Next Church of Scotland Moderator inspired in mental health work by Frightened Rabbit frontman's death

Dr Martin Fair will take up his new role next May

The next Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has been announced today as the Rev Dr Martin Fair.

The 55-year-old is minister of St Andrews Parish Church in Arbroath, Angus, where he and the congregation were inspired to start running suicide prevention services following the death last year of Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchinson. 

Dr Fair, who will take up the role next May, said Frightened Rabbit was one of his favourite bands and that he had been "devastated" by news of Hutchinson's death.

He was moved to launch three new services St Andrews as part of the congregation's social action project, Havilah, earlier this year. 

Havilah was set up in 2006 and worked predominantly to help addicts.  In the wake of Hutchinson's death, the services were widened to offer more mental health support with the rollout of a community choir, a therapeutic garden and a drop-in service. 

The additional services have been designed by six members of the congregation – three mental health professionals and three people who have struggled with their own mental health.

Dr Fair, 55, who has been minister of the church since 1992, said faith groups had an "obligation" to fill in the gaps in drug addiction and mental health services because statutory provision was falling "desperately short" of the level needed.

"Suicide is a horrendous endemic problem and we decided, as a church, that we had to do something," he said. 

"I have buried too many people who have taken their own lives over the years because they felt alone and helpless in the darkness which many think is their only friend.

"I am a big fan of Frightened Rabbit and was absolutely devastated by Scott's death. When his body was found something snapped within me and I decided that I could not go on merely saying 'isn't it terrible' every time someone took their own life."

Dr Fair will be the first Moderator from Arbroath to serve in the role of Moderator during what will be the 700th anniversary year of the Declaration of Arbroath.

He continued: "The statutory provision to support people with drug additions and mental health is desperately short in terms of what is needed to address the epidemic.

"There must be much more investment in mental health services to address gaps in provision which includes a shortage of practitioners.

"I am not knocking the providers of mental health services - they are doing their best to support people but they are so stretched.

"Churches and the wider voluntary sector have an obligation to step in and fill the gaps until they are able to access the appropriate services."