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Friday, 20 September 2013

The consecration of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Edinburgh and the Scottish independence referendum

The timing of the consecration of the new incumbent Roman Catholic Archbishop of Edinburgh and St Andrews on Saturday 21 September in Edinburgh, sandwiched between the SNP Scottish Government's promotion of independence in a debate in the Scottish Parliament and a pro-independence rally in the same city on the day following the religious service, can be no accident. The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland appears to be indicating sympathy for a 'yes' vote in the independence referendum in a year's time.

At a time when a substantial number of citizens in Scotland are thus calling into question many aspects of the UK union to which the majority of Scots have assented for over three centuries then it would also seem also appropriate to challenge aspects of the prevailing religious settlement which privilege the Roman Catholic Church whether in an independent Scotland or within a continuing UK.

The scandal over the retirement and enforced exile of the previous incumbent and the appointment of his successor highlights that fact that bishops and Archbishops of the Church of Rome are appointed by the Vatican. They are agents of a foreign multi-national organisation headquartered in Rome and are subject to its discipline and dependent on it for their future career and personal well being. The ultimate loyalty of the leaders of that Church, but not the ordinary Roman Catholic Scottish citizen, lies beyond the boundaries of Scotland. It is thus understandable that some states at some times have not allowed Rome to appoint the bishops of the Church in their countries.

There is, then, a need to ask whether the apparent support of the Church of Rome for Scottish independence does not conceal a desire to expand its influence in a possibly independent Scotland beyond its current control of a large multi-million pound chunk of the current Scottish education budget which the Scottish Government and Parliament currently grants to it.

The issues surrounding the appointment of the new Archbishop make it clearer as to why UK laws require a new sovereign, according to the Accession Declaration Act of 1910, to repudiate, before Parliament, the doctrines and authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Church is governed by a foreign power and citizens in determining their vote in the referendum in a year's time will need to bear in mind the possible implications of the result for the power and influence of this Church in the future life and government of Scotland.