Cathedral canon crowdfunding legal action against Scotland's lockdown restrictions on places of worship

Canon Thomas White

A cathedral canon in Glasgow has launched a crowdfunding appeal to support legal action against the Scottish Government's decision to close places of worship during the lockdown. 

Scotland went into another lockdown earlier this week and differs from that imposed in England by forcing places of worship to suspend in-person gatherings. 

Thomas White, Canon of St Andrew's Cathedral, is seeking to raise £50,000 to support his challenge.

He said the suspension "impacts significantly" on the right to worship as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. 

"The purpose of these funds is to receive Queen's Counsel on the draft of legislation which seeks to impinge on our liberties and furthermore seek to achieve a judicial review of the current regulations which seem to have very little regard for the rights of freedom of worship and family life," he said. 

The launch of his appeal follows a strongly worded statement by Catholic bishops in Scotland condemning the decision to close churches. 

The bishops said there was "no evidence" to treat churches as sources of injection. 

"Without such scientific evidence these restrictions will appear to Catholics to be arbitrary and unfair. Moreover, significant number of other sectors similarly restricted last March alongside public worship – such as construction, manufacturing and elite sports - have now been left free to continue in operation," they said.

"We also note that, in England, the essential contribution of public worship to the spiritual welfare of all citizens during this crisis has now been endorsed by the decision not to close places of worship while the Scottish Government has apparently retreated from this view, causing dismay and confusion."

Public policy group Christian Concern said this week it was considering taking legal action against the closure of churches in Scotland.

"Churches throughout the UK have demonstrated their responsibility – and indeed their safety – throughout the pandemic," it said.

"It is right that church leaders continue to be trusted to decide if and how to meet, given their local circumstances and the needs of their members."