An MSP has accused the Scottish Government of “prioritising pints over prayers” by allowing pubs to reopen before places of worship.
Murdo Fraser, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said it is “extraordinary” that pubs, bars and restaurants will be allowed to reopen their doors to customers from 15th July, while churches must wait until 23rd July to celebrate collective worship services.
“It is extraordinary that pubs will be reopening around the country on 15th July but you still won’t be able to go places of worship – whether this is a church, mosque or synagogue,” he said.
“This seems a very strange set of priorities by the Scottish Government and gives the impression they are prioritising pints over prayers.”
Churches in Scotland are currently permitted to open for private ceremonies, including funerals, as well as private prayer with strict social distancing measures in place.
Backing the Scottish Catholic bishops’ stance on the matter, which they described as “both disappointing and perplexing”, Mr Fraser called for the Government to explain why pubs have been prioritised, permitting people to gather for drinks at a bar but not allowing them to celebrate Mass together in a church.
“I’m sure many residents in Perthshire and Fife will agree with me that thousands of people find solace, peace, and companionship in joining with others in worship, and faith is important to many of us, especially during unprecedented times as we are going through just now with Covid-19,” he said.
Mr Fraser’s criticism comes after the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland claimed the Government’s decision was “unjustified”.
As reported in last week’s Catholic Universe, the bishops said the Catholic Church had responded positively to all official requests from the very beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown and submitted detailed protocols for infection control and staged reopening to the Scottish Government weeks ago, without any objection from the government.
“The Church has continued to engage with government and the reopening of churches for personal prayer since Monday (22nd June) has allowed time to assess the procedures in place to assure public safety,” they said.
“With these considerations in mind, further delays to communal worship appear unjustified. The Bishops’ Conference will convey these views to the Scottish Government as a matter of urgency.”
Picture: Archive photo, dated 12th May 2020, shows the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, in Edinburgh operating a hybrid chamber allowing MSPs to join the debate remotely for the first time as the country continues under the coronavirus lockdown measures. (Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA).