In my final conversation this year with Chris Ringland (public policy officer for Scotland), I asked him which word he would use to sum up politics and public policy engagement in the Scottish parliament this year. He chose the word ‘contentious’. Below is a summary of our conversation in which Chris shares his personal highlights and what policy issues will dominate Scottish headlines next year.

Of all the nations, I would say Scotland and the Scottish parliament has been the most active in introducing and consulting on new legislation. What are some of the different policy areas you have worked on this past year?

Yes, it has been a very busy year in Scotland. We are part of the Scottish government’s faith and belief engagement group through which we are able to represent our members across different policy issues. We have also met with MSPs from across the different political parties throughout the year to do the same.

Along with key events throughout the year such as the supreme court decision on Scottish independence and linking in with our membership around the cost of living crisis, we have responded to consultations and engaged in the legislative process across many issues such as assisted dying, the introduction of buffer zones around abortion clinics, drug and alcohol addiction recovery, ending conversion practices, gender recognition reform and post-COP26 work on the climate crisis. We also co-ran a campaign on commercial sexual exploitation. We would love to work on more issues in 2023.


One purpose of the Evangelical Alliance’s advocacy work is to increase the voice and influence of evangelical Christians in the UK. Recently you had a photo opportunity outside Holyrood, where you and Restore Glasgow presented a joint letter calling on the government to end commercial sexual exploitation. Can you tell us a little bit more about the campaign?

Together with Restore Glasgow, we co-wrote an open letter to the minister for community safety in the Scottish government calling for legislative change to end commercial sexual exploitation in Scotland. Our open letter had 14 co-signatories representing churches and Christian organisations. The Scottish government’s policy position is that prostitution and wider commercial sexual exploitation is a form of violence against women and girls that will not be tolerated in Scotland”. We agree with this, and are calling for action to criminalise the purchase of sex, decriminalise selling sex, criminalise online pimping and provide exit routes for women and girls caught in exploitation. It was fantastic to speak as one united voice to the Scottish government, and we look forward to engaging with them on this issue in 2023.

You can read the joint letter here.

From left to right: Emma White (Restore Glasgow), Joy Andrew (Restore Glasgow) and Chris Ringland (Evangelical Alliance)

April through to June was a pressured time for you because you were preparing to give evidence to the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee on the Scottish government’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. How was that for you?

It was indeed a very busy time! In April we knew the consultation deadline was fast approaching and so we needed to consider the questions posed, research and write a response. This involved meeting with senior members of the advocacy team to review drafts. Then in early May, we responded to the Scottish government’s public consultation on the proposed Bill, which would amend the process set out in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 through which someone can obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC) by removing the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and lowering the age for applicants from 18 to 16.

Along with other faith and belief representative groups, we were asked to give evidence by the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee. This involved representing our membership on the Bill through expressing our concerns about the unintended consequences that the Bill might have which would negatively affect the transgender community, women and children, and answering questions from MSPs who sit on the Committee. This took place on 7 June. It was very challenging to do because the discourse around this topic has become very toxic and hurtful and is such a sensitive issue for so many – it was our aim to represent our members well, and to reflect Jesus in all that we said.

The team in Scotland have engaged in several hot topic’ issues this year, but there have also been less contentious issues. What is one policy engagement you have enjoyed working on this year?

We held an event in the Scottish parliament which marked the earlier publication of our Stories of Hope: addiction recovery which was my highlight of the year.

It was a brilliant event. The report found that Christians are supporting people to recover from drug and alcohol addictions and have their lives transformed all across Scotland – disproportionately to the size of our community. Angela Constance MSP, minister for drugs policy in the Scottish government, gave a keynote speech, and many other MSPs came along to engage with and hear from various organisations from across Scotland who are working on the front line on this issue. It was my highlight of the evening to hear from those who have been through recovery and had their lives transformed themselves, and want to support others to do so too. There is a case to be made that this is the biggest challenge that Scotland faces, and we look forward to engaging with the Scottish government in 2023 on these issues.

Fred Drummond presenting at Holyrood, Parliament
Fred Drummond, Director of Scotland speaking in Scottish parliament

As we end the year, relationships between Westminster and the Scottish government remain strained. Last month, the UK supreme court ruled that the Scottish government do not have the power to hold an independence referendum. Will the Scottish independence debate dominate headlines next year?

Yes and no. It will come back to the headlines in March 2023 when the SNP hold their special conference in Edinburgh to decide the way forward to secure independence”. It is difficult to foresee what else will happen on the issue in 2023 until this conference, but they may look to form some kind of timetable that coincides with the 10-year anniversary of the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum in September 2024. However, like the rest of the UK, the cost of living crisis and the state of the economy will continue to be the main issue in focus for the foreseeable future. There will also be many other issues brought to the Scottish parliament in 2023.

How can our members be praying for you and advocacy in 2023?

The parliamentary business and legislative timetable will be very busy all year round. So, pray that I keep up with the pace in representing our membership well. But more importantly, pray that with every engagement I would reflect Jesus in all places and circumstances, in everything written and everything spoken – because making Him known is why we exist.

Be the first to know and learn about all that the team is doing in Scotland and Holyrood by following the team on Twitter and Instagram.