The Catholic bishops of Scotland have urged the faithful to ‘play our part’ in the forthcoming Holyrood elections by ‘putting human life and the inviolable dignity of the human person at the centre of Scotland’s politics’.
In a letter addressing the country’s Catholic population ahead of the 6th May elections, the bishops note that, while party politics can be an important consideration, particularly in the Scottish Parliament list system, it is ‘critical to ascertain candidates’ personal values and opinions and not concentrate solely on party policies’.
‘It is individuals who will make up the parliament and form a government; and some of the most important issues, including abortion and assisted suicide, are commonly decided by a conscience, or free, vote,’ they point out.
Highlighting the Catholic duty to share the Gospel and help form the public conscience on key moral issues, the bishops say: ‘This election is an opportunity to be the effective witness our Baptism calls us to be.’
They note that the new parliament and government will be tasked with leading the recovery from the damage wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic and to tackle the significant impact it has had on many aspects of life including health care, mental health and wellbeing, religious freedom and care for the poor.
‘It must also build on the positives arising from the pandemic, including caring for the most vulnerable and a renewed sense of respect for human life, human dignity and the value of community,’ the bishops say.
They urge Catholics to consider a wide range of issues in the forthcoming election, including the ‘fundamental human right to life’ from conception to natural death; the ‘flourishing of family life’; and the ‘fundamental’ right of parents to choose a school for their children that corresponds to their own convictions.
They also note that the next group of MSPs should follow Pope Francis’ teachings on the environment and ensure that the scourges of poverty, human trafficking and modern slavery are tackled.
The issues of freedom of speech, expression, thought, conscience and religion are also critical following the passing of the SNP’s Hate Crime Bill.
‘If Scotland is to be a tolerant, open, diverse country then we must be free to discuss and debate ideas, even those which are deemed by some to be controversial,’ the bishops say.
‘Whilst being mindful of the need to protect citizens from hate, government must not overstep into unjust restrictions on free speech, conscience or religion.
Picture: A voter posts their vote in a ballot box.