Churches should reopen as soon as possible - Readers' Letters

Reading your article on church closures (12 January) we were glad to hear of the outcry from worship leaders in Scotland. While we do not sympathise with all that is said we wish to add voice to express the key role churches are playing in the support of our nation.

From the start of the pandemic we have reached out to the thousands of homes in our parish on many occasions. Our local volunteer group is co-ordinated through the church office, enabling us to provide practical help where possible and direction or advice on anything that is of concern.

Perhaps more evident are our efforts to ease the anxieties and fears of isolation. We have a network of members who contact parishioners regularly, our neighbourhood children have made hundreds of cards that have been distributed to our elderly and we have continued to collect donations for charities both at home and abroad.

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A virtual cafe has been opened to address an increasing need for social interaction, and virtual children’s activities are abundant through various local youth organisations.

Over Christmas we were able to lift the spirits of our neighbourhood with Covid-compliant events for young and old, coupled with live streaming of our Christmas services. This Sunday our online guest is the leader of Fresh Start, an Edinburgh-based charity working to end homelessness which, more poignantly, currently has its doors closed.

Our church halls were immediately made compliant, and opened for all permitted groups in the past year, and will shortly be used for the vaccination programme at our expense.

We were open for worship throughout the permitted period and now desperately miss the untold comfort and renewed strength that comes with being together. We live with the hope that, while we continue to help protect society, others will use their wisdom to allow us to open our doors again as soon as possible, enabling us to press on with renewed vigour in our community.

Rev Ian Gilmour, Locum Minister & Edith Butler, Session Clerk

Cramond Kirk, Cramond Glebe Road, Edinburgh

Mass matters

In response to Robert Canning (Letters, 13 January), places of worship have been strictly adhering to government guidelines in order to become Covid safe.

In my own parish and, indeed, Catholic parishes around the country, these guidelines have been followed to the letter. Since the return to Mass in July, there hasn't been a single case of Covid-19 in my parish and not even after news that the latest more virulent strain may have been with us since at least October.

Mr Canning questions why "worship and prayers must be performed by groups in public buildings". From a Catholic perspective, the Catholic Church calls the Mass the “source and summit of our Christian lives”. It is both source and summit because, at Mass, we encounter Jesus in a unique way. There we come into his presence, uniting our lives with his: there we receive Christ himself in Holy Communion, which is truly his Body and Blood. At Mass our souls are filled with his power and strength and we are given the means to love one another, as Christ commanded. The Church quite literally needs the Mass to survive. Only there can we receive the strength we need to live a truly Christian life. Unfortunately, it is not possible to achieve this through live streams and remaining at home. Once again, the Scottish Government is denying Christians and all other faith groups the fundamental right to practice their faith in public. I can go to a shop and buy food to nourish my body but I cannot go to Mass in order to nourish my soul.

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Regarding prayer, I can assure Mr Canning that congregations normally pray for all those people he mentions and many more, both in church and at home. We also offer up prayers for the likes of Mr Canning and his colleagues at Secular Scotland, the hope being that we can work together for the common good of all humanity. The sooner we can return to public worship the better.

Martin Conroy

The Orchard, Cockburnspath, Berwickshire

Pray for wisdom

The abrupt death of Archbishop of Glasgow Phillip Tartaglia from Covid-19 (Scotsman, 14 January) throws into sharp relief the sheer, utter madness of Scotland's Roman Catholic Church – in conjunction with Scotland's other religious groups – screaming about their "human rights" to open their places of worship in the middle of the worst global pandemic since the deadliest of all time, the 1918-20 Spanish Flu.

That they did so, knowing their own leader was seriously ill from the latest wave of the very contagion putting daily confirmed cases over 60,000 in the UK – for the first time since the pandemic began – is beyond reprehensible.

And for what? The spiritual wellbeing of their dwindling flocks? Or for bawbees in their year-long empty collection plates?

Mark Boyle

Linn Park Gardens, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Irish example

D Mason (Letters, 11 January) is quite right to point out the violence and bloodshed that ensued in Ireland after the vote for Home Rule, leading eventually to independence and partition.

However, if Scotland did vote for independence the following scenario is unlikely: that those loyal to the Union import arms to resist the result, that the constabulary turn a blind eye to that importation and that the armed forces of the state refuse to take action.

Such a scenario had dire consequences for the island of Ireland.

Jim Neary

Buncrana, County Donegal, Ireland

Tunnel vision

The idea of a tunnel under the Forth proposed by the Greens (Scotsman, 13 January) is one that I suggested in a letter some years ago. In fact, such an idea would probably save all the trouble that the new Forth Bridge has caused in icy weather.

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Any such railway tunnel could be extended from Leith by means of the old railway route to Waverley and then be linked in to the circular railway that Edinburgh has needed for the last 60 years.

Having discussed my suggestion that the existing railway track be incorporated into a system supplying trains travelling round the the south-side stations to Haymarket and Waverley with a former director of one of the major UK players in such schemes, the feedback was wholly positive. This would connect residents of Morningside, Newington etc with the city centre’s shops and thence to Fife and on to St Andrews.

Further extensions to the Borders railway, which has been discussed by the current Conservative administration would help to bring the nations of the UK together and to embrace our internal regions as well.

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh

Drink up

Many "oldies", myself included, do their shopping very early in the morning to beat the rush and "keep safe".

It is annoying that due to Scottish Government legislation we cannot buy alcohol before 10am. This should be changed and the grateful public will flock to vote for the SNP in May.

Wait a minute, forget what I said. The prospect of another four years of even more SNP failures would certainly drive people to drink.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road, Linlithgow

Head in the clouds

One of the "hidden” dangers of Coronavirus must be its effect on memory.

The news of holiday firms being swamped with overseas bookings suggests that the virus has wiped from our memory the urgent desire to reduce our carbon footprint and save the planet – a commitment that included reducing air travel!

James Watson

Randolph Crescent, Dunbar

Bridges too far

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I am wrting in response to Alastair Dalton’s article on Highway England’s plan to infill bridges in Scotland (Scotsman, 9 January).

Why is Highway England even involved in Scotland under devolved powers?

It is crazy not to use these old railway lines for walking/cycle paths away from traffic. Surely we should focus on the bridges, strengthen them to cope with traffic and let the public have safe routes to exercise.

This is a legacy of past generations that we should not be destroyed on a misguided whim. Exercise is key to the public to recover from Covid-19 restrictions.

Michael Cockburn

Carfrae Road, Edinburgh

Postpone poll

The latest Scotsman opinion poll (“Pandemic response turns voters towards SNP”, 14 January) is concrete proof that Covid-19 is the dominant issue of concern to the general public, dwarfing all other areas of governance.

The pandemic has created circumstances which have consigned opposition leaders to the shadows, while gifting Nicola Sturgeon a unique opportunity to secure the political spotlight.

For months, she has presented herself as pluckily leading the battle to defeat the virus. From her daily TV platform she has stage managed her profile to appear Churchillian, steadfast and compassionate. Thus, even when she admits mistakes, the public accepts “the wee wummin’s daein’ her best ”.

But as she herself repeatedly tells us, at all times she has merely acted on the advice of her medical advisers. There’s no reason to believe any other leader would have done differently, even on the controversial decision to move elderly patients untested into care homes. An election this year, therefore, is a skewed foregone conclusion and should be postponed for at least a year.

Kit Fraser

Runciman Court, Dunbar



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