This originally was a sermon. However at the end I have had to modify it radically. As it was originally going to be preached the assumption was that people were gong to be called out into the Community to serve the Lord. Things have changed. What is the Word of The Lord?

Let us pray. O God, who sent your word to speak in the prophets and to live in your Son; prepare us to receive your Word written in the Holy Scriptures, incarnate in Christ and spoken by your Spirit within us so that in its truth we may have live and salvation being transfigures in to the kind of people whom we should be to your Glory. Amen

The letter of Paul to the Ephesians, Chapter 5, at verse 8.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

1 Samuel 16:1-13; Ephesians 5:8-14;  John 9:1-41.

A very long, and really quite difficult Gospel reading today. I suppose that the reason why it is not too often read is because the whole story is so long. If we want a miracle story, especially one about a blind person receiving their sight, one might well look at the much shorter story of blind Bartimæus, or the blind man at the pool of Bethsaida. However, the story of the man here in John 9 is only partially about the healing. We have to affirm that healing, and especially the restoration of sight both literally and figuratively is an important part of the ministry of Jesus, but as you will see, when we analyse the story it is an extremely complicated story, which draws in so much, and is much more about the cost of a relationship with Jesus, and thus is a story which actually fits in with the other two readings.

Despite Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s, the Christian martyr killed by the Nazis in April 1945, best known book being called in English “The Cost of discipleship” the cost of discipleship does not figure highly on the thoughts and teachings of many Christians today.

Too often the Church does not make great demands, of faith nor of action on its adherents. I would claim that this  commitment free approach to Christianity is counterproductive. The fact is that the Churches which against the trend of Church shrinkage are growing, are those who are making demands upon their members. Sometimes these demands are appropriate other times they are not, and there is theological disagreement often about what they do, but again there is a life about them, and perhaps open debate about the true demands of the Gospel is preferable to a vague unanimity about very little.  People actually want to know what the real cost of anything is before they commit themselves to it. Christianity does make demands, it is unfair to fail to tell people of the extent of those demands right at the beginning. The positive reason why we have to tell people about the real demands of the faith is because a lot of people are very often drawn to activities which make demands upon them. It doesn’t matter whether this is people going to fitness clubs, or joining something like the TA, what is more and more used as a rallying call are the demands, the challenge and the difficulties.

It seems to me that much of the Church is saying that matters of belief or ethical demands or even matters of personal behaviour don’t matter. Then we wonder why no one thinks of taking us seriously. Clearly we  don’t take ourselves seriously. The mainstream Churches seem to me above everything else to be saying that we don’t have to see the hard demands of the faith; that Christianity can be treated like a hobby, to be picked up and laid down as it suites people.

The eternal fact is however, that following the faith is a long-term commitment, a permanent call, and that above everything else, obeying God can have difficult ramifications both for the person who sees that they are confronted with the demand or instruction of God, and the people who are ministered to by the person with the call from God.

Can you imagine the emotions of Samuel as he saw that everything was not well with Saul?  He had been the one who had been responsible for Saul being anointed king, and now he knew that he had been wrong. Saul was no longer the person whom he had been, and was no longer acting faithfully as King of Israel under God. He had changed from being the servant of God to being a tyrant, with neither him nor his son being prepared to seek to do what God wanted, but merely doing whatever they thought were best. This placed Samuel in a tremendous dilemma. God had rejected Saul.  The question was what was to be done next.

Usually when we look at this story, we are thinking in terms of the call of David, not the worries of Samuel. I want us to focus on  the demand of God that Samuel does something which will expose him to danger. What Samuel is being asked to do is of course treason. Here an alternative king is to be called. Here Samuel is going to have to go and involve someone else in the act of rebellion, and that is exactly what Samuel does. Oh, I know that apart from Samuel’s comment in verse two “But Samuel said, How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.” There is nothing about the danger of the exercise, but the danger is so obvious that anyone who heard the story would have recognised it. Here there is the classic question about the obeying God or humanity.

But we have been thinking exclusively about the traumas of Samuel. In many ways Samuel doesn’t matter, at least not here, his concerns might well be the kind of thing which we would discuss in a seminar for ministers, the important people for us today, are the “innocent bystanders” the BarJessie family. The reaction of the town elders in Bethlehem was panic, they were keen to know if Samuel was coming in peace. Their concern was what was going to be the ramification for the community in the long term.

Today, the passage cuts off before there is any action, suffice it to say that first of all there is David fighting Goliath and working as a musical therapist with an increasingly paranoid Saul, and eventually being engaged in a guerrilla war which only ended when Saul was defeated in a skirmish with the Philistines and which then led into a civil war, ending with the death of Saul, before David was able to reign as the king he had been anointed as those years before.

David had been plucked from obscurity, and called to a job which perhaps he wasn’t that keen on having. However, the man who had been born blind was picked upon almost be random chance. We don’t know why the disciples drew the attention of Jesus to the man born blind. The question they asked was about sin and punishment.

As I said in the introduction to my sermon today, the John 9 passage is difficult. There are so many issues which are raised in the passage that there is a tendency, if we look at the passage at all, is to cut it up into bight sized pieces over several weeks.

The beginning of the story is a question about the nature of evil. How else do you really interpret the question “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” We could spend time on this. This is not the issue of this story. The issue of the story isn’t about some philosophical discussion but the action of the self-proclaimed light of the world giving sight to the man born blind.

Here Jesus uses a mixture of his spittle and the dust of the ground. Here a person, made from the dust of the ground is made whole  with the dust of the ground and the spittle of the God, and after an act of obedience – for that was all that the washing in the pool of Siloam was, he went home seeing.

But the problems of the man who was born blind were only beginning. In the same way that only the morbid curiosity of the disciples had drawn attention to the man who had been born blind, so too the nosiness of the neighbours propelled this mini-saga to its next stage, they went to the authorities.

For a lot of the story the man born blind is interrogated, threatened and eventually excluded from the faith and from his family. Here, in our Gospel reading, as in our Old Testament reading we find that there is a cost of being called by God.

I was tempted to almost do a bible study on the last 6 verses of the reading today, from verse 35 to verse 41. And as this is not a Blog I may well do so.

Here in the final verses of our Gospel reading we are shown that we only know the reality of the action of God by God’s own self-revelation. How much did the man born blind really know until Jesus reappeared to him? Oh yes, he knew that he could see. He was prepared to argue the toss against the Pharisees who wanted to decry what Jesus had done. By definition to the man anyone who gave him his sight was a good person. It was only when Jesus came to him again that the man was able to begin to understand what had happened Jesus was to him no longer a prophet, but the Son of Man. Christ who by his own claim makes the blind see, but who also makes the seeing blind.

Our Gospel reading ends up with Jesus very much being confronted by the religious establishment of his time.

There is a lot if imagery in this whole passage about light and dark, vision and seeing,. In the Bible blindness his often equated with a lack of understanding about the Faith, and this is picked up in the Epistle reading, this whole thing is picked up and developed. This is where we who would profess that we are the people of Christ have to begin to respond in faith. If we are going to accept that we are in the light, then there are demands which are laid upon us. Demands that our behaviour is the kind that we are not ashamed to have examined in the light.

Wherever you are reading this, you are part of the world wide community of faith. Each of us are challenged again and again by this week’s readings. We are challenged by the very nature of what we are called to do. How do we respond to our being in the light? The light that brings a rich harvest of every kind of goodness, righteousness, and truth. Paul tells his readers to try to learn what pleases the Lord. He told them to have nothing to do with the worthless things that people do.

How do we live this out in the Community? What do we do as individual Christians in the context of the Coronavirus where we may have to seek to live out the Faith in isolation?

The idea of isolated Christians is almost a contradiction. Christians live and work in community, sustained in fellowship and fed by the body and blood of Christ.

What do we do not what are the  burdens, and what is the cost which there is chargeable for being faithful to God. The price of living in a society which is indifferent to the demands of the Gospel, and to which we are called to witness. How do we witness in the isolation for the old and ill?

What does it mean when we claim that  we are being called into the light of being the people of God, living lives of goodness, righteousness and truth in service and in obedience to God?

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen


 I was involved in a discussion on Facebook about the Papacy. Realising that Facebook is a ephemeral medium and that one you right it it is difficult t get hold of it I have decided that I will publish some f my longer contributions as a Blog. Here is the first one.
When I was reading Theology at Edinburgh University, one of my fellow students was an Atheist. When in class or tutorial we discussed questions of Praxis, he use to get quite annoyed, as he saw that we were treating our fairy story as if it was real. While he got a First in Dogmatics, I always felt that his belief that theological where deluded, meant that while he was able to look at doctrine down the ages totally objectively, he was unable to really get hold of the nuances of where the faith touched people’s hearts.
Ironically I have subsequently noticed that Atheists (as opposed to non believers) always seem to express their criticism of the Christian Faith in terms of the most basic understanding of the Faith.
The Pope is seeing to do something which the Papacy can’t do, he is making changes in the self understanding of the Roman Catholic Church. This is in many ways a theological understanding. Academic Theology has moved on from many of the dogmas of the Church. Ironically this reflects some of the writings of Francis’ to the more conservative commentators, great predecessor Benedict. I came across some of Ratzinger’s writings in the Vatican Bookshop a couple of years ago, and was surprised at how radical some of it was.
Benedict retired because he realised that there was a sickness in the Roman Church which his background of orthodoxy and orthopraxis could not cure. Knowing that he had no answers and actually being a very great man, he walked away trusting that God would call someone better equipped to lead the Roman Catholic Church than him. Hence either in a move inspired by the Holy Spirit, or a nasty political deal they got Francis who was so different from any Pope in recent History.
However Francis is seeking to act as a Prophet, and the roles of Prophet and Priest are contradictory and mutually exclusive. Something is bound to give.
Given that by definition the Church is centre/right, those who are opposing it from a Conservative position are almost by definition right wing or far right, while those who wish to move it in a less conservative position are merely centre or left. It is only when you get to the radicals, that you get people of the far left.

The recent discussion which there has been about the fate of the 51st Division in June 1940 has been profoundly disheartening.

One of the most distressing things is that people seem to be trying to tie the fate of the 51st Division with Dunkirk. At no time was the 51st within 100 K of Dunkirk, but it is indicative of how what is an essentially British story has been allowed to distort the very different history of a Scottish Unit. Remember that there were still units escaping from France until about 25th June. However, most people don’t know about them. When you think that the Lancastrian was the greatest single maritime disaster – when 5000 people were killed took place on 17th June, you can see that Dunkirk was far from the end of the story.  As far as Scottish Units are concerned, 52 (Lowland) Div. was rescued on 15th 17th June from Cherbourg, from where 31,000 were rescued. (They had initially been landed on 12th June as part of the 2nd Expeditionary Force.) In total, it is thought that in excess of 100,000 were evacuated other than Dunkirk

There are three components to the discussion.

There is the idea that the UK government has treated the Scottish members of the Armed forces less favourably than those for other parts of the UK. That I will not argue. First of all, it is not relevant to this discussion, and if it is true, it is too difficult to prove. A couple of studies which I have seen suggest that there was about a 25% casualty rate among people from the Highlands who joined up in the First World War. However most of them were in Infantry regiments rather than in the Corps and the Infantry regiments had terrible losses, no matter what their national origin is.

There is the idea that the 51st Division was involved in some way with the evacuation of Dunkirk. It wasn’t. This has gone as far as the rewriting of history where it has been claimed that Peter Scott as a sub Ltd was put ashore at Dunkirk and was in tears when 51st Div. could not be rescued. Scott was actually put ashore at St Valéry-en-Caux. From whence some members of the 51st were rescued but the main evacuation was not possible because of fog

There is the idea that 51 Div. was sacrificed in some way at Churchill’s behest because they were Scottish. Doesn’t hold water. I suggest that you read Innes pp35-39 where the story is considered.

It is important to understand this short article, that you look at a map. It is quite difficult to get a map which shows the Maginot Line, to the coast. however look for Metz which is near enough there they were If you do, you will understand that a. Because the 51st had been on the Maginot Line since 15th April as part of the normal rotation of BEF, they were separated from the rest of the BEF which was on the Dyle line. The Luxemburg Border and the Ardennes lay between them and the rest of the BEF, and it was through the Ardennes which General von Rundstedt’s Army Group A drove. This divided 51st From BEF. B. because of the Germans being between 51 Div. and Dunkirk they were not going to be rescued that way. C. they were actually under French orders. Some member of the Div. were on leave in Glasgow on 10th May, as the French gave generous home leave.
There had been some action and patrolling across the line but on 10 May the Germans invaded Belgium and three days later the Division withstood a heavy attack in the area of Grossenwald. To conform with the French the Division was ordered back to the next line of defence. On 20th May the Division was taken out of the line and moved to Étain and Varennes where they learnt that the Germans had broken through the French lines separating them from the rest of the B.E.F.

The portion below is a direct quote of the 51 Div. Website from 4th June

“After a period of indecision, when the next task for the Division was unclear, a 300 mile road and rail move brought the Division to a position overlooking the river Bresle near Abbeville. As the B.E.F. retired on Dunkirk the Division was to fight with the French Army as part of the French IX Corps and initially to hold a line north west of Abbeville to the coast. The Division was thinly stretched over 23 miles, holding a line of the Somme from Erondelle to the sea, and without a mobile reserve. On the 4th June the attack on the Abbeville bridgehead began. Despite heroic attempts to stem the flood of German troops the Division was forced to slowly fall back to the Bresle. Meanwhile the German success elsewhere cut the Division’s supply line to Rouen and orders were given to fall back to a line on the Béthune.

June 5.

Heavy enemy pressure forces retirement to intermediate position between R SOMME and R.BRESLE. 31 Fr.Div sideslips to EAST. Front of 51 Div. now reduced to rt. BLANGY to the sea from previous frontage rt.SENNAPONT.

June 6.

“A” Bde. Sent up from ROUEN sub-area to assist 51 Div, allotted sector between 153 and 154 Bdes.

June 7.

900 reinforcements under Major J.R. Mackintosh-Walker (Seaforth) join 51 div. Enemy who had crossed river at BEAUCHAMP bridge successfully counterattacked. Information on enemy threat to ROUEN. Supplies, etc, now based on HAVRE.

June 8.

French X Army orders withdrawal to the line of R. LA BETHUNE which is carried out during night 8/9 June. Div. H.Q to LA CHASSEE from LE COUDROY. Dv. Amn.Coy fail to find amn,. train located en casse mobile between BOLBEC and ST.SAEN. ST.SAEN dump reported in enemy hands. Appeal for amn. to be sent by sea.

June 9.

Information of occupation of ROUEN by enemy and threat of advance from ROUEN on HAVRE. 154 Bde.Group later named ARK force ordered to hold line FECAMP – BOLBEC in conjunction with French tps. already in occupation to cover withdrawal on HAVRE of remainder of 51 Div.

ARK force withdraws from positions on R. LA BETHUNE 2100hrs but owing to bad weather conditions and road congestion, due to refugee traffic, rearward elements do not reach FECAMP until 1200 hrs.June 10.

June 10.

0530 reports, later confirmed, that enemy tanks and motorised infantry have turned N, from TOTES towards DIEPPE and are within three miles of LA CHAUSSEE. A/Tk.Regt. ordered to ensure adequate road blocks on this road. Staff Officer, (Major C.P.R.Johnston), ordered to try to get through to 154 Bde. Group and warn them of latest development, also to assist them in evacuation from HAVRE should the enemy succeed in isolating the remainder of the Division. Remainder of Division would attempt evacuation between ST.VALERY and DIEPPE.

June 11.Night June 11/12. Information received that remainder 51 Div. will attempt evacuate ST.VALERY and beaches to the EAST. Comdr. ARK force in conjunction with Comdr. HAVRE Garrison and RN commences evacuation from HAVRE.

June 12.

Original agreement with French that outer defences would be held until 1200 hrs, 12 June is altered at request of French to 259 hrs 12 June and inner defences to 0500 hrs, 13 June.

Remainder ARK Force and HAVRE Garrison evacuated from HAVRE between 2100 hrs. 12 June and 0200 hrs 13 June, except for party holding inner defences which evacuates 0600 hrs. 13 June.

ARK FORCE, with the exception of the two first ships to leave HAVRE, was evacuated to CHERBOURG, and left CHERBOURG for U.K. on June 15 and 16.”


51 Div. history web site

History of the 51st Highland Division Salmond J.B. 1994 Edition Pentland Press

St Valery the Impossible Odds. Bill Innes  2004 Birlinn.51st

I wrote this in reply to a discussion of Facebook
There are three issues. There is the one about the origin and management of any war. There is the question of the original purpose of the Earl Hague fund, and finally there is how some people have tried to manipulate the whole thing.
Most wars are unnecessary, and when they are being fought they are badly managed with a lot of unnecessary suffering. Unfortunately wars happen, through mismanagement or by real evil on the part of politicians.
As far as the First World War is concerned, Britain was responding to a treaty obligation. The invasion of Belgium by then Germans brought in treaty obligations. OK we have the whole ethical question of ow Britain was armed and whether the various imperial economic and geographical rivalries made a war more likely? As far as the fighting is concerned after November 1914 until some time in 1917 none of the Allies had the slightest idea of how to fight the new kind of War. All Germany had to do was defend. Germany lost as she lost the economic war and failed to feed her people. However a lot of people got killed in the meantime. Of the 5 Empires which went to war, only 1 survived and it was badly damaged.
Because of the effects of The War and government policy the land fit for heroes didn’t happen. The Government didn’t make adequate provision for the relief of the casualties, and it depends upon public generosity to do so. Thus Earl Hague Fund and a host of others. Should they exist? No, the Government should be doing enough but it won’t, which is why teh forces charities exist. The Poppy appeal is the main publicity and fund raising for the British Legion.
However especially after the Iraq war, which was the ultimate in unnecessary wars the militarists saw that it was possible to differentiate between the people who were fighting the war, (and who were “Innocent” and the warmongers who had caused the war. This because a big thing, and a lot of work was put into the soft end of supporting the Soldiers. This continued with Afghanistan. These ideas were developed with a remembrance culture – the national War Memorial for example, Armed Forces days and the like. It was also an attempt to restructure the broken situation of Britishness.
I support the Poppy appeal and basically the Armed Forces. It is however necessary for us to challenge the Poppy Fascism and the whole misuse of remembrance as a vehicle for militarism.
The problem is that we need armed Forces, and people are going to get killed even training. You cannot simply say that the people who suffered and died died for nothing – we have to be pastoral towards those left behind.
Personally I don’t have much time for the people who wear white poppies. As I was saying at a meeting where they were being pushed. In September I was in France and I didn’t see any white Poppies. The people who are pushing them are as political as the less thoughtful of the people pushing red ones, just a different one and the Peace Pledge Union are a Pacifist organisation and I am not a pacifist.

This is written in reply to a comment on a Facebook post

which had two main errors. It simplistically stated that “I think that Charles Stuart was desperate for Scottish support in 1745 and was prepared to say or do anything. The Jacobite cause was well a truly lost by 1745.”

The question of the Jacobites and Scottish independence is actually a question of serious academic work. My Friend the E of Mar and Kellie came over to being a supporter of independence because he was following his ancestor the 6th Earl of Mar, partly responsible for the Union and leader of the 15 rebellion. Again, while it is accepted unionist propaganda that the Jacobites were finished by 1745 it could also be argued that it was alive and well until 16th April 1746, and had the French acted in say November 1745 things might be very different. It is, as I said as a Whig, not a big issue with me. However it is clear that the person in question has read neither Christopher Duffy’s latest offering on the Jacobite’s or Trevor Royle who has just come out in paperback. I’ve had the privilege of attending lectures by both these Gentlemen (One at Culloden Battlefield the other at Fort George) of course the person who wrote about Charles doesn’t let ignorance of the topic blunt his writing.

The writer of the comments, also with the assurance of the ignorant cast this set of pearls before those who know.

“In contrast Blair’s Labour government conceded Home Rule to Scotland shortly after the 1997 General Election in which the SNP gained only 6 Scottish seats to Labour’s 56 and the Lib Dems 10. The inauguration of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 gave the SNP a basis from which to grow but in June 2017 over 60 per cent of Scots voted for unionist parties.

The SNP has peaked and is now on a downward slope”

The difference between Ireland and Scotland is that Ireland is an island, and Scotland is a large part of Great Britain. Don’t go by the weather map just look at a proper map. People forget the size of Scotland and its resources. It is in fact a very rich country.

It has to be remembered that there was not, at least until the 19th Century, any great difference in Religion and aspiration between the governed and the governors. We forget just how small government was until well into the 20th Century. Scotland had local government in a number of ways. It is impossible to overestimate the power of a rural Kirk Session, even thought it was the upper crust who actually exercised power. It is also easy to forget how much of Scottish politics played themselves out in a Religious form.

You don’t need to condescend to me about the history of Ireland. I actually have kept up with it in the 50 years or so since I studied Irish History with the old Curtis lead teaching through the rediscovery of Irish Historiography which may have come out of the troubles.

I suspect that a great many people who would commentate on Scotland from an external viewpoint know little about the history of Scotland apart from what you have read in the British Press. Even the people of Scotland are woefully ignorant of their history. It simply wasn’t taught in the past. Ironically it is someone with immigrant roots Tom Divine who contributed so much to the academic study of Scottish History. It is a well-known imperialist technique however, to rob people of their history and therefore rob them of their country.

It is important to remember that most of the Mainstream Media is greatly given to producing Unionist Propaganda. When you consider that fewer then 50 % of the population actually trust the reports of the BBC, the Daily Record is committed to the Labour Party, while the Johnston Press Loss making Scotsman is a byword for Unionist SNP BAAAD SNP Very BAAD propaganda.

The Labour party had as one of its early policies Scottish Home Rule. It was in fact in favour of it until the Attlee Government and the great centralisation of the planned economy. There were people who looked beyond that to a Scotland taking its place among the Dominions. It must be remembered that Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (24 May 1852 – 20 March 1936) was a liberal MP, the first ever Socialist MP the first president of the Scottish Labour Party, a founding member of the National Party of Scotland and later the Scottish National Party. demonstrates the political developments.

The SNP got overwhelmed by the War, and got carried away by the kind of silly anti British feeling encompassed by Hugh MacDiarmid who was expelled from the Communists for being a nationalist and the Nationalists for being a communist. After the war, in 1949, there was a National Covenant wanting changes in how Scotland was governed which attracted 2M signatures. This was rejected by Labour and forgotten by Churchill.

However, there was a feeling of unease that the prevailing political situation was not sustainable. Nothing happened until 1967 when against all odds, the SNP won the Hamilton By-election. Despite the general unpleasantness heaped upon her by the Labour Party and the misogyny of the Tories Winnie Ewing did well, and having changed constituencies actually won a general election seat in 1974. The SNP were on the road, for not only was Winnie elected she had five colleagues. Things only got better in the October election when another 4 were added. The SNP had 11 MPs. Part of the reason for this was undoubtedly the discovery of oil in the North Sea. The UK propaganda machine played this down. The SNP campaign of “its Scotland’s Oil” was seen as being selfish. However, there is no doubt that the riches from the North Sea enabled Thatcher later to carry out much of her policy. While short term that may have worked, there is now a feeling in many Scots “We Wus Robbed” At the time of the Referendum we were told that the Oil was running out. With the collapse of the oil prices it is not possible to compare the careful management of the resource by the Norwegians and the prodigal spend of the UK. This could well come back and bite them.

By 1976 the Callaghan government was dependent upon the Nationalist votes and as part of the deal was the establishment of a Scottish Assembly. Suffice it to say that after the horse trading there was a requirement that there was a vote of 40% of the electorate in favour. When the vote was taken, while there was a narrow majority in favour only 33% had voted Yes, the measure fell. The SNP (and all the other opposition parties) subsequently stopped supporting the government there, was a General election in which Thatcher was elected.

The Thatcher election was strange in that the last Tory MP in Glasgow was one of only a handful of Tory MPs who were defeated. It was a sign of what was going to happen, for by the 1997 election, there were no Tory MPs left in Scotland.

During these almost 20 years there developed a feeling that Thatcher was imposing policies on Scotland either like the Poll tax before they were tried in England, or which were unpopular and against the whole ethos of politics in Scotland leaving the feeble 50 Labour MPs to look silly. During these twenty years, there developed a Home Rule movement. The interesting thing about this home Rule movement was that the SNP were not involved, as the question of independence was expressly excluded from the debate. However, the consensus among Labour and Lib Dems was that it as vital to have a Devolved Parliament in Scotland. Duly in the 1997 manifesto there was Devolution. The Labour party which in 1979 had been bitterly divided on the topic had by 1997 come around to its utility. George Robertson who became Secretary of State for Defence and then Secretary General of NATO told the people that this would kill Nationalism stone dead.

The SNP had a considerable struggle whether or not to get involved. I took the Collins line that this would give the freedom to be free, but it was a damn close thing. Their idea had been that if they got more than half the Scottish seats in parliament they would set up an independent parliament in Edinburgh as per the Irish in 1919. With the setting up of a Parliament in Edinburgh, with SNP members, of course there would be no opportunity to set up an alternative Parliament with the majority of Scottish Members of the SNP were ever in that happy situation. However, Alex Salmond the leader carried the day, though I was the only person in my branch with worked for a Yes vote in the Referendum. In the event, there were resounding yes votes not only for the parliament, but for it to have tax raising powers

Part of the deal was that the election was going to be run by the D’Hondt method which we were assured would make sure that no political party could have a majority. There would therefore be perpetual Labour/Lib Dem rule. And so, it happened. In 1999, the Scottish Parliament was set up with a Labour Lib Dem Coalition

However, on 11th December 2000 Donald Dewar the First Minister of Scotland died suddenly. He was succeeded by Henry McLeish, but the party knives were out for him and he only lasted for a year. His replacement Jack McConnell very much the party insider demonstrated some managerial competence. He safely won the 2002 election with the continuation of the Coalition, but the wheels were beginning to come off the show.

While in 2002, the SNP did badly, losing 8 seats and some of its previous stars, sometimes because of how the SNP internally elected their candidates, Labour had lost 6, things were much more complicated than they appeared to be. There were actually more votes for Pro independent parties, the Greens won 6 seats, the Scottish Socialists 5, another fringe party 1, and there were 2 important independents, both rejected by their own party, but massively popular with the voters, one each from Labour and the SNP; both supporters of Independence. Because of the diversity of its membership this came to be known as the rainbow parliament.

Noting that there was an increased vote for Independence and a reduced vote for the SNP a small group, Independence First was set up, and using the opportunities of the new Internet began to campaign for a Referendum. This was taken up, and the big push was for a Referendum on independence. There was even a bill introduced into the House of Lords to enable the people of Scotland to petition for one. It did not even have its second reading as no peers could be found to sit on the Committee.

Jack McConnell was perhaps unlucky. When the elections were held in 2007 there was growing dissatisfaction with Labour over the Iraq War, and there were big questions over both Education and Health. Perhaps a factor was that the Parliament building was opened in 2004, three years late and 10 times more expensive than even the highest estimate. Given that the Parliament had been faced with a fait accompli by the Labour UK Government and had been chosen by the Labour Party Lovies who made the Scottish Establishment in those days the question of the competence of the administration as it was then called was being called into question.
In the event the SNP who had put an independence referendum into its manifesto was the largest party by one seat. The greens lost all but 2 of their seats and the SSP had imploded over the behaviour of its leader. It is alleged that Gordon Brown wanted to carry on as before, but the emotional heart had gone from McConnell. The Lib Dems announced that they would not take part in a coalition if an Independence Reformation was even being considered. As no one had asked them this proved to be an error of judgment. The SNP ran a minority Government ran it well. The development of the wider independence movement moved on apace. Wendy Alexander part of the whole Labour /Church of Scotland Brownite establishment took over from the defeated McConnell and was perhaps too much of an intellectual for the rough and tumble of parliament She definitely was no match for Salmond at FMQ. However, she had the bright idea of a Referendum being held, pushed through by the Unionist parties. Fortunately, Brown chickened, for, had a Referendum been held them, the idea of independence would have been buried for a generation. However, Wendy got knifed over a donation question and was followed by a completely lacklustre Iain Gray who like McConnell had been a maths teacher.

In  the 2010 Westminster Parliamentary election, Labour did well, maintaining all their seats. However, in the rest of the UK they did not do as well and Cameron became Prime Minister. The SNP barely held their vote. The Labour party looked forward with confidence to the 2011 Holyrood elections.

Against the odds and the rules of electoral arithmetic, the SNP won 69 of the 129 seats. The Lib Dems were destroyed, loosing 12 seats down to 5. Labour lost 20 constituency seats and the 13 list seats they got in compensation didn’t make up for the fact that they had a strange rule that constituency candidates could not be run on list seats. The result was that all their great beasts had been slain. What was left at Holyrood was very much the B team. All the other political parties had run their leadership as dual candidates to ensure their election. The problem was that the SNP had in their manifesto a promise to have a Referendum in the second half of the parliament. At the time of the election support for Independence was something like 30%. This is not the place for a detailed look at the Referendum. In the event the vote for independence was some 45% and this despite a very strong attempt by the deep British State to derail the whole project. The actual Yes campaign was a very empowering event and brought a lot of people into the Independence movement without them necessarily buying in to the SNP, though many of them subsequently joined the party, once the immediate buzz ended many of them actually failed to contribute in any meaningful way to the life of the party. However, as the saying is, “we have your standing order” and they are still members. The people who were the worst losers were in fact the Unionists, who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when on the day after the Referendum, David Cameron came up with a strongly English Nationalist speech in which he promised that there would be English votes for English laws. It was taken as saying “Well you have fooled you, not bog off”.  Many reluctant NO voters suddenly understood that they had been conned by the Better Together movement. This meant that there was a lot of voter regrets. Yes voters joined the SNP, NO voters began to think about their vote. When a promised review of the political situation was held, the Labour Party was in fact the most opposed to any expansion of the powers of Holyrood.

The influx of new members into the SNP increased the number of people who fancied themselves as MPs. These varied from old time Party war horses through those who had had done well in the Yes movement to political opportunists. The SNP permitted people who had only been a short time in the Party to be nominated as Candidates (subject to being selected at centralised selection schools and passing vetting. They are then voted for by the whole membership in the Constituency by STV postal or electronic vote.  When the Westminster election was held, with three exceptions all these disparate candidates were elected. In the just under 2 years they were in post, some were very good constituency MPs and did well. Others were non-entities and didn’t do much. The three who were not elected were one on the Lib Dem fastness of Orkney and Shetland, one in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale where the only Scottish Conservative MP survived by fewer than 800 votes and in the poshest seat in Edinburgh where the candidate was effectively disowned by the party for internet improperness, and the Labour candidate won. Thus, it was that the SNP awoke with rather than the 30 to 40 which the fantasists in the Party were expecting or even the 20 to 30 which the realists expected to find that they had 58 MPs. Some of them did very well, some of them failed.

In the 2016 Holyrood election the SNP did better than they could expect to. The demise of the Labour party continued and there was a modest rise in the support for the Tories. They had a row of Constituency seats along the Border (the Border TV area) and up in Aberdeen which was in fact a traditional Tory seat. There was confusion and discussion over the effectiveness of list voting for the SNP and eventually the Greens picked up 6 list seats, probably by SNP supporters voting for them on the list. The SNP / Greens had 69 seats the Tories had 31, 24 them list, Labour 24, 21 of them on the list. The Lib Dems won two new seats but they were in traditional Lib Den areas.

Because of the Holyrood elections in 2016, there was actually very little political activity over the EU referendum. In the event, every local government area (though not every constituency) voted Remain by 62% to 38%. The SNP had promised that there would not be another independence referendum unless there was a radical change of circumstances. The First Minister decided that this had been met. Much of the argument for remaining part of the UK put forward in 2014 was, that there was uncertainty about Scotland’s essential position in the EU, so given that a majority of people of Scotland wanted to stay in the EU it was reasonable to believe that they would probably want to leave the UK to stay in the EU. However, this would not be decided until the UK actually left the EU There was an absolute feeding frenzy in the Unionist press on this question and the three Unionist parties came up with the story that the SNP had promised that there would not be another Referendum for a Generation. First of all, we hadn’t and even if we had remember, that individual may set the bounds of a nation, and the whole Scottish Independence movement is extremely keen not to give anyone a veto on anything.

The SNP were not going to do well in the Council Elections. Outside the main conurbations there are a lot of Independent Councillors – who tend to be on the Right. The council elections are also fought on 3 and 4 seat STV which is not good for any party winning a majority unless they have a complete hegemony as Labour did for years in Glasgow. Also, the troops are tired and there had been organisational problems about the whole election. This is not to excuse the performance, but to give a background lest people get away with the ideas that this marked a terminal decline by the SNP. It was into this situation that May called her election. The only reaction was “Shit how few can we manage not to lose”?

The Labour party went full Unionist. Its leader told the lieges what where the Labour candidate could not win, they should vote for the leading Unionist. It was this above everything else which cost Corbyn the Election. In the event the SNP fell to 35 seats which was the high range of the prediction of 2015. The Tories got votes in the Brexit strong farming and fishing communities, and Labour came back in the areas where they were traditionally strong. There was also some very effective targeting by the Tories, and a certain amount of complacency on the part of the SNP. What was to be noticed was that Labour had a minimal increase in their vote, and that the big factor in the results was, that many people who had voted SNP in the excitement of the 2015 election stayed away from the polls.

Of course, the Unionist press drafted the result as a great defeat for the SNP. It was actually a wakeup call. A reminder that the SNP only have the loan of the vote of the people of Scotland. This is made up of people with various political positions. They can come and go. Those who were in the 38% Leave who don’t like the strong support for the EU of the SNP Hirarchy. Others didn’t want a Referendum at this time. Still others were Unionists who held their noses and voted Tory. Above everything else are the voters reminded the SNP that they are not infallible.

Of course, it is absolute bollox to say that the SNP are on a downward slope as it is to write off the development of the Labour Party. The SNP will take action to ensure that they people of Scotland will vote for them. When the Conservative party moves on from no future Referendum to having real policies, and the Labour Party in Scotland embraces Corbyn or not we will begin to see what is happening.

So, what is happening? Well Scottish politics have grown away from that in rUK. That in itself will feed the resistance to the Union. Brexit is the site a divide between the Fishermen of the NE and the Farmers and may others. Whether their ambitions and expectations will be met by the actual post Brexit landscape will determine where their vote goes. The independence movement is having effectively the post-mortem on the Referendum. The cries of “we was robbed” are no longer being listened to. The SNP is, as you would expect having difficulties moving from insurgents to establishment. As the commentators who live in the South watch with glee at the what they wrongly perceive as the SNP being in decline, a fantastic range of thoughts on everything is coming out.

Personally, because I’m steeped in Irish History (even though I always careful not to see any necessary attachment between Irish History and Politics and Scotland, the original link which began this discussion was posted for the warning of my Scottish Friends nothing to do with the Irish ones who are the ones who commented). I take the post Referendum time as rather like the period in Irish politics after the fall of Parnell. This was the time when there was an intellectual ferment and ideas and culture got changed. So, it is in Scotland Roy Foster’s “Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland, 1890-1923” perhaps traces one way that it could happen – without the consuming violence at the end. Scotland will become independent. Just when is the question. If it happens in the next 5 to 10 years it will be something which we can recognise as the continuum from today. If it takes longer it will be against the much darker background of the collapse on the UK institutions and extreme tensions and wars in the rest of the World as humanity fights out over resources and population movements.

I hope Independence happens soon, but to say that the SNP is finished is as wise as saying that the Tory Party was finished after 1997 or the Labour Party after 1992. That of course will not stop the Unionists/British Nationalists claiming it. The SNP has not peaked (except that there will never be 56 MPs again, the electoral arithmetic will not permit it. In any way when given the chance Westminster by its blocking and evasion demonstrated that it was merely going to treat the SNP parliamentarians with distain.) It is certainly not finished. We look forward to how an Independent Scotland happens, and how it will develop.


I never did Patristics. The Word of God as it is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament was really enough for us. Of course I did Systematics and a wee bit of the history of the time, but really it wasn’t my period.
Today however I was doing some reading (some of which I have posted and I came across “A letter to Diognetus”. Only a small part was cited in the passage I was reading but I was taught well at New College, so I followed it up.

A late 2nd century apology addressed to a certain Diognetus who is otherwise unknown. Diognetus was a tutor of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, who admired him for his freedom from superstition and sound educational advice (Meditations 1.6), but he is not likely to be the recipient, or even the assumed recipient, of this apology from around A.D. 200. The work itself survived (with other writings ascribed to Justin) only in a 13th century manuscript, formerly at Strasbourg but burned during the invasion of 1870.
It is widely believed that the last two chapters were added at a later time. There are two schools as to its dating, one which favors a date approximately 130 CE and the other which favors a date approximately 200 CE or even later in the third century.

This work is an apology for the Christians, although the term Jesus or Christ is nowhere found in it, as the author seems to prefer the use of the term “the WordThe Christians in the world.

Here is a rather fine consideration of what being a christian is about in a Pre Christian society, and might ring bells with other people in a Post Christian Society of the kind which we now live in.

“Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.

Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.”

From a letter to Diognetus (Nn. 5-6; Funk, 397-401)


Father of all holiness,
guide our hearts to you.
Keep in the light of your truth
all those you have freed from the darkness of unbelief.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Prepared by the Spiritual Theology Department
of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross


A letter to a leaver who is writing the usual ideas

The first point is that it is not in fact axiomatic that an Independent Scotland will be part of the EU. There is a difference between objecting to being taken out of the EU against the wish of the majority of the people who voted 62% to stay. In the same way that it is the will of the English and Welsh people to leave the EU it is the will of the Scottish people that they don’t.
The Scottish government has put forward a number of possible ways in which there could be different arrangements for Scotland in a BREXIT world than for a BREXIT rUK.
It is quite clear that the Westminster government has no concern for the very deep questions which are being asked in Scotland about the treatment of the relationship. The fine words of September 2014 have moved on to the reality in 2017.
Your recycling of Leave propaganda doesn’t do anything for you as you simply don’t understand the arguments for an independent Scotland. The EU does not affect Scottish domestic policy in the way that the UK does. The EU is a club, the UK is a structure in which we are immersed and with which the relationship has changed – for the worse since the 1970s which is nothing to do with oil, but everything with the relationship of Scotland with a lost empire UK.

If you read the writings of, for example, Yanis Varoufakis, you would be aware that there are a lot of people in the EU who while believing in the EU as an institution, are still highly critical of it. Yes the EU needs reformed. The problem is that in the same way as my old Communist (Moscow) friends were against the EEC as their masters didn’t want to see a strong united Europe, so the associated forces of the Right like Trump and Putin wish to see the Block which is Europe destroyed or at least reduced.

It boils down to whether you are a European or an Atlanticist. I am a European. Having said that when the people of an Independent Scotland go to the polls for the Great Referenda Day, when the Constitution of the Newly Independent Scotland is approved by the people, including whether it will be a Republic or a Monarchy, one of the votes will be whether we with to remain in the EU (assuming that we become independent before the UK leaves the EU) or whether we wish to join in the event of Independence not being until after the UK leaves the EU.
The necessity for this is that rather than the English view that Sovereignty lies with the Crown in Parliament, in Scotland the Sovereignty lies in the People. Thus it is the Parliament is strictly limited in what it can get the Scottish People into.
So in fact what you are writing about the `EU is flogging a dead horse. It may give comfort to you as a leaver pulling the tattered remains of the leave blanket around you, but in this discussion it is absolutely irrelevant.
I would like to thank you as I have had to write this rely and I’ll write it up into a Blog and I was going to have to say something on this one any way.