General Assembly: Queen calls for referendum unity

THE Queen has urged Scots to come together to resolve “divisions” stemming from the referendum in her first intervention into the debate on Scotland’s future.

Sophie Countess of Wessex and her husband Edward, Earl of Wessex arrive at Holyrood Palace. Picture: Esme Allen
Sophie Countess of Wessex and her husband Edward, Earl of Wessex arrive at Holyrood Palace. Picture: Esme Allen

The monarch used the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly this weekend to call on people join together, whatever the result of the vote in September.

In a letter to the Kirk’s annual gathering, which convened yesterday, Queen Elizabeth recognised the Kirk’s role in “holding the people of Scotland together” and “healing divisions”.

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The letter was presented to the first session of the General Assembly, in the presence of Prince Edward and First Minister Alex Salmond. The prince gave an address on the theme of community and the First Minister welcomed the Queen’s “typically gracious and considered remarks”.

The Queen said: “The Church of Scotland has played a key part in shaping the ­governance of Scotland and Scottish society. We recognise that, contained within the articles declaratory of the Church of Scotland, Church and state hold mutual duties towards one another.

“So, in this important year of referendum, we pray that whatever the outcome, people of faith and people of goodwill will work together for the social good of Scotland.

“We recognise too the important role that the Church can play in holding the people of Scotland together, in healing divisions and in safeguarding the interests of the most vulnerable”

It was unclear last night whether the Queen – in stating that “Church and state hold mutual duties towards one another” – was backing the Kirk’s desire for its status as a national church to be recognised in a written constitution in an independent Scotland.

Churches and faith groups have called for the role of religion to be formally recognised. But some want any future constitution to be entirely secular.

On the issue of divisions, though, the Kirk has taken a neutral position on independence, the incoming Moderator, the Right Reverend John Chalmers, last week expressed fears about the divisions being created by the intemperate tone of the debate.

He also told Scotland on Sunday that the Church would hold a service of reconciliation in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh three days after the referendum vote in September.

The Moderator added: “Reconciliation is the business of the Church. So it seems fitting, at a time when people are taking sides and passions are running high, that we should prepare for the day after this is all over.”

Responding to the letter, Salmond said in a statement: “These are typically gracious and considered remarks from Her Majesty the Queen in which she extends a warm welcome to people from around the world to come and enjoy the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Her Majesty is also right to highlight the importance of everyone working together for the social good of Scotland, regardless of the outcome of the referendum, which is something I heartily endorse.”


Prince Edward said: “Community is about looking out for each other, but how can we do this as many of our communities become larger and less personal.

“The state has developed all sorts of ways and means and we have devised ever more sophisticated legal systems and processes, but in doing so are we creating a more harmonious society?

“In my mind there is a significant difference between the assertion of legalistic rights versus the Christian teaching of responsibility.

“For instance, I could argue that it’s my right to play my music as loudly as I please. However, this is bound to infringe someone else’s right to peace and quiet.

“There is no clear answer to this, so we could come to blows or it requires going to court and engaging two lawyers going to court and arguing the case.

“One of us will be happy and the other unhappy. We will both probably have had our characters besmirched and our lawyers will be, well, better off.

“However, as a Christian I am taught to consider others and in this case the likely impact of playing my music too loudly.

“Maybe this was just the way I was brought up, but I can’t help questioning which creates a more harmonious society - the individual demanding their right which will ultimately lead to conflict or the individual being aware of their responsibility and acting accordingly?”