A Snapshot of Scotland at Election Time
The following pictures were taken in Edinburgh - Scotland's capital city - just before the General Election of 2010 which will usher in a new UK government. The 'snap shots' might give some idea of 'where we are at' in Scotland as we enter the second decade of the 21st century.
Though the castle stands steadfast on a rock, the stability of the Scottish nation is much less secure.
Edinburgh is Scotland's capital city and is the home of the Scottish Parliament which was formed in 1999. On that occasion, Dr. Winifred Ewing, a staunch nationalist and 'mother of the house' declared: 'The Scottish parliament, adjourned on 25th March 1707, is hereby reconvened'. The reference to1707 relates to the formalisation of the Act of Union in that year, whereby the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland were united to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Part of the background to the Act of Union was the prior Act of Settlement in 1701 which stipulated that none other than a Protestant monarch would rule over the nation(s). (A post-Reformation Scotland would never have otherwise agreed to the Union.)
The present Labour Government has declared its intention to abolish the Act. And this aim would find strong support, for a variety of different reasons, from the Roman Catholic Church, the Liberal Party, the Scottish National Party, the human rights lobby and the Muslim community within Scotland. Although the Conservative Party would oppose any such moves on the grounds of that Party's commitment to the Union between Scotland and England, the Conservatives have no great representation in Scotland. So within the country, it would be difficult to find any grouping that would stand against a repeal of the Act.
The exception would be Bible-believing Protestants in the historic Protestant denominations who would regard the prospect of a Roman Catholic monarch as a reversal of the 16th-century Reformation. (As the new churches which came into being in the middle of the 20th-century have no 'history' dating back to the Reformation and have no real influence or locus in Scottish Establishment circles or public life, these churches would probably not much care at all about the abolition of the Act. And even if they did they have no really hold on the constitutional and institutional levers of power.)
The European Union would also want to see the Act of Settlement repealed as removal of the Act would further weaken the Scottish/English link as part of the EU's aim to create a 'Europe of the regions' where historical nationalities are dissolved into a greater European superstate. Additionally this historic legislation is conveniently contrary to the human rights agenda ('why should a Catholic be dis-barred from becoming Sovereign?').
Edinburgh's new tramcars
A stalled streetcar venture in Edinburgh and the prospect of a hung parliament in Westminster.
The work to re-introduce a tramcar system into Edinburgh has caused massive disruption to the city's traffic flows. The project was birthed while the Scottish Government was controlled by the Labour Party, and few in Edinburgh can be found who can explain the reasoning behind this massive capital expenditure. (Edinburgh already has a very efficient public transport system based on buses.)
In truth it was probably a 'prestige' venture (Edinburgh has a historic rival in Glasgow: the latter being served by both overground road/rail network and an underground railway).
When the Scottish Nationalists gained power they wanted to halt the project, but were unable to do so as it had progressed to a contractural stage.
The scheme has been blighted, down-sized, seriously delayed, and crippled by a massive cost over-run; and while the new trams – from a technical standpoint – should be able to run by 2012, they might be prevented from doing so unless other substantial issues are resolved by that time.
The stop-start nature of this capital-intensive venture starkly illustrates the problems surrounding rapid changes in political power and attendant policy decisions. The forthcoming General Election is predicted to produce a hung-parliament with no party having an overall majority. So as a nation that is in desperate need of a stable set of policies to guide it out of the very serious current problems, the UK is facing the prospect of a lack of clear, decisive and authorative leadership.
The scandal of MP's expenses which dominated much of 2009 has created a climate of disillusionment and distrust amongst the electorate, and a fertile environment for smaller parties, new parties and independent candidates.
In the Highlands and Islands there is a Christian businessman standing in the (West coast) Hebrides and a local doctor standing for the Scottish Christian Party in the (East coast) Inverness area.
Former headquarters of the Bank of Scotland
An international city, a multi-cultural nation with weakened historic churches. A humbled institution in a still-proud but weakened nation
The building above dominates an area of Edinburgh called 'The Mound' and forms a significant part of the Edinburgh sky-line from both Princess Street and the Royal Mile. The Bank of Scotand (merged with the Halifax Building Society) was - along with the Royal Bank of Scotland - one of the most respected and stable instituions in Scotland. However, although the Saltire still flutters from the flagpoles, the other flags denote that the once-proud Bank of Scotand is now just part of the English-based Lloyds TSB Group.
The banking fiasco exposed the greed and pride which underlaid the 'grab for growth' through reckless lending
, and the collapse of Scotland's financial institutions
destroyed the reputations for prudence and integrity of not just the banking supremos and their institutions, but also that of the nation itself.Kurds and Kilts
Scotland's capital is a city comfortable with a blend of nationalities. And of course the Edinburgh International Arts Festival illustrates and sustains this perception and fact. However behind the sign-posting to lunch-time visitors on the Royal Mile, sits a church which has been converted into a restaurant. Indeed many of Edinburgh's historic church buildings are now no longer used for Christian purposes. And the Christian witness into the life of the nation has been much weakened by the continuous and continuing succession of split, schism and succession within the mainline Protestant denominations.
Currently the Church of Scotland (though not just the C of S) is riven over the matter of gay clergy, whilst the Free Church of Scotland (which divided in 2000) is still in tension over conservative/reform issues. These and the other traditional denominations are also suffering from an ageing membership. There are notable exceptions, but most of the growth in Christian commitment is found within the new churches which came into being in the latter half of the 20th century.
Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church which has been both vocal and influential on many public policy, social and legislative issues has, in a year which will see the Pope pay a visit to Scotland, been hugely discredited by clergy sex-abuse scandals. (It is somewhat ironic that the Pontiff's immediate predecessor deemed Scotland 'a spiritual wasteland.')
The Church of Scotland's St. Giles Cathedral in the Royal Mile
A national church in confusion and apostasy
The Kirk, as the national Church of Scotland is (mainly) affectionately known is in turmoil over the matter of gay clergy. A Special Commission was tasked at the 2009 General Assembly to consult over a 2-year period and report back to the 2011 General Assembly with its findings. Meanwhile a 'gagging order' has been imposed on all within the C of S regarding public comment.
The situation pertaining as the 2010 Assembly approaches is of a national church which is divided, confused, vacillating, impotent and silent.
The bookshop in the historic and iconic St. Giles cathedral in Edinburgh sells books on the Reformation hero John Knox , masonic shrines, neo-paganism and New Age beliefs. This cameo is indicative of the Church of Scotland as a whole. Belief, unbelief and new beliefs sit side-by-side within the one religious institution.
Gaelic maybe; Arabic and Urdu certainly
The languages on an Edinburgh newstand speak messages of and to the nation
lncreasingly Scotland, like other western nations has become home to a growing Asian/Muslim population. At the heart of Edinburgh a new, elegant and imposing mosque has been built alongside a large and traditional Christian church. The Edinburgh Central Mosque and Islamic Centre was opened in 1998. Since then a book entitled 'The Thistle and the Crescent' written by Bashir Maan, a Muslim grandee and politician, carries a Foreword by the leader of the Scottish National Party and Scotland's First Minister, Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond MSP.
At the time of the financial collapse of the banking sector, Alex Salmond was one of the first on a plane to the oil-rich Arab nations. Muslim sovereign wealth funds will undoubtably come with strings attached. As Rothschild famously stated: "Give me control of a nation's money supply, and I care not who makes the laws." The SNP strapline of 'Independence within Europe' has always been seen as an oxymoron; with a country in massive debt to foreign nations, the notion of Scottish independence is reduced to deluded mythology.
The 'Rights' issue
The above sign on Edinburgh city buses is indicative of the increasing violence which is largely a product of the breakdown of traditional values and family structures, and the attendant levels of alcohol consumption and drug use. It is very sad that such notices need to be displayed in public transport vehicles.
However, whilst ostensibly protecting vulnerable individuals and minority groups, the EU-sponsored and essentially-atheistic human rights movement and emerging 'rights' legislation is, in reality, a wolf in sheep's clothing. The ethos of the current legal, political and media establishments is to suppress indigenous culture, deride tradition, attack freedom of speech and denounce historic Christian belief. Those who oppose the Christian message are using new laws to suppress the preaching of the Gospel. A short time ago a street preacher in Glasgow was arrested, locked up and fined for proclaiming Christ in that city. Yet the motto of Scotland's largest city proclaims: "Lord let Glasgow flourish through the preaching of thy word and praising thy name."
An unpalable political menu
As the Scottish electorate heads for the polling booths this week, many Christian voters feel that they are faced with a range of differing but essentially unpalatable alternatives. And there is also an increasing awareness that the extent of the financial problems facing the UK have been concealed from the general public by all of the parties in the run-up to 6 May.
Yet it is precisely in situations of apparent hopeless that God's power glory can be manifest.
In his day King Jehoshaphat stood at the head of a nation faced with seemingly insuperable odds. So too with us in Scotland today. No change in public policy, fiscal regime, social action, political party or process is capable of bringing the relief that our nation sorely needs, or averting the dangers that we are presently facing.
But we stand in the prescence of an Almighty God with Jehoshaphat's words on our lips.
We know that ultimately the 'giants' faced by Judah's king then and Scotland today are ultimately not of 'flesh and blood' but of powers and principalities in the spiritual realm (cf Eph 6:11). And against the 'army' of issues presenting, we have no more power to fight these forces now than Jehoshaphat had back then. However while the nature of the enemy is always the same, neither has the source of deliverance changed over the centuries:
"For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you" (2 Chron. 20:12).