Scottish shopping centre u-turns on nativity display

A Scottish shopping centre that said it would not host a nativity display because it was 'religiously and politically neutral' has reversed its decision after complaints.

Thistles shopping centre in Stirling, central Scotland, had initially said it would not be changing its mind despite being accused of 'Grinch-like' behaviour by the Scottish Catholic Church.

The Legion of St Mary's Association had asked the shopping centre to place a nativity that would be manned to answer questions shoppers might have about the Christian origins of Christmas.

When the request was turned down, MP for Stirling Stephen Kerr contacted the shopping centre asking it to reconsider.

The Church of Scotland was also critical, accusing the shopping centre - which has hosted a Christmas market since November - of focusing on commercialism.

The Scottish Sun newspaper put additional pressure on the shopping centre by sending two actors to play Mary and Jesus in a live nativity.

It said shoppers at the centre 'loved' the mini nativity, which apparently ended when the actors were 'chucked out by security'.

Now the shopping centre has agreed to let the Legion of St Mary's Association man a nativity for one day only this Sunday.

Explaining its decision, a spokesman for the Thistles told the newspaper: 'We've listened carefully to everyone who contacted us about the installation and have decided to reverse our original decision.'

The Scottish Catholic Church said the shopping centre management was to be 'commended'.

'They have recognised that contemporary Scotland should be a place that both respects and upholds religious liberty in the public square,' a spokesman for the Church said.

The Church of Scotland said it was 'delighted' by the change in policy.