Scotland Decides

The Scottish referendum on Independence draws near. Never before have I witnessed an entire people so deeply animated by serious issues. I have close friends who take opposite sides. The community of Aidan and Hilda does not take sides. I personally, who live on the Borders, feel deeply affected. If Scotland separates, the rest of my life will be lived under a cloud.

The two sides often fail to understand each other. Nationalists need to know why ordinary people who are unionists feel so deeply. Our British identity is being destroyed. We love both Scotland and Britain. This island is geographically one, bound by a silver sea. It has thousands of years of bad and good intertwined history. A common Christian birthright reaches back to the seventh century when warring kingdoms of Picts, Irish Scots, Celtic Britons (at Strathclyde) and Anglo-Saxons who reached as far north were united in the fellowship of the Christian Gospel. We believe that at the heart of Christianity is hospitality and unity in diversity which is the acceptable face of the UK. That is why I have this week sent a synopsis of my new book 'Aidan of Ireland: Irish Flame warms a new world' to the Scottish media. The birthright of Britain includes the Welfare State, which sought to slay the dragons of ignorance, po verty disease, homelessness and greed. Characteristics of the British which are noted worldwide are its freedom, politeness (think of queues), humour and tolerance

Unionists need to know why nationalists feel so deeply. They want to live in a country where all citizens share a sense of common worth, and not be pawns of a distant government whose policy puts wealth for the London elite before communal well-being. They loathe the existing 'democratic deficit' whereby voters outside Scotland elect Governments whose policies very few Scots voted for. They want the power to raise and spend taxes on their health service. They have a passion and they want to be empowered

Maximum Devolution, which is now promised whatever the result, will in fact give Scotland that power. But only if a separate legislature for England is established will we avoid English M.P's voting on Scotland's home affairs. The issue of how to turn a nation into a community where the gap between the richest and the poorest is not so big that it creates ghettoes cannot be solved by any government overnight. I explore this challenge in my book 'The Cowshed Revolution'. An independent government will have to balance its books and therefore retain its credibility with its wealth investors. It may even have to reduce spending on some social projects. And because power corrupts there is no guarantee that an Edinburgh Government will be immune from the egotism and selfishness that Scots impute to the Westminster Government.

These truths indicate that all people need to see the Referendum as the beginning, not the end, of a ceaseless process. Christians call this process the building of the Kingdom of God. It is time for 'Christians Together in Britain and Ireland' to set up agencies that give teeth to their objects. It is time for the 'Council of the Isles', whose office is in Edinburgh, to attend to the on-going reconciliation process between all parts of Britain and Ireland, and to explore the fresh infrastructures that are needed to create maximum well-being of all its parts.

And the Community of Aidan and Hilda, tiny as it is, has a contribution to make. Its 'founding saints' gave their lives for English, Irish, Scots and Welsh to serve one another and seek the common good, and we seek to do the same.<>

Posted at 01:08am on 8th September 2014
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