THE Christian covenant of ‘love thy neighbour’ is an argument for Scotland staying in the UK, senior Labour politician Douglas Alexander has said.
The shadow cabinet minister yesterday addressed 700 senior Church of Scotland officials during a debate at the General Assembly on the independence referendum.
Mr Alexander, in putting the case for the Better Together campaign, stressed that the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK was more than simply an economic and political one.
He said: “Christianity for me is a call to a relationship that challenges and changes all our other relationships,” adding that “to love our neighbour is an ethic; a covenant, that has transformed history and is the foundation of my remarks today.
“Whether to remain part of the UK or walk away from our neighbours is an individual choice for each voter in Scotland but it is also a decision about the nation we are and the better nation we want to become.”
Stressing that no matter what the outcome of the referendum, constitutional change would come with more powers for Scotland, he said: “The break-up of the UK would represent a defeat for progressive ideals and a retreat from a shared vision of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-national state.”
He said a vote for the Union was a vote for “principled and pragmatic solidarity that shares risks, rewards and resources across these islands” and to “sustain the deep connection expressed in our political, economic and social ties with our neighbours across the partnership, the family, the United Kingdom.”
Rev Dr Doug Gay, Principal of Trinity College, Glasgow University, put forward the case for a separate Scotland. He told the Assembly Hall gathering he wanted the Kirk to “find our voices in this debate”.
He also sought to contrast between a “narrow nationalism” and a new Scotland of the future.
Dr Gay said: “The nationalism I espouse and the one which is to the fore in Scotland at the moment is a generous, hospitable, liberal civic nationalism. A broad, not narrow, nationalism.”
He said he wanted Scotland to enter a “warm and respectful social union with England and Wales and Northern Ireland – one which wants to take its place as an equal partner in the family of nations.”
Acknowledging that independence would not bring a “utopia” and that it represented a “future full of risks and challenges and uncertainties”, he insisted that so did the future within the union, and that the “negativity and fear-mongering of the No campaign at its worst has been so counter-productive”.
Among those favouring retaining the Union was Rev Donald MacEwan who said the country had to be careful not to believe “that we are the best small country in the world” and that if we did we may “wake up to discover on 19 September that we have the same problems that we have before with fewer resources to deal with them”.
Supporting independence, the Rev John MacGregor said that “we are a small nation, small can be beautiful – small people can do great deeds”.
Many of those supporting a Yes vote highlighted that they saw independence as an opportunity to improve social justice, within Scotland, stressing the impact of the policies of the current Conservative government has had, as well as ridding the country of nuclear weapons.
The outgoing Moderator, the Very Rev Lorna Hood, criticised the White Paper’s lack of detail on the Kirk’s role.
She said that of the 600 pages “there was literally one page about religion and that was only to confirm our legal position.”