A bid to reverse the coalition government’s refusal to include abolition of the Act of Settlement within the Freedom (Great Repeal) Bill has been mounted by an SNP MP ahead of the visit by Pope Benedict XVI later this month.
The Scottish Nationalist MP for the Western Isles, Angus MacNeil, rounded on the Deputy Prime Minister after receiving a parliamentary answer advising that the coalition had no plans to end the discriminatory rules of succession.
Now, by building on the public consultation over the Freedom Bill, which was launched by Deputy Prime Minister and appealed for nomination of “laws you would like to remove or change because they restrict your civil liberties”, Mr MacNeil hopes that the government can be made to think again.
Mr MacNeil declared: “The Act of Settlement represents clear institutional discrimination against millions of our fellow citizens, and the coalition government’s refusal to consider its repeal is lamentable.
He continued: “Nick Clegg has lauded the Freedom Bill, and fancies himself as a great reformer, but his words are not matched by actions or even intentions. There is no better example of an outdated law that should be removed from the statute book and, with Pope Benedict visiting in juts a few weeks, we need to put this on the agenda.
“This is an issue of cross-party and cross-faith concern. The Act is state sectarianism and has no place in a modern society.
“The Scottish Parliament, Scottish Government and Catholic church in Scotland have long called for this institutional discrimination to come to an end to send a signal to society as a whole that religious discrimination of any kind and at any level is unacceptable.
“Changing the Act of Settlement allows us to deal with a fundamental issue of discrimination; it enables us to state clearly that discrimination is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in a modern country.
“The UK Government must act to bring forward real reforms and end institutional discrimination however high up it is,” concluded the MP.