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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 27 June 2017

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motions, Topical Question Time, European Union Negotiations and Scotland’s Future, NHS Ayrshire and Arran Maternity Services (Review of Management of Adverse Events), Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill, Scottish Information Commissioner, Decision Time, Online Exploitation and Abuse of Children


Time for Reflection

The first item of business this afternoon is time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader is the Reverend John C Duncan MBE, who is the minister of St Athernase Church of Scotland in Leuchars, and a former Army chaplain.

The Rev John C Duncan MBE (Minister, St Athernase Church of Scotland, Leuchars)

When I was an Army chaplain serving in Iraq, I started to be bothered with cramps. I was not accustomed to getting cramps, so with self-diagnosis of the “Dr Finlay’s Casebook” kind, I diagnosed that I was doing too much physical training. I put this brilliant diagnosis to the battalion physical training instructor. Physical training instructors live and breathe the gym and exercise, so suggesting that one is doing too much exercise is either brave or foolhardy. I wish that I had been able to capture on camera his facial expression in response to my diagnosis of “too much exercise”.

It was clear that there was not a meeting of minds. He said, “Padre—too much exercise? Too much physical training?” with a tone of doubt, scepticism and incredulity, which can best be summed up in that wee Scottish phrase, “Oh, aye!” However, with all the certainty of a John Knox sermon, he said, “I know how to cure your cramps.” I thought that I knew what was coming and that it would be more exercise, and not less, but it was not. “There’s a problem and I can solve it,” said he. He added, “We’re in a hot country and drinking more water, but you need to replace the salt you’re losing when you sweat.” He was right, and my cramps were cured with a sprinkling of salt on my food.

We all—and all organisations—experience cramps. As an Army chaplain and now as a parish minister, I like to think that when soldiers and other people experience cramps, by sprinkling a little salt I have been able to ease or even cure their cramps. I am sure that, as members of Parliament, when constituents come to you with their cramps, because you can sprinkle a little salt on the system—the process—you have been able to resolve their cramps.

Jesus told us, “You are the salt of the earth.” Yes, we are the salt of the earth. I have always looked at soldiers as the salt of the earth, as Jesus told me to do. Armed forces day was on Saturday, and we paid tribute to Her Majesty’s forces. Like us all, they experience cramps. We must be willing to sprinkle a little salt on those who are the salt of the earth.