Moderator’s annual visit to London

From left to right: David Mundell MP, Liz Chalmers, Rev Philip Majcher, Rt Rev John Chalmers, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, Alistair Carmichael MP, at the Scotland Office

Yesterday the Moderator met with political party leaders in Westminster and also spent time at No 10 Downing Street in conversation with the Prime Minister.

Reflecting on a day of extensive conversations which included sharing some the of Church of Scotland's hopes for Scotland and for the United Kingdom following the referendum the Moderator said to: "There is still some way to go to heal the pain that some people feel following the referendum, but one of the best ways to do this is to find common cause that will address the needs of those who are the most vulnerable and excluded in our society."

This morning the Moderator preached at St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster, and then as the guest of the Secretary of State for Scotland at Dover House was able to offer the following thoughts to a gathering of Scottish MPs and Parliamentarians:

This important annual engagement allows the Church of Scotland to refresh its dynamic relationship with those who represent Scotland's people in Westminster. It is also an opportunity for to bring the greetings of the General Assembly and to assure you that the work you do in Westminster for the common good is remembered in the prayers of the Church of Scotland and it is work which is of great interest and concern to us.

I want to repeat something I said earlier today in the St Mary's Undercroft and that is that I do not subscribe to the idea that people enter public life for self-aggrandisement. The people I know – those of you here – are people who give themselves to public life in order to make a difference and in order to leave the world a better place than they found it. But you don't get much credit for that; instead you get brickbats and criticism for not doing enough.

Today I want to say that when you make decisions which put the right resources into the right hands, then down at the other end of the chain things happen.

  • Young people get the opportunities they deserve
  • Women get protection from abusive relationships
  • Through sport and art and culture and higher education - lives are inspired and changed and society feels the benefit
  • Our older people, whose legacy we enjoy, get the attention and support they deserve

You won't be surprised to hear me say that this is Kingdom work, but then I believe the Kingdom is built of such small stuff, and I just want to encourage you to see what you do at this level as making a difference where people are struggling. And I believe that it is the job of government to make the most difference to those who are struggling the most –

  • Who are queuing up at food banks
  • Who can see no way out the spiral of poverty
  • Who yearn for equal protection under the law
  • Who are fleeing from violence, persecution, threats and fear
  • Who need the education system to believe in them
  • Who are fully loaded with potential, but cannot see how it will be realised
  • Who need to be treated with dignity in illness and old age

I was more than a side-liner at the referendum; I was deeply involved and shared the ear and mind of politicians on all sides. Afterwards I said that the 45% and the 55% need to put 100% effort into shaping the society to which Scotland aspires – a society that addresses the needs of those who have slipped off the radar.

Now the challenge is clear that we need to address these issues across the UK - in Glasgow and Belfast, in the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Skye, in Clackmannanshire and Caernarvonshire, in Oxford and St Andrews and in all points in between. This is bigger than single issue politics and it is bigger than any one party's solutions; it is time to replace politically expedient policies for a way of building long-term strategies.

Lord Smith's report is now eagerly awaited. There is hope that the report will pave the way to an even more caring and more equal society in Scotland and across the United Kingdom - than we live in right now.

Somehow we need to stem the tide that seems always to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, so I hope that those from all of the parties, who have been working with Lord Smith, have found some consensus on a way that can begin to address the systemic ailments from which society is suffering.

Now is not the time for a sticking plaster – now is the time for transformation; in the areas of health, welfare, education, defence and so on; there is a desperate need for our approach to human life and environmental protection to be examined anew, bringing together the best minds and good will of people across agencies, sectors and political parties.

If the referendum has done anything, it has challenged us to look again at the traditional structures of politics and nation, and it has dared us to look for new models that might work better than the present ones.

Lord Smith's report will only be the beginning of this journey, but whatever it proposes, I can assure you that the Church of Scotland will be on that journey, in service to and alongside all the peoples of these islands and our neighbours across the world.