Only a very few Macanoraks (like me) are likely to have noticed what is perhaps the strangest law & religion news story of the past few weeks – I picked it up from an item in BBC Scottish political editor Brian Taylor’s blog, Independence and the Church. On further investigation, it transpires that the Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland has come to a Deliverance anent the proposed referendum on independence, as follows:
“Resolution on Scottish Independence
The Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, met at Glasgow, on the 23rd day of May, 2012, desires to place on record its deep concern at the proposed intention of the present Scottish Government to abrogate the Treaty of Union of 1707.
The Synod is of the view that the Treaty of Union is inviolable and cannot be lawfully overturned in all time coming and is a fundamental guarantee of the civil and religious liberties of the people of Scotland which cannot be tampered with except at great peril to our spiritual and temporal welfare.
- The Treaty of Union expressly provides for the security of the Protestant religion and Presbyterian Church government;
- The current proposed constitutional arrangements envisaged by the Scottish Government would lead to a secularisation of the nation’s constitution by neglecting to give the Christian Church its rightful place as the established and only religion of the realm;
- The desire to change from a Protestant constitution to a secular one represents a great provocation of the God of glory, and of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the king of nations;
- The influence of the Roman Catholic Church in particular and false religion in general is likely to be excessive in an independent Scotland where Protestantism is marginalised;
- The breach of the Union would be a national manifestation of the sin of unthankfulness for the multitudes of blessings the people of the United Kingdom have known from the hand of the Lord in both spiritual and temporal matters since 1707;
- The breaking of the Union would represent the sin of covenant-breaking before the Lord, in violation of the moral and spiritual obligations of the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, in which the mutual welfare of all the parts of these islands became a sacred bond of trust between the three kingdoms down to the end of time,
The Synod warns the people of the Church, the Scottish Government, the British Government and the people of the United Kingdom, of the great dangers threatened in abrogating the Treaty of Union and solemnly remind them that the Lord will deal with the sins of unthankfulness, covenant-breaking and weakening the cause of Christ in the nation in His own time and way, ‘Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set’ (Proverbs 22:28).”
Comment: The merits or otherwise of an independent Scotland are not a matter on which an Englishman may properly take a view. One point that the Deliverance completely ignores, however, is that the Scottish Reformation is generally held to date from the passing of the Confession of Faith Ratification Act 1560 – and that that Act was passed by the Parliament of an independent state. Not only was Scotland a separate jurisdiction from England and Wales, with its own Parliament and judicial system, it also had its own Monarch, Mary, Queen of Scots – who, as it happens, was a Roman Catholic. It is difficult to see, therefore, why the legitimacy of the Scottish Reformation should in some sense rest on the Acts and Treaty of Union 1706/07 or in what sense the Union was the child of the Solemn League and Covenant – still less why it should be regarded as constituting a contractual obligation of special concern to God.
No doubt in the coming months we shall see all sorts of dubious arguments trotted out by those on both sides of the dispute – but we are unlikely to see a stranger one than this. Adiaphora maybe?