Communities Minister Roseanna Cunningham received warm applause from commissioners after speaking about the place of Christianity in a post-referendum Scotland at the Assembly this morning.
Ms Cunningham brought a copy of the Disruption Annals with her, and gave an informed and constructive address which was well received.
In thanking the Cabinet minister, Free Church Moderator Rev David Miller presented her with a copy of the Bible.
He added that regardless of what happens in September’s vote, the Free Church did not want the Scottish Government to be independent of God’s word.
Ms Cunningham began by assuring commissioners of the Scottish Government’s intention to work with Christian groups across the country, and noted there had been 24 separate meetings with church leaders and senior politicians last year, with 17 already taken place in 2014.
The Communities Minister said the Scottish Government recognised the important role of the Church and the wider Christian community, even if they took a different position on legislative matters.
Ms Cunningham recognised the Christian values of compassion, justice, integrity and respect for education and learning in Scotland today, applauding the “substantial and enduring role of the Christian faith… in making us who we are as a nation”.
She also praised Christian work which was “transforming lives” and “supporting the poorest in communities” citing the work of Bethany Christian Trust, the Road to Recovery programme in Inverness, the Welcome and Bothy projects in Govanhill in Glasgow and the Seeds of Hope initiative in Easter Ross – the latter of which Ms Cunningham said she hoped to visit.
The Communities Minister said that if Christian people and those of other faiths “downtooled” for 24 hours, “a huge amount of seriously important work would come to a grinding halt” across Scotland.
Ms Cunningham said there had been plenty of interest in the idea of a modern written constitution for an independent Scotland, but, citing the Scottish Government White Paper, said there was no change to the role of Christianity.
She added that she welcomed the church’s engagement on the issue, including the four Free Church papers released ahead of the Assembly, and said it was key that people highlighted the values they wished to see underpin an independent Scotland.
The Communities Minister said that Scotland’s “strong commitment” to the European Court of Human Rights would remain in force, and may even be strengthened.
She said the drafting of a new constitution would be an “inclusive process” involving many different groups, and that a constitutional convention would be set up to engage fully in planning for Scotland’s future.
However, Ms Cunningham stressed it would “inconceivable” that the process would not involve Scottish churches.
She added that the Scottish Government will recognise Scotland’s “strong Christian tradition without excluding other faith groups”, and revealed that the 1921 Church of Scotland Act will remain intact.
After concluding with interesting remarks from the Disruption Annals quoting Mr Wood of Elie on a visit to the southern district of Dunfermline, she received warm applause from commissioners.