Leaders: Kirk throws interesting hat into independence ring | Football has lost its sense of decency

THE history of the Church of Scotland is indivisible from the history of the Scottish nation.
Luis Suarez. Picture: PALuis Suarez. Picture: PA
Luis Suarez. Picture: PA

Even in modern times, with church attendance diminishing, the Kirk has enjoyed a certain standing in public life acknowledged by many non-
adherents and nonbelievers. It was apt that the first meetings of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 took place in the General Assembly Hall on the Mound, in the heart of Edinburgh. After all, the annual gatherings of the Kirk were the closest Scotland came to a national parliament for three centuries.

Today, in reports from three of its influential councils, the Kirk steps boldly into the debate about the future governance of Scotland. It asserts it right to have its interests as “the national church” acknowledged in any moves towards Scotland becoming an independent country following next year’s referendum.

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It is right and fitting for the Kirk to want to play a role in the current process of discussion about the form and function of an independent Scotland. All views should be welcome in the debate about our possible future as a nation.

However, it is unlikely Alex Salmond envisaged that in addition to the European Union, Nato, the Bank of England and Whitehall, he would have to enter independence negotiations with the denizens of 121 George Street.

Two areas where ecclesiastical matters and constitutional matters collide appear to be of particular concern to the Kirk. The first is the eye-catching suggestion that following independence the British monarch take part in a coronation ceremony north of the Border to cement his or her position as head of state in the newly-independent Scottish nation. Although republicans might balk at the pomp and ceremony this would naturally entail, it would have the virtue of marking the changed circumstances of the new order.

But it is the Kirk’s second point that might prove more of a challenge to some of Scotland’s politicians, who are currently tearing lumps out of each other over the policy implications of full sovereignty. Church officials believe their institution’s place at the heart of the nation should be explicitly acknowledged in the new nation’s constitution.

This seems to stem from a desire that the historic Articles Declaratory that set out the structure and governance of the Kirk are fully embedded in the life of the new Scotland. The Kirk requests that “in any constitutional settlement the relationship between church and state should be affirmed by recognising that the role of the Church of Scotland in civic life should be maintained”.

Some independence supporters may be uncomfortable with the prospect of hardwiring the role of a religion into the constitution of a new 21st century nation – especially if that privilege is bestowed only on one faith, and not on others and those of no faith. The independence referendum just took an unexpected but fascinating turn.

Football has lost its sense of decency

It is the kind of behaviour which, if it happened in a primary school kickabout, would result in a severe ticking off from the headteacher and a letter to the parents requesting they come into school for a very serious talk.

And yet when Liverpool’s international striker Luis Suarez bites an opponent during an English Premiership football match and is banned for ten matches as a result, his club’s managing director apparently feels it appropriate to issue a statement saying the club is “shocked and disappointed” at the verdict.

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Something is badly amiss in the world of professional football for a senior club executive to come to this conclusion – as Liverpool’s Ian Ayre did yesterday after the Football Association announced its disciplinary decision.

Suarez’s action was barbarity, plain and simple. He lunged at his Chelsea opponent, Branislav Ivanovic, and bit him on the arm in what appeared to be an animalistic rage. His behaviour, on live television, will have been watched in countless thousands of homes, with the audience including many young and impressionable fans.

The FA was right to see this as more than the usual “violent conduct” for which there is a standard three-match ban. This was not comparable to a player losing the rag after a late tackle – this was more akin to an assault.

To judge from Liverpool FC’s response yesterday, a sense of morality is in short supply in some corners of British football, with an appreciation of right and wrong smothered by an overbearing belief in the interests of the club, above everything else.

Passion is essential in football – it is what makes the game such a fascinating spectacle. But equally essential is a sense of decency.