ALEX Salmond has said that he prefers “people of faith to people of no faith or people who have lost their faith” as he stated his own religious convictions as part of a Church of Scotland congregation.
The former First Minister suggested he had a higher opinion of people who believe in God than those who have no faith or have ceased to be religious.
Mr Salmond, the SNP MSP for Aberdeenshire East, made the remarks in a video filmed for the Kirk after meeting representatives of the church at the Scottish Parliament.
Mr Salmond, who is also the MP for Gordon and attends the Strichen and Tyrie Parish Church in Aberdeenshire, said that all religious faiths had a key role to play in Scottish life.
However, when asked about the importance of the Kirk, Mr Salmond suggested that he had more in common with people who hold religious beliefs than those who have none.
Mr Salmond said: “I am biased of course because I am a Church of Scotland adherent and I prefer people of faith to people of no faith or people who have lost their faith.
“All denominations have a key role to play in society and we are very fortunate in Scotland because we have a tremendous ability, among religions and denominations, to come together and support good causes.”
Mr Salmond made the comments after he met the Rev Stuart MacQuarrie, the Church of Scotland chaplain to the University of Glasgow, who delivered Holyrood’s Time for Reflection reading to MSPs – a weekly slot for faith groups which is also open to those of no religious affiliation.
The former SNP leader said that he had played a role in launching Time for Reflection at the start of devolution, but said that Scotland’s inaugural First Minister Donald Dewar had resisted the move.
Mr Salmond said that the late Labour politician had wanted to avoid having an act of worship like prayers in the House of Commons and that it was instead agreed to have a more informal slot that was open to non-religious groups such as secularists and humanists.
He said: “A long time ago I had a hand in establishing Time for Reflection in the Scottish Parliament back in 1999.
“Indeed it was the only vote I won against the late Donald Dewar because he was somewhat sceptical of religion – a great man incidentally – but sceptical of religion and he wanted to avoid having the same parody of prayers that they have in the House of Commons.
“So we came up with Time for Reflection where all religions and the humanists get a shot – it provides a good way to start the parliamentary week or in this case the parliamentary session.”
However, Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said Mr Salmond’s remarks were “careless” and could offend people with secular and non-religious views.
Mr Johnstone, who is a member of the Church of Scotland, said: “It’s a careless remark as we need to treat people of all faiths and none equally and that includes those of a secular persuasion.”