"For generations, including myself, Catholics in their droves tended to vote consistently for the Labour Party. But over the past few months it has been very noticeable, in conversations I've had with all manner of people, that that allegiance has been severely tested to the point, I think, of being broken." - Rt Rev Joseph Devine
Story in full A SCOTS Catholic bishop yesterday made an unprecedented political intervention ahead of the May elections by denouncing the Labour establishment in Holyrood and Westminster for creating "morality devoid of any Christian principle".
The Bishop of Motherwell, the Rt Rev Joseph Devine, warned it would be "ill-founded" of the Labour Party to assume it could count on the traditional working-class vote in Scotland.
He said: "For generations, including myself, Catholics in their droves tended to vote consistently for the Labour Party. But over the past few months it has been very noticeable, in conversations I've had with all manner of people, that that allegiance has been severely tested to the point, I think, of being broken."
The 69-year-old bishop's objections reflect a growing concern among senior Catholics in Scotland over what they see as a progressive erosion of family values permitted by Holyrood and Westminster.
In September last year, the bishop condemned legislation allowing gay and unmarried couples to adopt children as a "violation of family life".
In January last year, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of Scotland's 860,000 Catholics, accused the government of undermining marriage by legalising same-sex civil partnerships.
He also criticised the Scottish Executive for cutting the minimum separation period for divorce.
The Bishop of Motherwell said yesterday: "The state seems to have developed a new kind of morality devoid of any Christian principle or background."
The veteran clergyman did not suggest who Catholics should vote for, adding it was for churchgoers to "exercise their votes responsibly, according to their conscience".
But he told Radio 4's Sunday programme he had a "shrewd idea" that his support would go to the Christian People's Alliance, formed nationally in 1999 and established two years later in Scotland.
The Catholic Church in Scotland would not comment officially on the bishop's remarks last night.
The Labour MSP Margaret Curran, part of whose Glasgow Baillieston constituency is covered by the bishop's Motherwell diocese, said she was "perplexed" by his comments. "I can't quite understand why he is so focused on Labour," she said.
"The legislation we have passed, particularly on moral issues, has had widespread support across the parliament."