I have waited a short time before commenting on the remarkable outcome of the General Election, I wanted to try and put aside all the emotion and excitement, recrimination and media hype, a weekend in Caithness provided just such an opportunity for that reflection.
I have to be aware that I now serve a diocese that has only one political party representing it in Westminster, that for some parts of the diocese these are the first changes in decades and that many people struggle with those changes while many others rejoice. In my own family different shades of political opinion are revealed and a number of debates take place, but ultimately we all need to find ways of working with the political situation we are now in.
Once again the nations of the United Kingdom are divided in political representation and once again matters relating to social security and benefits, immigration, defence, broadcasting and foreign policy will be decided by a political party that Scotland rejected.
The real difficulty of this is that each of those issues formed a part of the debate leading up to the election and therefore it has to be assumed that many of those who voted in such numbers for the SNP, did so because of their position on defence, immigration, austerity and welfare. There is also going to be a continuing argument over a broadcasting body that is seen by many in Scotland as biased to the South.
Somehow amidst all of this we need to discover a way that our Scottish Episcopal Church can continue to comment and work for the benefit of the people we serve in this new political landscape. New relationships need to be developed with new MP’s, new understandings need to be reached of the issues we can work on with the government and those issues we can and should challenge or comment on.
At this point in my reflection I became aware of the aspirations of the new Justice Minister and most of my calm reflection vanished and the need to comment became real. I am proud to live in a country that has enshrined in its legal processes rights and protection for those children who are victims of trafficking, for women who have and are victims of domestic and sexual violence, for victims of crime and rights for those with disabilities. The Human Rights Act gives so many who struggle the right to be heard and to be protected – that is a piece of legislation we should honour, not one we seek to remove.
I therefore reaffirm the need to find a way of working in this new political landscape, whilst reserving the right to challenge those decisions that run contrary to the aspirations of the Scottish electorate and above all , those plans that could bring hardship to the most vulnerable of our society.