Church of Scotland: 'We are neutral on independence'

(PA)

The Kirk has reconfirmed its neutral stance regarding Scottish independence.

Rt Rev John Chalmers, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, has issued a statement in which he notes that there is a "broad range of views" among both members and ministers, but "the 2014 General Assembly...decided almost unanimously to remain neutral on the issue of independence for Scotland."

A pro-independence statement was recently signed by 34 serving and retired ministers of the Kirk, who argued that "a yes vote in the forthcoming referendum makes possible a more socially just Scotland."

One reason put forward for independence was that the Scottish Government's White paper promises to expel Trident, the UK's nuclear deterrent in Scottish waters, by 2020, should the referendum receive a yes vote.

Trident's presence on the Clyde is contested by many Scots.

"The worst thing in Scotland is Trident. September 18 is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to remove the worst thing in Scotland," Rt Rev Andrew McLellan said.

"Speaking against nuclear weapons is good, campaigning against nuclear weapons is good, and praying for their abolition is good.

"But what will change everything is voting 'Yes' in the referendum. Living in a Scotland free of nuclear weapons will make everything else better."

Despite this statement, Chalmers contends that the ministers who signed the pro-independence statement represent only a small proportion of the Kirk.

"There are 794 serving ministers and 1050 retired ministers, a total of 1844, so approximately 1.8% signed this statement as is their right," he said.

"The Church is as keen as ever to encourage wide debate and discussion on the issues which matter - social justice, poverty, education, peace."

Ahead of the referendum on September 18, the Church of Scotland is to hold a 'respectful dialogue' on September 3 in Glasgow, which will be streamed to audiences around Scotland to allow further discussion of the issues.

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