General Assembly lauded as ‘model of debate’

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was lauded as a ‘model of debate’ following yesterday’s historic discussion on the independence referendum.

700 people, including members of the public, packed into the hall to take part in a respectful dialogue which demonstrated the Church of Scotland’s long-standing tradition of staging events of national significance.

The Times newspaper ran with the headline ‘General Assembly leads the way with a 'model of debate’ while the Herald described the Church of Scotland’s approach as ‘groundbreaking’.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander put forward his case for the Better Together campaign.

He said that “unity was a strength when tackling poverty” and that a ‘yes’ vote would “represent a defeat for progressive ideals”.

Rev Dr Doug Gay, representing the Yes campaign, told the Assembly: “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 of reform it so badly needs to make”.

Rt Rev John Chalmers, who chaired the debate, told commissioners at the end: “As you go back to your parishes and committees in the run-up to this referendum you may want to hold respectful dialogue in your own place.

“Find the local contributors, place before them the ground rules that will allow this dialogue to happen, so people will begin to know why they feel differently to this issue and why they need to work hard to ensure that on the day after the referendum there is no ‘us and them’, only ‘we’ and ‘us’.

Contributions from the floor included Rev Scott Rennie, who said: “I don’t think an independent Scotland can really deliver the quality in social equality that we really want to see”.

The Very Rev Lorna Hood said: “I would like some sort of assurance about the future of not only our national church but of religious groups in Scotland.”