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Language: English / Gàidhlig


Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 31 January 2017

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Bailey Gwynne (Independent Review), Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, Gender Balance (Parliamentary Bureau and Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body), Business Motion, Decision Time, Veterans


Time for Reflection

Good afternoon. The first item of business today is time for reflection, for which our leader is Mr Ron McLaren, who is chair of Humanism in Scotland.

My thanks to the Presiding Officer, Willie Rennie and all members for the opportunity to present time for reflection today.

I hope it is all right to say that it is some time since I was fondled in the way that I was on my way in to Holyrood with the frisking and so on. Very nice. [Laughter.]

My tribute is to members and to the Parliament.

Recent years saw my inclusion as a secular humanist contributor to four national health service-related initiatives and publications. In 2003, cross-party concerns about NHS cost inflation inspired a scoping study. Who, in the biological garage, cares for the non-religious? It brought a secular, whole-person approach to all faiths and none, broadening the chaplains’ role and testing their single-faith allegiance and the comfort of their spiritual homes.

Spiritual care was born and was transformational. NHS allied-professional silos were set aside. For example, a non-religious patient seeking help, and saying, “Sorry, but I’m not religious”, brought the response, “Neither am I” from the spiritual care chaplain, dressed in civvy garb and with no clerical code in sight. A secular NHS is alive and well.

The harmony project involved mainstream faiths and beliefs. Where is the common ground? A secular approach, with no one being privileged, all eager to accept each other’s right to be, and no reluctance to bridge foundational differences. On what would we all agree? Unanimity emerged as the golden rule.

Jo Cox was the epitome of secular inclusion. Her words of unity are more relevant now than ever before. She is probably the best role model as an individual who inspired relationships into buttresses of inclusion—her words on unity were relevant. Everyone was a member of her community. Creed, race, colour, gender and so on did not matter—all were treated as part of Jo’s human family and, 24/7, there were no barriers to engagement. Sadly, that was brought to an untimely end through a mindset of extreme political ideology that envied her outreach—and inreach—and which viewed democratic rights as evil.

I have a belief that dialogue and a secular vision are needed to focus change in social society through diversity: a mix of faiths, beliefs and none. Dialogue, understanding and acceptance are important.

At a wedding that I conducted in Auchtermuchty, under the nearby gaze of Sir Jimmy Shand’s statue, all the guests were from “Muchty”. “Auchter”? It was cast aside and dismissed. In an auld Scots dictionary, “auchter” is the high ground, above a place for pig-rearing. Scanning further, I found the game changer. “Och” is a frustrated “oh, yes”. “Och, TV is crap—Eh’m awa tae ma bed.” “Och, ye’r havering. Eh’m awa doon the pub.”

OCH is also an acronym. In aviation it means obstacle clearance height and in astrophysics it stands for orbiter common hardware, but it suddenly dawned on me that OCH could also stand for “our common humanity”—a universal label for our single species. Given the requisite fertility, with members from opposite ends of the earth, procreation is assured. How common is that? It is undeniable.

“Time for reflection” is an all-inclusive mantra. It affirms secular inclusivity for all, with no privilege except via the democratic process. Sadly, however, secularism is often misrepresented and wrongly tagged as aggressive or as posing a threat. Why? Is it to ensure that the superior moral monopoly is preserved? Not at all. Its militancy is a myth. It is inclusive. It is secular.

MSPs—Scotland needs you to go well for our common good. My hope is that you become truly secular. Outcomes will get better and better. OCH. Thank you.