Scottish Government ordered to pay additional costs over church closures

Rev Dr William Philip, leader of The Tron Church in Glasgow (pictured), was one of 27 Christian leaders to successfully challenge church closures during the lockdown in Scotland earlier this year.(Photo: Facebook/The Tron Church)

The Scottish Government has been ordered to pay additional costs after it lost a court case on church closures during lockdown.

Rules in Scotland earlier this year were much stricter than elsewhere in the UK, criminalising church gatherings in person. 

The measures were successfully challenged by 27 church leaders when Lord Braid ruled that it was not for the Scottish Government to dictate to churches that worship must be conducted online. 

Overturning the restrictions with immediate effect, he said, "That might be an alternative to worship but it is not worship.

"At very best for the respondents, in modern parlance, it is worship-lite," he said, adding that the churches were being "effectively prevented from practising or manifesting their religion, however many broadcasts or internet platforms may exist."

Following the historic ruling in March, the Scottish Government has now been ordered to pay 50 per cent additional costs. 

Lord Braid, at the Edinburgh Court of Session, ruled that: "In all the circumstances, having regard to the increased responsibility undertaken by the solicitor in relation to the heads identified above, I have determined that an appropriate percentage increase is one of 50 per cent and I will so order."

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which supported the church leaders in their court action, said, "I am delighted to see the skill and expertise that went into the case recognised once more.

"This decision is a timely reminder that governments may not impose excessive or unnecessary restrictions on churches.

"I hope that politicians around the UK will remember this as they consider lifting remaining restrictions and prohibitive guidance."