Scottish independence: Church and Government must work together

PAScottish First Minister Alex Salmond and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon walk past a sign showing the date for the Scottish independence referendum outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

With the possibility of independence for the nation on the horizon, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has highlighted the key role the Church will continue to play in Scotland's future.

The Right Reverend Lorna Hood has spoken out to establish the Church's position following the release of the Scottish Government's white paper on independence, saying: "We seek to walk together - we need to work in partnership."

It follows the release of a separate statement by the Free Church of Scotland expressing disappointment that the document does not fully recognise the vital role that Christians play in Scottish society, and the possible future impact that the policies proposed in the document could have on the life of the Church.

"Our initial concern would be...the role of the Church to organise her own affairs and indeed the wider place of Christianity in the public square," a spokesman for the Free Church said.

The Free Church also made clear in its statement that it could not support a secular state that "refuses to recognise the leadership of Jesus Christ".

Mrs Hood, however, has assured that the Church of Scotland hopes to work with the Government with the mutual aim of protecting the poor and creating a fairer society.

Giving an address in London, she said: "As a national Church along with other faith communities we must be there for Scotland during this time. We need to demonstrate that we are caring, compassionate and inclusive. In this pastoral role we can help towards reconciliation and the journey towards wholeness once more."

She reminded her audience, which included host and HM Advocate General for Scotland Lord Wallace of Tankerness, that the Church of Scotland plays an important pastoral role in caring for vulnerable people as one of the largest independent care agencies in the country.

"The reality is we are present in every part of Scotland, in the varied situations and problems of every area of life," she said, before noting that the Church is often the only organisation willing to work for change in some of Scotland's most deprived areas.

"We simply see that as part of our service, our commitment to the poor, conscious of a gospel bias towards the poor," she said.

The focus of her message was the necessity of a partnership between the Church and Government in Scotland, saying they both "have the good of Scotland, the common weal at heart".

She was also keen to underline that each have the same aim - to create a just and fair society.

"The end goals are the same...but we may differ from our different perspectives and even political standpoints as to how we achieve that," she said.

"We do not seek to change one another's positions, but surely we seek to walk together - we need to work in partnership."

The vote on independence will take place on 18 September 2014.