Christian opposition to independence
Publication Date: 2012-02-03
Fledgling political party coming to Scotland opposes Scottish Government’s flagship campaign
THE Scottish Government’s campaign for independence was dealt a blow this week with the announcement that the new Christian democratic political party coming to Scotland opposes it.
Michael Elmer, leader of the Centre Democrats in England and Wales, was in Scotland last weekend to meet with leading Scottish Catholics and Christians—including internationally renowned composer James MacMillan—to discuss working to launch the Scottish Centre Democrats in the autumn.
“There needs to be a party for those who embrace Christian values and are willing to claim the centre ground: In economic terms those who reject both planned economies and naked capitalism,” Mr Elmer told the SCO. “I think Scottish voters will be interested in a party that is pro-life in the broadest sense—against poverty and the death penalty as well as abortion—and against independence.”
Christian democrats roots
Mr Elmer, a former academic and diplomat, set up the Centre Democrats three years ago, after a spilt with the Christian People’s Alliance Party. At that time, his party had a fraternal relationship with the Scottish-based Christian Democrats led by the late Teresa Smith. After her death, her organisation was wound up but the Centre Democrats went on to contest council elections in England, with a measure of success.
Mr Elmer is now working to ensure that Christian democratic ideals are moved forward in Scotland.
“I want people in Scotland to get involved and take the party forward, in the Christian democratic tradition that has been successful across Europe,” he said. “What we have seen is that Christians who are members of the main political parties here have found their views crowded out.”
Mr Elmer explained that a key plank of the Centre Democrats would be that of subsidiarity. He said that devolving power to local level was feasible, but he rejected independence.
“I love Scotland, and I am aware I am not a Scot, but as a Catholic there is something in nationalism, a ‘my country first’ element, that I think is not entirely compatible with the universal nature of Catholicism,” he said.
Grass roots support
James MacMillan told the SCO that he would be delighted to join the fledgling party when it is formally founded in autumn. While he had no intention of running for political office, the composer said he would help the party in any way he could.
“As a musician I have a career and a life to lead and I am not a party political person,” he said. “But if I can help this party, facilitate things, raise awareness with any small weight my name has I am very happy to help.”
He added that he hoped the Centre Democrats would return Scotland’s political focus to ‘the more important things in society, like the plight of the disadvantaged who have been completely forgotten with all the focus on referendums.’
“I think there has been a great disillusionment in this country, with the lack of conviction in our politicians, with [Tony] Blair and his focus groups following the money and [David] Cameron’s ditching of core moral truths and values,” he said. “I think there is a vacuum in the centre ground of politics for a new party that would appeal to many ex-Labour voters, not just Catholics.
“So I think there is a place for conviction politicians in the centre ground who will recognise that marriage and the family are the core bedrock of our society.”
John Deighan, the parliamentary officer for the Scottish bishops, said he believed this new party could have a positive impact on Scottish political life.
“The Church believes that Catholics should find politics to suit them within the framework of the values of the Church,” he said. “However in Scotland we do have a desperate need for an articulate presentation of social values on a spectrum of issues, life and the family in particular.
“In our present climate I would not underestimate the challenge they would have to make a significant breakthrough,” Mr Deighan added. “But I hope their efforts can improve the level of debate we have on important issues, which are examined only superficially by all the major parties.”
The Scottish National Party’s campaign ahead of the 2014 referendum on independence suffered another setback this week when Catholic businesswoman Michelle Mone said she would leave the country if it voted to become independent of the union.
“I will move my business and I will move personally,” she said. “I don’t think we can survive on our own and I think it would be really bad for business. Everything would go up and I really don’t think we need it at the moment.
“I am so passionate for Scotland but I have to say that if we do become independent, I will move,” Ms Mone added. “I love Scotland but, under independence, I would have no choice.”
Pic: Paul McSherry