Dear First Minister,
Forgive me for writing you this open letter. I know you are a busy man and probably won't read it, but it's worth a try. I write as someone who admires much of what you have done for my country and who has no time for your detractors. I have no interest in those who mock your physique, voice or perceived arrogance. I think you are one of the most able politicians that Britain has seen for many decades. For example your recent appearance on the Call Kaye show on BBC Radio Scotland, answering calmly and clearly questions and abuse from the public, was a masterpiece. The Scottish Parliament has been a great success and overall I think you and the SNP have governed Scotland well. Indeed that is why an independent Scotland is even a possibility. The Scottish people have seen for ourselves that we can govern ourselves. For that you deserve great credit. A combination of populist policies (removing bridge tolls, student fees and prescription charges), good management and a reliable team of government ministers, has created a 'feel better' factor and confidence in today's Scotland. I write also as someone who in principle supports Scottish independence. I have spoken at debates in favour of independence and have argued that it's time for the United Kingdom to end. And yet, the reason that I am writing to you is that, in Scots parlance, I am beginning to 'hae ma doots'! Why?
It's not because I am getting cold feet about economics – I don't doubt that Scotland can pay and earn its own way. And I don't really care if I am £500 worse off or £500 better off. I still believe that we could have a more socially just system if we were independent of London control, and it doesn't really bother me too much if we use the pound, the euro or the new Scottish groat! I will be glad to be rid of Trident, the dependency culture and being involved in ill thought out and meaningless wars. I will be sorry to lose the United Kingdom which I fear is past its sell by date but I don't really fear that the English part of me and my family will be alienated from the Scottish. No – my doubts have come from an entirely different source – your more recent statements and actions. Allow me to explain.
I don't doubt your leadership and political acumen. I don't accept the caricature of you as some kind of standing in the wings dictator. I don't question your ability to govern, but I do question the basis on which you govern and will govern. What are your principles? What are your values? What do you base everything on? I know that there are many who will say that we are voting for the principle of independence, and that it is not a personal vote about or for you. But we are not voting in a vacuum and my primary concern is not with nationalism, but with how we can have a fairer and more just society. And there is the rub.
You use all the right words. But I want to know what you mean by them. I know you want us to live in a more socially just, equal and sustainable society. I guess that David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg would say exactly the same thing. But to me the words are just words unless you give them content. My fear is that they are code for a more centralised tax and control government, 'equality' of sexuality only, and a green agenda that militates against social justice because it results in wealth being translated from the poor to the wealthy. I was intrigued that small militant secularist groups like the Scottish Secular Society, atheist fundamentalists like Richard Dawkins and Queer theory proponents like Peter Tatchell have all come out in support of Scottish independence. Why? Their dream is of a secular nirvana where humans live together in peace and harmony, have sex without consequences whenever they want, are freed from the constraints of a patriarchal 'traditional marriage' society, live in a carbon neutral environment and the seas are made of lemonade and the lochs of whiskey! In other words they want to destroy Scotland's Christian heritage, which they either deny, or regard as a hindrance to the central tenet of their faith, the inevitable goodness and progress of humanity.
I don't particularly mind about these groups. They are tiny, somewhat imbalanced and often have such extremist views that it is hard to take them seriously. And yet you seem to have sidelined those in your party and government who would hold to a more rational Christian view of society and instead bought wholesale into the secular humanist faith agenda. It of course suits the chattering metro-elites who like to think of themselves as the good, deserving and progressive, and will guarantee you several good column inches. But as a philosophy of government it is disastrous.
Why do you fund the self-styled 'equality' network to lobby the government to do what you are going to do anyway? Why did you fund 'Rainbow house' during the Commonwealth games? You flew the 'Rainbow flag' over government house and other buildings. I wanted to thank you for flying a Christian symbol (and the Solas logo), but of course this has now been taken on as the symbol of the gay rights movement. Peter Tatchell could hardly contain his glee at your acquiescence to every one of his demands. "Whatever people think about Alex Salmond and the push for Scottish independence, his statement and actions are the most forthright and supportive on LGBTI equality by any leader of any host nation during a major international sporting event. Neither David Cameron nor Boris Johnson did anything similar during the London Olympics. This is a unique, unprecedented initiative for which Alex Salmond and the Scottish government deserve full credit and commendation."
Why does this matter? Perhaps this was just a cheap populist gesture that costs you really nothing...unlike real economic and social equality that is so hard to get? But you do realise what Queer theory teaches and what its chief exponents want? In a fascinating article published last month Mr Tatchell makes his intentions clear – after pointing out that identity of sexuality is as much determined by cultural as well as biological factors he states: "Homosexuality as a separate, exclusive orientation and identity will begin to fade (so will its mirror opposite, heterosexuality), as humanity evolves into a sexually enlightened and accepting society. The vast majority of people will be open to the possibility of both opposite-sex and same-sex desires, even if they don't necessarily physically express them. Moreover, they won't feel the need to label themselves (or others) as gay or straight. In a non-homophobic culture, no one will care who loves who. That's true queer liberation." The next step for Mr Tatchell and the 'Queer Liberation' movement is to influence the culture so that more people will become 'sexually liberated' (and available). Do you realise that this is what you are endorsing?
Lets take another example of an ill thought out attitude. Your minister for external affairs, Humza Yousaf announced that £500,000 would be made available for humanitarian efforts in Gaza and that the services of the NHS would be made available for the injured in Gaza. What a wonderful idea. I was just wondering if I missed the announcements about helping the Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, or the Muslims and Christians in Syria, or the Jews in Israel under rocket bombardment? What about those injured in the war in Sudan, or the Muslim attacks on Christians in Nigeria? In other words what is it about this particular situation that causes you to immediately announce aid? Could it be that this is just another one of those cause celebres for the right-on politically correct liberal left? Forget what it does in Gaza, it sounds good in George Square.
And let me come back to my primary concern, social justice. The wealthy metro elites are able to congratulate themselves about how 'equal' they are because they support same sex marriage, conveniently ignoring the real inequalities that exist on their doorsteps (or at least in the housing estates of those not too far, but far enough, from their doorstep). Likewise they are able to boast about how they care for the planet because it doesn't hurt them too much to pay green taxes on airfares and subsidising windmill farms. So how does it help create a more just society to take money from the bank accounts of the poor (who have to buy gas and electricity) and use it to subsidise wealthy landowners?
So can you help me in my confusion? What kind of Scotland will an independent Scotland be? What will be its foundation? Will it be a series of populist measures, based upon an untried, fanciful secular humanist system that totally ignores Scotland's Christian foundation? Or will you forget all the gesture politics, meaningless language and instead give us some social justice, education, health care, housing, etc? Are you seeking to remove Christianity from the public square? Can you tell me how you hope to have the fruits of Christianity without the roots?
Over 50 per cent of people in Scotland profess to be Christian. So why do you appear to be keen to throw out our Scottish Christian heritage? I will probably still vote for independence because I am not sure that 'Christian Britain' exists any more. But many others who share my faith in Jesus will be very reluctant to cast away what remains of Christian Britain to enter the surreal world of secular Scotland. Can you reassure us that there is a place for Christianity (other than in the museum) in the new Scotland? I look forward to hearing your answer.
David Robertson, Free Church minister in Dundee and director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity.