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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.
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This is written in reply to a comment on a Facebook post https://www.facebook.com/edward.andrews1/posts/10214187871990088?pnref=story

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)

Prayer

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.

Recently we had an incident where John Mason the MSP for Glasgow Shettleston was reported as having  Tweeted words to the effect that while some spoke of Irish Murderers, he spoke of Irish Freedom Fighters. The splat in the context of an anniversary of the brutal murder of three very young RHF soldiers in the early days of the troubles.

I was involved in a Facebook discussion about this and had to write quite a long piece. Having re read it I decided that it was really quite good and should be after editing, used as a Blog. I think with the rather fraught political situation I should publish some of my better Facebooks as Blogs. you never know I might get some readers if I publish enough a and they are worth reading

I am pulled two ways in this discussion.

I have served with one of the people very much effected by the murder. I have e had parties of Army Cadets  down at the Arboretum we had a small ceremony for the cadets, some of which were about the age of the three young men, where we placed poppy crosses below their names on the wall. I also remember the contemporary sheer horror of what happened, and it was seen as if a corner had turned in the troubles, things got even more brutal, I suspect that a lot of people realised that innocence had gone.

I abhor the IRA in whatever guise they come. However, either you have had a war, one which the IRA basically lost or you have had a civil insurrection in which case you are going to hunt the perpetrators of the various illegal actions on both sides. That means that some of the troops will also be caught up. They were not choirboys and they were fighting one of the most ruthless and determined enemies. In 1914-18 there was a saying that what happened in France stayed in France. That is not possible in the multimedia age.

The first requirement is that rather than constant repetition of the horrors which may or may not be ultimately played out in the courts, there needs to be some way in which a line can be drawn. I don’t know how, but I am sure that the criminal courts, whether with or without juries is not the best way to bring the kind of justice which people need.

Ultimately there is a need for restorative justice, but how that can be accomplished is difficult to see just how that will happen. What Ulster needs is some kind of peace and justice commission as they had in South Africa, though it has to be stressed that the comparison of the Blacks in South Africa and the Catholics of Northern Ireland is simply miss matched,  neither was the British State even at the hight of the troubles as repressive as the Afrikaans regime in South Africa. Simply there was never a majority kept as second class citizens by a minority. There was a majority who were not as open as they might have been to the aspirations of the minority which is a very different situation.

At the minute there is the appearance that the historical investigations people  seem to be going for the Security forces one suspects as it would be better documented than the terrorists. I don’t have an answer. The problem is that probably the price of some terrorist getting named is some soldier – who was operating in a different climate betting banged up for something which they did which they shouldn’t have. We have deep questions here about what Justice is and the whole question of the Just Rebellion and ow it can be dealt with. I don’t pops to even address these questions here.

We then put this whole situation in the context of Scottish Politics. Most of us in Scotland would wish that Northern Ireland is not in the context of Scottish Politics. The Independence movement in Scotland last took to arms about 1820 in the radical war, and it is debatable how much Nationalism was involved. Since then there has been virtually no violence (I don’t want to dig up what little violence there was as that would be a distraction, there is no point in whataboutary ). As far as violence in Scotland is concerned there is a tradition of some violence between gangs and connected with some football supporters. This is a generally deprecated  example of some of the people who are mainly supporters of one of two Glasgow Football teams who would appear to spew sectarian hatred and have a fixation of violence. There is not reason why a mainstream SNP politician would have given this very much thought. The SNP, and those who seek an independent Scotland has generally avoided any engagement with the situation in Ireland despite attempts to draw them into the situation. This is to such an extent that there has been a reluctance to ask for help from Irish political parties on the successful operation of STV in elections.

I am atypical in that I’m an Ulsterman and I have some sympathy with the Unionist population of Ulster as they are dumped by Westminster. At the same time their contributions to the debate in Scotland has not been positive. I remember a letter from the politician whom you will know as Baron Kilclooney, and whom I knew as John Taylor writing a particularly unhelpful letter during the Referendum Campaign.
The Ulster Unionist (in the broadest sense) have been poorly served in their advocates in Scotland who are seen marching and causing disruption to the lives of the population, thus it is that when the Nationalist (in the broadest sense) Irishman speaks he seems the centre of sense. Thus probably the majority of people in Scotland will not really know much about what has happened across the ditch. Th politician who made the statement about the IRA is a rather strange person. Very Socially and theologically conservative, in a context of liberalism, yet he survives in a party which is extremely democratic in the choice of its candidates for election.

I doubt that Nicola will want to get involved in the question of the Three Murdered Scottish Soldiers. This is really because this is the concern of another devolved administration, and I’m not convinced that the Scottish Government would welcome any interference from the Welsh or Northern Ireland politicians about a similar issue. One has immense sympathy with David McCaughey as he seeks to find some relief from a horror which has been in his family for most of his life. He has a perfect right to ask his MSP for support, but while the terms in which the MSP declined that support was unfortunate, it is difficult to see what an MSP would contribute to the solution of the problem which is really a Westminster question as it would appear to involve international relations.

We have of course how the forces of Unionism swarmed all over the story. Of course partly it is part of the continued SNPBAAD agenda. There was however a much more subtile issue and that is of course to make the SNP in some way appear soft on terrorism. Now Unionists are not known for the subtlety of their thinking. They can’t quite get their heads round the idea that they are British Nationalists, or that people would want to leave the UK not because of a great hatred for the present situation, but rather because it is self evident that the people living in a country are likely to be better at choosing the right choices for that Country than those who do not live in it. Unionists are still tied in with blood and soil nationalism. It was the Unionists who by and lerge argued that people born in Scotland should have a say in the last Referendum no matter where they lived as they were aware of the many people who had had to leave the country because of economic conditions and who felt, not that they had to leave because of the mismanagement of the Union, but that the Union in a way was offering them salvation from the incompetence of the Scots.

There is another spin off from this, that the SNP can be accused of either being soft on Terrorism, or even better, well disposed to it in Ireland, The First Minister is pictured with ex terrorists at ministerial meetings, is the not proof enough? A moments thought would show that the last thing which the SNP would want to do is to become involved in any way with Sinn Féin,  because in the context of Ireland her relationship with the Government of the Republic is so important for a future journey in the EU, that  she would hardly be encouraging the greatest danger to politics in the Republic. It boils down to how much support with either side in Ulster give on the BREXIT situation? That is a much more important political issue than some murders no matter how brutal in the Ulster War.

What we have to accept however is that Good Friday Agreement or not, the people of the North of Ireland still are going to have to go through a long and difficult period before they become a normal country (if ever. It may be that too much blood has been shed for there to be a realistic prospect of genuine peace in the hearts of the people). It behoves everyone who has a voice in Scottish Politics to do as much as they can to avoid playing to any of the stereotypes, not to seek equivalence between the sides in the  conflict, but to accept that some terrible things happened about which no one can be proud.

 

I have just finished “The Invisible Church” by Steve Aisthorpe. For those who think that they might get any comfort for the established Church out of its pages, I’m sorry, don’t waste your time, you will find that probably that the institutional Church will continue its gentle slide, if not to irrelevance, a peripheral position in Society.

For those however who have drifted away from the institutional Church or who are uncomfortable with it, here is hope, here in fact is the ringing declaration that Christ still calls people to follow him, just that it may not be in the well-known institution and certainly that worshipping him does not necessarily have to take place on a Sunday between certain hours.

When I was being interviewed for my first Congregation, in reply to one of the questions about looking after the members or the wider community, I asked whether they saw a Church as a sheep fank? Over the years this imagery has broadened out to include ideas of whether Jesus told his disciples to be fishers of men or to be keepers of the aquarium. The problem is that no matter how we put forward these images, we are making the fundamental error to confuse the people of God in the community with the institutional Church. Even the most basic knowledge of words about God should mean that we distinguish between the two. The problem is that we haven’t. Ever since the Constantinian Compromise (when the Christian Church became the Church of the Roman Empire) the institutional Church had the franchise. For the next 1200 years they could even kill people for the good of their souls. Even after the Reformation, Christians killing Christians in love was still practiced. The Church was (and very largely still is) seen as the building to which never more than a minority of the population went willingly on a Sunday.

Now while it is understandable for people outside the institution to think of the presence being marked by a building, those inside the Church also have difficulties in seeing past the institution. They may not see their physical building as representing the totality of the Church, but for them the Church is at least the people who join with them of a Sunday and if they are being especially open minded they will also include other people who worship at a similar time and in a similar building. Those who are physically outside the Church are lost.

The question which “The Invisible Church” asks however, recognises that there are a large number of people who for one reason or another would see themselves as followers of Jesus but who do not have any relationship with the formal Church. It also examines, and rejects the ready-made – and all too easy answers which the Church gives itself for the people who while claiming a relationship with Jesus, are not attending. If you believe in the old traditional line of “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” and you seek to limit the Church to the people who have some kind of formal connection to some denomination in some God box, those who don’t come to your club are not really part of your understanding of the Church, no matter whether Jesus died for the elect or not.

The answer which Aisthorpe gives brings little comfort to those who seek the continuation of the institutional Church as it is presently known. Yes, that version of the Church will continue for those who like that kind of thing. It might even have the odd spurt of growth but the fact is that many more people will find their understanding of their faith in other forms of devotion. We could well find ourselves in a situation where a thousand flowers can bloom, which may well reflect the situation which there was in the early Church before the Council of Nicene set out what being a Christian was.

It is here that I see real problems. Just what are these thousand spiritual flowers about?  One of the major developments in current spiritual/religious development is the question of the Spiritual but not religious (SBNR). I have talked with some who would see themselves essentially in this group. I have a concern that their belief is effectively Syncretic. Here we find ourselves asking questions about just what Christianity is. In the book we are reminded of the distinction between what is effectively the Parish Church, rooted in a geographic community and the fact that the expansion of the Church through Europe was basically accomplished by monks. I am not convinced that the present model of Monasticism is one which actually points to a mobile Church, rather than one bounded by rules and Property. If however we go back into the Celtic model we find that we have Peregrinatio. This may well be a concept which we need to explore.

One of the big problems which I have is with people doing the non-institutional Church, is how they do what Christ has told them to do, which is baptize and celebrate the sacraments. Just exactly where do these come from? I am entitled to Baptize and celebrate communion because I believe that I have been called to do this and my call has been tested and upheld by the National Church. While I can accept the local congregation independent of those around is the nearest to the model of the Early Church around, there are problems about the institution from quite a small stage. How do you legitimize both the Kerygma of the institution and the Charisma of those called to preside at its offices.

In a funny way the model is a bit like Home Brew against the products of the commercial brewers. Done well home brew is very good, but the commercial breweries give a standardized product. With the Good News of Jesus, just what is the message? Theology once was the Queen of the Sciences, but with people walking out of the established Churches where actually are their boundaries? Is the theological wheel going to be reinvented? The whole basis of the earliest understanding of the Church which we find in Acts gives us the expectation of an almost immediate Parousia. Now let us assume that, while the essence of the Christian Faith is that the Parousia will happen someday, it is also that we live as if it is coming tomorrow, and work as if it is never coming.

It is here that I find the major problem. Yes, I too have effectively walked out the Church because it no longer meets my spiritual needs. I simply could not resonate with the last celebration of the Eucharist which I attended at a liturgical or theological or even an emotional level, so I have packed my bags, and quietly left the local institution without telling them secure in the knowledge that they will never miss me, but what now? I seek fellowship, but either I wasn’t in class that day, or it was never taught, what do we do in the situation where the Institutional Church no longer says anything to us, no longer in its widest sense proclaims Christ Crucified? Yes, I could have celebrated the Queen’s 90th birthday, the congregation held, in connection with the local Rotary club a great celebration, but is that the role of the Kirk? I remembered when I was the Queen’s well beloved and trusty, that I didn’t take an oath of loyalty, because my loyalty was to Christ alone.

Then I remember preaching in one of Scotland’s great Churches. It was the first Sunday of the epiphany. I remembered that 461 years earlier, George Wishart had stood in that very place, and, according to Knox who was there, Wishart was disappointed by the poor attendance in the Kirk, and prophesied that Haddington would suffer plagues, be occupied by strangers, “Because you have not known the time of God’s merciful visitation.” Within 2 months of preaching in Haddington, George Wishart was burnt at the stake in St Andrews and in April 1548 the 18-month siege of Haddington began, the people were occupied and it was a grim time. Out of events like these and the struggles of the next 20 years came another, Reformed Scotland, one where the understanding of the Church was not one of stability or peace at any price, but a Church which had the concept that the Church having been reformed, must always be being reformed. Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda!

The Church of Christ which appeared after the Reformation was one which spoke to the people of the time. It communicated the Gospel, or at least a form of it which resonated with the people of that time.

What has happened is that people have been too keen to think in terms of Orthodoxy, rather than Orthopraxis. In the Reformed tradition we have thought in terms of Sola scriptura, Sola fide, Sola gratia, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria. But so much has failed to come over in the translation. We have forgotten what we do discover in our readings of the Scripture. We have forgotten our God given Faith. We don’t think about the Grace which we receive from God, through the intercession of Christ. We don’t even really know what it means to live to the Glory of God. However, despite this, we are called to live lives which reflect what we have been given. We have been given nothing less than a Mission and that is living lives which are guided and enriched by the gifts of God.

However ironically Orthopraxis also involved correct worship, so we find ourselves in this circle, People walk away from the institutional Church and its worship because they do not find in Orthodoxy or even the more charismatic forms the praxis and at least as important the real fellowship which they crave. In other words, in their concern for the survival of the institution the members of the institution are killing it by failing to open it to the dangers which both threaten and enliven it.

The one thing however which we must remember is that God will not leave himself without a witness, just that it may well not be the manifestation of his Church which we are used to in the Community.

The Depute Leadership. I’ve been thinking about this one quite hard. In the SNP of today this is one of the key positions – depending what we want the Depute to do. I believe the it is basically arranging the workings of the Party while the Leader gets on with being FM.

One of the problems is that we are spoilt for choice. We have contenders who could grace any political party. Quite simply they level of talent on offer is tremendous. However, we have to make a choice.

First of all, I’m sorry, but I am not saying anything about Chris McEleny I simply know nothing about him, and there is precious little about him that I can access. He seems to be a fine hard working Councillor. The problem is that while once that may have been a positive advantage, today it is simply the lack of name recognition which is not going to help him.

Everyone who watched it was impressed by Alyn Smith’s speech in the European Parliament. With Dignity and passion, he put forward the claim of Scotland to stay in Europe. Alyn has told us that staying in Europe is an important part of our future and he has told us that he would see that being Depute Leader would help him to open doors in Europe, and yes, that is true and if he were to be running for Deputy Leader that could well be a vital job, a really high powered Party representative at Europe. But he isn’t. The job of Depute is working with the locals, with the Branches and the various constituency organisations. I know that Alyn did a great job going round Scotland at the time of the Referendum, and that by far the pest piece of Referendum literature was the Wee BLEU Book, and while we may be heading for another Referendum, the issue is the organisation of the party at its roots. To put it bluntly Alyn is far too useful where he is than he would be being Depute leader. Completely different jobs with different contribution to the life of the party.

In normal times Angus Robertson would be the obvious person. High profile at Westminster, and doing a brilliant job in proving leadership at Westminster, where the SNP is providing the effective opposition. He has even gained the grudging respect of the Political Establishment. But that is effectively a full time job. One can understand Angus offering to act as Depute and in normal time he would make a great job, but these are not normal times. The SNP has changed totally in the past few years. What was once a small group is now a mass movement. There are very real questions of just how do we go on. Those of us who attend Branch meetings notice subtle changes, these have the potential to be very positive, or to cause great problems. We know that there are those in the party who are already thinking of change to meet present realities.

It is into the situation that Tommy Sheppard has come. He is from a slightly different background to many who have been members of the SNP in the past, but I would argue that for the present job this diversity is a strength. He doesn’t necessarily think in what has been the traditional SNP box. He hasn’t the long standing connections to the Party which might mean comfort with the Status Quo. He is at Westminster, which means that he is just that wee bit removed from the day to day concerns of the people who are doing their politics at Holyrood and in local councils, but yet plugged into the problems which we in Scotland really face.

At the lowest level he runs a comedy club so running a political party as Depute should not be too taxing. Seriously, though we are in a new situation and it would be very easy to fall into simplistic ideas, one could think that as the SNP is bigger it should say the same things, just with a louder voice. I believe that of course we have the same core message, we should be in effect saying the same things about an independent Scotland which cherishes all its children equally.

We had had the Referendum and while there were different understandings of what a generation was, (or more prosaically how soon we could get away with another successful Referendum, it was clear that it was unlikely that Scotland would be having another Referendum on Independence any time soon.

The EU Referendum has changed all that. I am not sure that only a month or so after the Referendum that we are any more than beginning to think where we are, though Nicola in her brilliant speech has made it a lot clearer than it was

However, in these different circumstances we have to address different people in different ways. We can’t really know where an independent Scotland will go in so many ways. All we as the SNP can really do is to help in the delivery of that Independent Scotland and that it will be part of a team effort. I think that of all the candidates Tommy is the one most likely to be able to work in the new circumstances with its uncertainties and its challenges.

We already have an inspirational Leader, let her Depute get on in the Party with building it up.