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General Assembly 2014

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Tuesday May 20 2014

moderator calls for 'respectful dialogue' throughout scotland

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has urged Assembly Commissioners to hold ‘respectful dialogues’ about Scottish referendum in their own parishes, following the success of this afternoon’s debate.

The debate, conducted in the passionate but respectful manner the Moderator had called for, featured speeches from Douglas Alexander MP, representing Better Together, and the Rev Dr Doug Gay for Yes Scotland.

Mr Alexander said that the United Kingdom ‘embodies a quintessentially modern idea – that this coming together of neighbours, families, friends, ideas, institutions and identities is broadening, not narrowing, and is a strength and not a weakness for 21st century Scotland… I will vote for a principled and pragmatic solidarity that shares risks, rewards and resources across these islands’.

He added: “The break-up of the United Kingdom would represent a defeat for progressive ideals and a retreat from a shared vision of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-national state.”

Dr Gay said the referendum was a ‘historic opportunity’. “I am realistic, but I am also hopeful about independence, because the demanding vocation of loving our neighbour calls us to the work of social and economic and political transformation. I want to see a more equal Scotland, a more compassionate and hospitable Scotland, a Scotland which rejects the use of or the threat to use weapons of mass destruction.

“I want to vote Yes and leave the parliamentary union because I do not believe the UK as it stands is capable of making the journey or reform it so badly needs to make.”

Contributions from the floor ranged over matters of identity, social justice, the place of religion in a new Scotland, nuclear weapons and food security.

Summing up, John Sturrock QC said that the ‘eyes of the world were on Scotland’ and this was the chance to show the world a better way of conducting such debates, and that he suspected the Church had, on this occasion, passed the test.

The Moderator, the Rt Rev John Chalmers finished: “I’m sorry the debate wasn’t longer but perhaps that leaves me to suggest that as you go back to your parishes you may want to hold respectful dialogues in your own place… so that at least people may begin to know why they feel differently on this issue and why they need to work hard to ensure that the day after the Referendum there is ‘no us and them, only us’.”