact that could be had if each of them was to send a quick email you local MSP. The voice would be louder and more likely to be listened to.

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Secondly, when Christians do use our voice to speak into politics in Scotland we can often use the wrong tone. Unfortunately, politically Christians tend to be known for what we are against, rather than what we are for. There is a common misconception that evangelicals are full of hate. Of course, it only takes meeting a few followers of Jesus to realise this is far from the truth. The gospel is full of grace and compassion. It is our duty to communicate in a language full of grace, while also speaking truth into power. We can do that simply by letting our MSPs get to know us, inviting them along to our churches and extending kind gestures which will communicate our love for Jesus and concern for them. Our new resource Connect, as well as our 20 Ways to Engage social media campaign, helps us to think of ways that we can communicate Jesus’ love and grace to our MSPs. 

Indeed, the opening of the Scottish parliament in 1999 provided everyone in Scotland with ample opportunity to have our voice heard by people in power. We need to make sure that we grab those opportunities with both hands. Let’s connect with our MSPs in a gracious and truthful manner that communicates the love that God has for them. 

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