Queen in referendum plea – Herald Scotland

THE Queen has said she hopes Scots will “think very carefully” about the referendum in a highly unusual contribution to the debate as the two sides prepare to enter the final 72 hours of the campaign neck and neck.

She made the comment as she greeted well-wishers outside Crathie Kirk, near Balmoral Castle.

It followed pleas by senior MPs for her to speak out in favour of the Union, though Buckingham Palace insisted she remained neutral in the debate.

In other developments as the curtain came down on the biggest weekend of political campaigning Scotland has ever seen:

l More than 1,000 Yes supporters demonstrated outside BBC Scotland’s Glasgow HQ in protest at allegedly biased coverage of the referendum;

l Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown revealed MPs will debate further powers for Holyrood on October 16, in the event of a No vote;

l A flurry of polls suggested the No campaign was narrowly in the lead, with the latest poll of polls, averaging out the most recent surveys, putting the lead at 51 per cent to 49 per cent;

l Alex Salmond told supporters Thursday’s vote could be their last chance for a generation to secure independence;

l John Reid, the former defence secretary, accused Mr Salmond of using anti-English sentiment to win backing for independence.

Tens of thousands of activists took to the streets over the weekend to galvanise support and try to win over wavering voters.

Today Prime Minister David Cameron will campaign in Scotland for the last time before polls open, while Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will lead an effort to persuade pensioners, the age group least likely to support independence, to vote Yes.

The Queen’s comment came as she greeted well-wishers outside Crathie Kirk, where she is staying with other members of the Royal Family.

She spoke to a group of three or four Scots and a handful of English visitors in the crowd.

Responding to a comment from a well-wisher, she was reported to have said: “You have an important vote on Thursday.

“I hope everybody thinks very carefully about the referendum this week”.

Unusually for an ordinary Sunday service, photographers were invited to capture the Royal party leaving the kirk, and witnessed the exchange.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment on a private conversation and neither side in the campaign tried to capitalise on the remarks.

It came after the Queen had talks with Prime Minister David Cameron at Balmoral last weekend.

There were also separate calls from senior Conservative and Labour MPs for her to speak out in support of the Union, as she did in 1977 amid growing clamour for devolution of power to Scotland and Wales.

She used a Silver Jubilee speech to say: “I cannot forget that I was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and of Northern Ireland.

“Perhaps this Jubilee is a time to remind ourselves of the benefits which union has conferred, at home and in our international dealings, on the inhabitants of all parts of the United Kingdom.”

Royal aides have stressed the Queen’s neutrality in the debate, believing independence is a matter for the Scottish people.

The Queen, who remains above the political fray as a constitutional monarch, observed the proprieties of not endorsing either side in the referendum.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “We never comment on private exchanges or conversations. We just reiterate what the Queen has always said: she maintains her constitutional impartiality. As the Queen has always said, this is a matter for the people of Scotland.”

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We’re back

Good morning, dear readers. The human being who updates this site with Christian news and information has returned, refreshed and reinvigorated, from a brief sojourn in other places.

News that is of interest to followers of Forward Together and/or readers of this website will now start appearing here, once again. Thank you to those of who who have wondered if all is well. All is indeed well and, from the perspective of the Kingdom of our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ, all will continue to be well whatever the outcome of the Independence Referendum taking place in Scotland this coming Thursday, for:

He [Jesus] will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end (Luke 1.33)

Be encouraged in His infinite love and grace today.

Archbishop of York calls on Government to show leadership over Iraq

BRITAIN-ZIMBABWE-POLITICS-immigrant-PROTESTThe Archbishop of York has issued the following statement today following United Nations reports that 670 people were executed by ISIL in the city of Mosul, the worst recorded massacre committed by the Salafi-Jihadist group. 

“It is essential that Her Majesty’s Government now take a lead both internationally and domestically to respond to the daily unfolding horrors in Iraq.

“Internationally the Government must take a lead in its role on the UN Security Council to support calls from the United Nation’s own committees for the creation of a “safe zone” in Iraq, enforced by UN peacekeepers, to protect the country’s minorities. As a member of the Security Council the Government has voice and a chance to act. It is essential that they not only take the opportunity to do so but show leadership by encouraging others nation states to do the same.

“They should follow the example of Sir John Major who created Safe havens for the Marsh Arabs when Saddam Hussein used chemical and biological weapons against the Kurds.

“Domestically the time has come for the Government to show leadership in offering asylum to those at risk of persecution. Other countries have acted already. France, Germany and Australia have already acted. The Government must show that it has the courage to offer sanctuary to the suffering and to demonstrate that right policies triumph over political calculations.

“Three weeks ago, on August 6th, I wrote privately to the Prime Minister thanking him for the commitment of humanitarian aid committed by the Government to the situation in Iraq. In that letter I also raised the issue of asylum recognising that the granting of asylum will not bring an end to the crisis but is a humanitarian act aimed at relieving suffering. I await a substantive reply. I raise this not to embarrass the Prime Minister, for whom I pray, but to urge him and his colleagues to act justly and swiftly in the face of suffering. He has already spearheaded the response to those suffering on Mount Sinjar and approved fighters to accompany aid drops. But more still needs to be done.

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated that ISIL are “systematically targeting men, women and children based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation.” For me this is not ethnic cleansing but human slaughter.

“Holy Writ urges us to overcome evil with good and in circumstances such as those we are witnessing in Iraq, this means actively resisting evil both in terms of protecting the innocent and putting an end to the brutality of the perpetrators.

Read the full statement on the Archbishop’s website here

Dialogue key for the Kirk – Herald Scotland, Letters


scottish independenceTHE intervention of 33 ministers of the Kirk in support of the Yes campaign is indeed welcome as a faith-based contribution to the debate on the referendum; as would be a parallel contribution from some of the ministers whose faith takes them towards support for the Better Together campaign .

Ordination is not a straightjacket, and the church is not a political party requiring its ministers or members to toe a party line of neutrality. By not taking an official side, the General Assembly opened the space for respectful dialogue last May, and again on September 3 when Lord Wallace, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords, and Finance Secretary John Swinney will be lead speakers at an event in Glasgow chaired by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The event will be streamed live online to 10 satellite events in churches across the country, sparking discussion in each venue.

Where I disagree with Rosemary Goring (“A welcome intervention on the part of ministers”, The Herald, August 25) is in her assumption that the only meaningful contribution to debate is to press a one-sided case. By inviting people to imagine Scotland’s future, and to think about the key values to shape that future (independ­ently or together), we looked beyond the knockabout of campaign debate, to seize a moment of opportunity. The 33 signatories, like our other 400,000 members, have their own views on which constitu­tional decision is best to reflect these values.

Whatever happens on September 18, we will continue to call for equality, justice and fairness, and work for what these mean to Scotland’s people.

Sally Foster-Fulton,

Convener, Church and Society Council, Church of Scotland, 121 George Street, Edinburgh.



church-of-scotland-emblemThe Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev John Chalmers, has preached to more than 200 people at Stornoway High Church during his visit to Lewis.

The Moderator said: “We could not have experienced any warmer a welcome than we have experienced here in Stornoway.

“We have learned much about the community and our visit has provided a much needed opportunity to affirm the work being done by the Church of Scotland throughout the Islands.”

Speaking of the service at Stornoway High Church yesterday, Mr Chalmers added: “It was wonderful to preach to such a well attended service in which I was able to share my enthusiasm for all that the Church of Scotland is doing across Scotland and encourage folk in their journey of faith.

“The motto of the town of Stornoway is ‘God’s providence is our inheritance’ and I enjoyed assuring the people of the High Kirk that, in keeping with their town motto, God will not let them down.”

Mr Chalmers and his wife Liz are on a busy eight day visit to Lewis, visiting a range of projects and Church initiatives.

The Clerk to Lewis Presbytery John Cunningham, said it’s been a great privilege to host the Moderator and Mrs Chalmers: “The Moderator has visited a number of organisations and individuals and has enjoyed hearing how peoples’ Christian faith has enriched their lives and helped them deal with the challenges which life presents from day to day.

“Through the visit, the Moderator has gained a unique insight into every facet of island life.

“On the Friday, he was joined by three senior representatives of the central Councils to engage in constructive dialogue with members of Lewis Presbytery, discussing, among other things, the Church’s handling of Religious Observance in Schools and the contentious issue of Civil Partnerships and the Ministry.”

Read the rest here

Chalmers visits isle kirk after gay clergy row split – Herald Scotland


church-of-scotland-emblemTHE Moderator of the Church of Scotland has given a morale-boosting visit to what remains of an island congregation badly split by the gay clergy row.

The Right Reverend John Chalmers had tried to stop most of the worshippers leaving Stornoway High on the Isle of Lewis, which was one of the Kirk’s biggest congregations.

But in May a group of 250 worshippers – including the entire kirk session – left to join the Free Church after the General Assembly voted last year for a proposal that would allow gay men and women to become ministers.

The issue has divided some congregations, with opponents arguing it goes against the word of God.

About 100 people have continued to worship at Stornoway High and Rt Rev Chalmer’s visit yesterday will be a huge morale boost for those who decided to stay.

The new Free Church congregation is worshipping in a primary school in Stornoway.

Rt Rev Chalmers is visiting Lewis for a week with his wife Liz.

But his main preaching engagement was at Stornoway High yesterday when he took the morning service. Later he participated in the evening service at Martin’s Memorial Church, also in Stornoway.

Earlier this year, Rt Rev Chalmers visited Stornoway High in his then role as the Principal Clerk to the Church of Scotland.

“We did all we could to persuade them that they have a valuable place in the life of the CoS and now was not the time to leave,” said Rt Rev Chalmers.

Read the rest here (subscription)

Funding lift for Scottish charities – Herald Scotland


tearfundALMOST a million pounds has been awarded by the Scottish Government to three charities to continue supporting their work in Africa.

Oxfam Scotland’s food security programme for Tanz­anian farmers will get £300,000 for 2015-16, Tearfund Scotland’s Ending Poverty One Village at a Time project in Rwanda will receive £299,882, while the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund is allocated £294,935 for the Kulima Programme in Zambia.

Minister for International Development Humza Yousaf said: “Partnership working, and achieving real and tangible outcomes on the ground, are integral to the Scottish Government’s International Development policy.

“The projects linked to today’s announcement reflect this ethos.”

Meanwhile, the UK government’s International Development department has said it will match every pound donated to Sciaf’s 50th anniversary Wee Box, Big Change appeal, helping thousands of women farmers in Africa.