General Assembly has said it is better for Britain to remain part of EU

The Right Rev Dr Angus Morrison at the General Assembly.

Britain's continued membership of the European Union symbolises "real progress and hope" for the future, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has said as he prepares to carry out a range of engagements at the Scottish Parliament this week.

The Right Rev Dr Angus Morrison said the nation would be better off remaining a member state in the face of "enormous international challenges" which meant it was never more important to maintain a broad vision and work across boundaries to tackle the most serious and pressing issues of the day.

He added that he hoped a positive debate which "promoted peace, security and international co-operation" would now take place in the run-up to the referendum on June 23.

Dr Morrison is delivering Time for Reflection in the debating chamber tomorrow and will hold private talks with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, accompanied by National Youth Assembly Moderator Hannah Mary Goodlad, on Thursday – the same day a reception to showcase the work of the Kirk's social care arm, CrossReach, to MSPs is being held.

Issues that will be discussed with the SNP leader include taxation, new powers for Holyrood, the refugee crisis, freedom of religion, mental health and the oil and gas crisis in the north-east. They'll also consider the findings of a Church consultation on ways to make Scotland a fairer country, which drew more than 10,000 responses.

The Moderator will also meet with Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie tomorrow and on Thursday.

Dr Morrison said: "With the date having now been announced for the referendum on membership of the European Union, it will be appropriate to call attention to the Church of Scotland's position on this matter.

"The Church recognises that the decision taken will impact our country and communities for generations to come and we call for a positive debate on the European Union that takes account of its role in promoting peace, security and international cooperation.

"While each individual will reflect and come to their own decision with integrity, the Church of Scotland takes the position that in this time of enormous international challenge, it is better for us as a country to remain within the EU."

Dr Morrison said the General Assembly, the Kirk's highest court, established the policy in 1996.

Commissioners reaffirmed the position in 2002, 2005 and 2014.

A deliverance approved nearly two years ago stated: "Note and reaffirm the deliverances agreed by the General Assembly of 1996 which give thanks for the work of the European Union in promoting peace, security and reconciliation amongst European nations, note that Scotland has been part of the European Union since 1973 and believe that Scotland should continue to be a member; affirm that, whether as an independent nation state or as a part of the United Kingdom it is better for Scotland, Britain and Europe for the United Kingdom to remain in the EU.

Dr Morrison said: "It has never been more important for us to maintain a broad vision and to work internationally and globally, across national boundaries, as together we address the many serious and challenging issues of our time.

"This seems to us the way of real progress and of hope."

Dr Morrison said he was looking forward to his visit and meeting party leaders.

"This will be an excellent opportunity to listen and to learn more about our political institutions and to engage in conversation about significant issues of the day," he added.

"The visit will also provide an opportunity to demonstrate the church's commitment to the political life of the nation."

CrossReach is the biggest third sector social care provider in Scotland and offers more than 70 services including care of the elderly, mental health and drug and alcohol addiction support.

Dr Morrison said: "I am looking forward to hosting a special drop-in event at which MSPs and others will have an opportunity to learn more about the work of CrossReach across Scotland.

"CrossReach deserves to become better known and valued and I very much hope that this event will contribute to that purpose."