THE Church of Scotland has called for an independence referendum debate that focuses on “integrity and community – not just cash and constitutions”.
A report from the Kirk, Imagining Scotland’s Future – based on feedback from 900 people at 32 events around the country – said the referendum had to be about more than “what’s in it for me” and called for a debate that centres on social justice.
The Church said suggestions from campaigners on both sides that Scottish residents would be £500 better or worse off in an independent Scotland did not affect people’s tendency towards a Yes or No vote.
There was also a call for “limits” on “free market forces” with a move towards progressive taxation to support public services and alleviate poverty.
The report, launched in Edinburgh yesterday, found congregations across Scotland are deeply concerned about fairness, justice and sharing for their communities as a whole.
The report said: “There was willingness to consider alternative and more progressive models of taxation to build a better society. The referendum is about far more than the simple question ‘what is in it for me?’”
The Church has adopted an impartial position in the independence debate.
However, the study found dissatisfaction with the political system at all levels, not just Westminster or Holyrood, with participants calling for integrity, accountability and transparency.
There were also calls for politicians to be held accountable between elections and for the party system to be less powerful.
Sally Foster-Fulton, convener of the Kirk’s Church and Society Council, said: “It is an inspiration to see that people in communities across Scotland are challenging the political status quo. The Church of Scotland is committed to finding ways to transform our political debate to ensure that wellbeing and values, such as justice, cohesion and sustainability, become the measures for economic activity.”
The consultation asked Kirk members “what values are most important to you for the future of Scotland, how can we make Scotland a better place and how do we put our aspirations into action?” The study suggested participants were not just thinking about themselves when deciding how to vote in the referendum. It said: “This consultation clearly found that participants wanted to see values at the heart of public discourse and were not making their decisions on the basis of financial gain or loss. Congregations across Scotland are deeply concerned about fairness, justice and sharing for their communities as a whole.”
Participants in the study also showed “robust support” for well-resourced and competently delivered public services.
Defence and Trident were discussed at just under half the events, with most participants opposed to them, both in Scotland and beyond.
SNP MSP Dave Thompson, convener of Christians for Independence, a cross-denominational group, said: “We welcome today’s Church of Scotland report as a powerful reminder that constitutional change is not an end in itself but a means to creating a more socially just society.” A spokesman from the anti-independence Better Together campaign said: “This is a welcome contribution from the Church of Scotland. It is essential that all voices are heard in this referendum debate, no matter what their view.”