I have been reluctant to say anything about the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence. There are a number of reasons for this.
Firstly, my family’s Scottish connection is now a little tenuous; we left Scotland for Ireland over two centuries ago. I am very aware that I will have a vote on this matter whilst Scots living outside of Scotland will not have a vote.
Secondly, as a church leader I decided a long time ago that, whilst I might have my own political persuasions, I would never seek to use my influence or office to recruit to the cause of any political party or political agenda. I do make an exception for issues of ethics and social justice, as I believe that those kinds of issues are not the preserve of any one party, or at least should not be.
My third reason follows on from this. There are Christians on both sides of this debate who firmly believe that their cause is a godly one, or a more godly one. I want those Christians to vote in line with the dictates of their own conscience, without the interference of a cleric – and one who might happen to be their pastor at that!
However, I still feel that I should say something with reference to a vote that will have implications that are far more important and lasting than that of any general election. What I offer is more by way of observation than direction.
To begin with, I think we should be very thankful. Thankful that such an important issue is being resolved by political debate and by the ballot box. In many parts of the world such issues are often settled after much bloodshed. Thankfully, that has never been on the radar of anyone in Scotland.
Secondly, let’s manage our expectations. Whatever the outcome on Thursday, it’s unlikely that either side will be able to fulfil all of our expectations – except our negative expectations!
Thirdly, there are no certainties. There is no such thing as a safe option. The world is a very uncertain place and neither side has the power to reduce the uncertainty.
Fourthly, as Christians, our primary allegiance is to the Kingdom of God. Every other allegiance is secondary to that one.
Finally, I believe we need to pray not only for the vote, but for the aftermath. If the polls are in any way accurate there will be a very narrow margin between “Yes” and “No”. We need to pray that a united Scotland emerges rather than a divided one.
If I could risk sounding political for a moment, it might be that a united Scotland is more important than the way in which the vote goes. However, it will go one way or the other, so let’s pray that God’s grace expressed through a spirit of co-operation amongst political leaders on both sides will be the hallmark of Scottish politics after September 18th.