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Language: English / Gàidhlig


Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 05 February 2019

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Forestry Strategy 2019 to 2029, Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill: Financial Resolution, Business Motion, Point of Order, Decision Time, World Cancer Day 2019


Time for Reflection

Good afternoon. We will begin today’s business with time for reflection, which will be led by Father Liam McMahon, parish priest at St Michael’s in Glasgow.

Thank you, Presiding Officer, for giving me the opportunity to address members of the Parliament today.

This morning, as I drove here from my parish in Glasgow’s east end, I reflected that “in here” and “out there” are two very different kingdoms. The Scottish Parliament chamber and the gifted people who inhabit it create a place of powerful possibility, which is an engine that bridges the gap between those two kingdoms.

It would be a missed opportunity to fall into one of two possible extremes: either to be so mired in the difficulties of people’s lives that we fail to examine the possibilities that others bring to the chamber, or to become absorbed in the art of bureaucracy and forget that, if it fails in its purpose to change lives, it is useless. I humbly suggest that a middle way needs to be maintained and emphasise the inspiring example that parliamentarians can be to society.

What values can we agree to hold in common? I suggest one: listening with an open heart. Pope Francis has said that

“political engagement is one of the highest expressions of charity”.

However, in order to learn from someone else, we must be willing to listen to them, whatever their background, belief or political outlook may be. If we condemn them in our hearts before they have opened their mouths, we both lose instantly. We all need to insist on a respect for “the other”, because then that powerful possibility is instantly recovered. We need to rediscover the gift of listening with a sincerely open heart.

St Paul’s description of every individual believer as a necessary part of the whole body is helpful. The foot is completely different from the ear—as each of us might be from our political opponent—yet for the body to be able to work there needs to be some fundamental unity between those parts, no matter how different they are. Collective progress must be based on fundamental respect and acceptance that “the other” is as necessary a part of society as we are. Together we must find some way to co-ordinate our beliefs and not silence anyone who is different from us.

I encourage members to remember that, in your work, you are called to something inspirational and can truly be a light in the darkness of the struggles of people’s lives. I encourage you to listen to others, especially when their politics are at odds with yours. Take your responsibility with hope and courage, but also with gentleness, as you hold the future of many in your hands.

I commend to members the gift of listening with open hearts.