Challenge of a fairer Scotland put to Westminster’s MPs

Scottish MPs have been given an insight into the kind of society that Church of Scotland members would like to live in one day.

Representatives of the Church and Society Council spent last week meeting cross-party politicians at Westminster to discuss ways of improving life for people on the margins.

Convener, Rev Dr Richard Frazer, and Council Secretary, Rev Dr Martin Johnstone, gave informal presentations on the Speak Out project.

Central is a strong core of issues concerned with community spirit and cohesion on the one hand, as well as the more practical aspects of community, such as housing, social security, gender justice, homelessness and the justice system on the other.

Dr Frazer, minister at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, said: “Meeting MPs and hearing their take on issues has been a very worthwhile exercise.

“Scotland is a small country and I think the more we can get to know each other, the more we can recognise the challenges we face together.

“The Council is trying to frame a process that will enable us to contribute towards the kind of society that we want to shape together in the future.

“Sharing that vision with some of our MPs has been incredibly helpful over the course of the last few days.”

Scottish MPs
MPs Peter Grant, Paul Sweeney, Stewart McDonald, Lesley Laird, Alison Thewliss and Carol Monaghan

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, sponsored the Speak Out reception at Portcullis House near the House of Commons.

“It was really helpful to get an idea of the kind of work that the Church and Society Council is doing, and the huge survey and consultation that was carried out is brilliant,” she said.

“To see the key themes that came back from that – supporting young people, fairness, democracy and access to politics etc – was helpful.

“All of these themes are interesting to us as politicians and I am very keen to find different ways that we can work with the Church to support those ideas and take them forward as policies.”


Ms Thewliss said she was impressed by the “brilliant” range of social outreach work undertaken by the Church.

She praised staff and volunteers at The Church House in Bridgeton, Glasgow, a facility in her constituency which supports children and young people.

Ms Thewliss said: “I have seen the huge investment put into that facility which is really welcome.

“It is great to see the commitment to the community and it being used.”

Alistair Carmichael MP and Jamie Stone MP meet the team in Portcullis House.

Britain’s Exit from the European Union (Brexit) is the dominant issue currently debated at Westminster.

Dr Frazer said he got the impression that many MPs felt rather overwhelmed and powerless.

“It is good for people to know that they have not been forgotten and there are things happening in communities that can support some of the important stuff that is perhaps not being done by politicians at the moment because they are so obsessed with issues like Brexit,” he added.

“The Church and Society Council tries to regularly keep in touch with politicians, both in Scotland, Europe and in Westminster.

“The idea is to develop relationships and to look at ways that we, as a Church, can be there.

“Not to hound and criticise politicians, but as a friend and supporter in a non party political way.”

Douglas Ross
Conservative MP Douglas Ross with Dr Frazer and Dr Johnstone

The Church delegation also included Wendy Young and Pauline Edmiston, deputy conveners of the Church and Society Council.

They held talks with representatives from Christian Aid, the Salvation Army and St Martins-in-the-Fields Church which operates social enterprise projects.