Friday, 27 August 2010

Regressive or progressive emergency budget?

We heard yesterday discussions about whether the emergency budget is either progressive or regressive. Fancy wording for fundamental questions? It might be better to simply ask whether the budget is equitable and protects the most vulnerable in our society ?

The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS), not a “radical” organisation, considers that the poorest families amongst us will be proportionately bearing the brunt of the cuts. It is tragic that in spite of previous efforts by a number of organisations to eradicate child poverty by 2020 it is now apparent that this goal will not be met. A quarter of the children in Scotland live in persistent poverty and most of them are part of single parent households. According to the IFS, this is one of the groups that will be the hardest hit. Only those able to bear a load should help carry the burden. The challenges are understood; but why does it have to be those least able to withstand the brunt that carry the biggest share of the load? In other words Mr. Cameron and Mr Osbourne, why does it have to be our children?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Protecting the human rights of Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf, Iraq

In 2008 the General Assembly received a report on Iran (which can be found on page 69 of this link).

It outlines some of the history and the present reality of life in a much misunderstood country, and seeks to offer some reflections on some of the key issues facing the international community. These are still very relevant two years later.

The report paints a picture of a society which is perhaps more complicated than the media might suggest. The stereotypical idea of an Islamic Republic may make some in the West think immediately of places like Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan under the Taliban. But Iran is a diverse and complicated society. As well as recent reports of a women sentenced to death by stoning, Iran also reportedly has the most number of bloggers per head of the population. Repression and expression, seemingly, coexist, though not always peacefully.

Inside and outwith the country, political dissidents and groups work to bring human rights protection to Iran, such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Attacks against the Bahá’í community in Iran have caused an international outcry by religious leaders.

Another situation that I’ve just recently become aware about are the inhabitants of Camp Ashraf in Iraq.  There are reports that the Iraqi authorities wish to disperse the camp and deport the dissidents back to Iran, where they face fear of persecution, torture or even death.

Campaigners are trying to put pressure on Iraq to make sure that the human rights of the Camp Ashraf people are respected. One group, the International Committee for the Third Option, is campaigning for greater international attention for the situation in Camp Ashraf and are calling on the international community to do all it can to help them.

Whilst the politics are complicated – Iraq is now a functioning sovereign state with its own legal and human rights institutions. How best does the international community intervene in its domestic affairs?

For the Church, it is to pray, for peace, and for reconciliation. It is also important that we don’t forget that just because the Iraq war is now over all the problems and issues are no longer our concern.

The issues of human rights, justice and dignity are often taken for granted in Scotland. For the people in Camp Ashraf and their supporters, however, they are matters of life and death.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Why we should say No to Hunterston Power Station

Friday is the final day by which objections can be submitted against the development of the “clean coal-fired” power plant proposed by Ayrshire Power.

I hope the application submitted by Ayrshire power to the Scottish government will be rejected for the following reasons:

1) The technology on which it is based is dubious and has not been tested in the large scale application envisioned by Ayrshire Power.
2) The increase in carbon dioxide emissions which such a development will undoubtedly bring about will make the national targets of Scotland’s Climate Change Act very difficult to achieve.
3) The development of the plant will be on a site of Special Scientific Interest SSCI which is supposed to be protected by law.
4) The development does not have the support of local people, nor of major environmental charities as evidenced by the campaigns organised against it.

The Church of Scotland is against this type of development. We have a moral responsibility of stewardship and care for the earth. The Church of Scotland addressed this responsibility in very concrete points by asking all of its congregations to reduce its carbon footprint both in church buildings and in their own lives. The Church is also a supporter and contributor to Eco-Congregation Scotland, a Scottish charity with over 250 congregations working to take action to care for the earth. Eco-congregation Scotland represents a huge number of people actively working in Scotland towards the reduction of carbon emissions.

On a personal level, and as part of my role as convener of the Church and Society Council, I have blogged against this particular issue and campaigned as part of the Stop Climate Change coalition to raise awareness on the importance of climate change. I therefore urge all of you to contact the Scottish Government Scottish Government at the Energy Consents Unit, 4th floor Atlantic Quay 150 Broomielaw Glasgow G2 8LU to lodge your objections against the proposed power station.

We have one week to say no.