BY Daniel Harkins | July 18 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

4-GILBERT

Church writes to First Minister seeking assurances that ‘freedom of conscience will be protected within the SNP’

The Catholic Church has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon seeking reassurances that freedom of conscience will be protected within the SNP.

The letter comes after Dr Lisa Cameron, the SNP MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, endured days of abuse after she voted against an amendment at Westminster to introduce abortion to Northern Ireland.

Dr Cameron said that since the vote, local party members, including those involved in the process of selecting candidates, had called for her to be sacked as an MP and barred from standing in future.

Today, July 18, Bishop Hugh Gilbert, president of the Bishops Conference, wrote that Dr Cameron ‘has been subject to a significant degree of hostility from many quarters, including ordinary members and officer bearers of the Scottish National Party.’

Referring to the lack of support for Dr Cameron from the SNP and her comments about pro-life views seemingly being ‘incompatible with being an SNP candidate,’ he wrote: “I therefore am writing to you as leader of the Scottish National Party to seek such a public re-assurance.

“I believe I write on behalf of all who cherish freedom of conscience within the public square and hold in high regard those in public life who remain true to their conscience, even at the expense of personal popularity or political advantage.”

In a previously released statement, an SNP spokesperson said: “As has been longstanding practice in the SNP, votes on this issue are conscience votes for elected members, meaning it is entirely up to the individual ­member how they vote.

“No one is failed at assessment because of their religious views. ­Ordinary party members may disagree with the actions of a SNP ­parliamentarian, but they should do so respectfully.”

See tomorrow’s SCO, available in parishes, for an interview with Dr Cameron, and more coverage of the story.

The full letter can be found below.

Dear First Minister,

I write following recent public comments made by Dr Lisa Cameron, SNP Member of Parliament for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow.

On Tuesday 9 July, Dr Cameron voted against an amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill that would have lifted the legal protections presently afforded to the unborn child in Northern Ireland.

It is a long-standing parliamentary convention that votes on such ethical issues are considered matters of conscience and, thus, are not subject to the party whip. Indeed, this was confirmed in writing to Dr Cameron prior to the 9 July vote by the SNP Chief Whip, Patrick Grady MP.

In the days following the vote, however, Dr Cameron has been subject to a significant degree of hostility from many quarters, including ordinary members and officer bearers of the Scottish National Party, some of which she describes as being nothing less than vitriolic in nature. She adds that according to local officials it may now be incompatible to hold pro-life views and be a SNP MP, candidate, to pass vetting or be elected in any capacity.

She further notes that, despite prompting, she has presently received no public re-assurance from the leadership of the SNP that this is not, in fact, the case. I therefore am writing to you as Leader of the Scottish National Party to seek such a public re-assurance.

I believe I write on behalf of all who cherish freedom of conscience within the public square and hold in high regard those in public life who remain true to their conscience, even at the expense of personal popularity or political advantage.

Moral courage is readiness to expose oneself to suffering or inconvenience which does not affect the body, wrote the co-founder of the Scottish National Party, Sir Compton Mackenzie, in 1962, It arises from firmness of moral principle and is independent of the physical constitution.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter First Minister.

I await your reply with anticipation. In the meantime, please be assured of my continued prayers and good wishes.

I am, Yours Sincerely,

Bishop Hugh Gilbert

President
Bishops Conference of Scotland

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