Thursday, 26 November 2009

Serving Scotland Better

As Jim Murphy, Secretary of State for Scotland, has announced the Government's plans to take forward most of the recommendations in the Calman Commission on Scottish Devolution, with a forthcoming White Paper; and the Scottish Government look set to release a White Paper with their plans for a potential referendum on Scottish independence, I look to the politicians making decisions on Scotland's constitutional future.
These White Papers will reignite discussions which have been ever-present recently in the wake of the National Conversation and the Calman Commission, stirring up passionately held views on all sides of the debate.

It is crucial that all debates on how we are governed should be underpinned by three principles:
• Debates about the future of Scotland should include as many people as possible, and constitutional discussions should not exclude the most marginal in society.
• Debates should be rooted in the values we want from our society.
• Any constitutional changes proposed should be primarily about how we better tackle poverty, especially child poverty, and promote social justice.

The Kirk is committed to engaging with all sides of the debate in the coming months and years.I only hope that politicians engage as fully as possible with the communities they represent in determining Scotland's future.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

I am ashamed to live in a country that locks up children.

Friends in Cranhill have been hugely distressed at the detention of Florence and Precious (10) Mhango, first in Dungavel and then Yarls Wood near London, and now there is the anxiety of waiting to find out if they will get to return to Glasgow or not. After more than six years here Precious is a Scot in language and culture, if not by right. I am not a fan of the current fast track asylum system, however at least it works faster than this decision. I am ashamed to live in a country that locks up children. I’m told that following her previous detention two or three months ago Precious went from having been a bright cheerful and chatty child to being almost mute. We need to stop this now.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Looking for friends amongst our enemies

I am in Aviemore with around 240 other Church of Scotland members along with folk from other churches listening to some of the most experienced thinkers and practitioners in the area of conflict resolution and mediation from both sides of the Atlantic, people like Ken Cloke, John Sturrock and Dave Brubaker.
We might be portrayed by some as a church divided. The truth is there is a huge amount of work going on to equip the membership and the leadership to work creatively on how we live with our differences.

In and out of the church, there is a great need to work on how to ensure that respect for one another as human beings is at the centre of how we relate and make decisions. In the end that is much more important than stories that only focus on polarising and dividing in a simplistic way.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

United we stand

Sorry about the lack of posts recently. I've been away in Germany for two weeks at an event about poverty and renewal.

I will tell you about soon but today I was with Scotland United on the streets of Glasgow to protest against an effort by right wing agitators to make their presence felt in the city. A great turn out by trade unions, faith groups, students and politicians - a broad coalition which was good to be part of. If we could turn that passion on the fight to end poverty in Scotland anything might happen. The highlight of the day was a small dog that marched bearing a placard on its back that said “Mongrels for racial diversity”. Humour is a great weapon in the fight for an inclusive society – and Glasgow has it in abundance. However the narrowness by which the BNP lost its deposit in Thursday’s by-election should remind us all that the threat from that quarter has to be taken seriously. All faith communities should be in the front line on this issue. A threat to one of us – in this case the Central Mosque – is a threat to all of us.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Where does child poverty sit in our priorities?

I am in the Ruhr area of Germany for a consultation on child poverty, as part of an international consulting group with people from Brazil, Argentina, USA, Indonesia, the Philippines, Rumania, Hungary, Holland and Italy. Here we have the church in an affluent part of the world exposing its work to an extraordinary group of people including some from very difficult contexts. It is a great privilege to be here, and to be reminded that we in Scotland are connected to the rest of the world both in creativity and in facing up to real problems in our society. For us there is no option but to put the ending of child poverty at the top of our list of priorities. Currently, though, we are falling behind the targets we have set. Have a look at some of the statistics.

Photograph by RM London.

CreditsPhotograph by RM London