The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has launched the results of a nationwide consultation on Scotland’s future.
The Kirk used the opportunity to call for issues of public integrity and building community – not just cash and constitutions – to be at the heart of the debate in the run-up to the 2014 independence referendum.
Scotland's largest Christian denomination has made it clear that it will not take sides on a Yes or No vote to the question 'should Scotland be an independent country?' Instead, it wishes to encourage a mature civic discussion and to provide resources for that debate.
The Imagining Scotland’s Future: Our Vision report is not about the referendum question, but is based on the views of over 900 people who attended 32 community events run by the Kirk over the past eight months, with the active support of the Scottish Churches' Parliamentary Office and some outside support.
There had been some hope that the process would be more ecumenical, but in the end the capacity and resources for the project were focused on the Kirk and some of the communities it seeks to serve.
The launch was chaired on 26 February 2014 by the Rt Rev Lorna Hood, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
Attending the event to respond to the report were Roseanna Cunningham MSP and former Scottish Conservative Leader Annabel Goldie MSP, representing both sides of the referendum debate, along with the former Kirk Moderator and former chair of the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), Dr Alison Elliot, who will comment from a civic society perspective.
The 900 participants in the events took part in structured conversations lead by team members in Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland and by a contracted facilitator.
The events were run as "civic assemblies” where participants were taken through a structured conversation to allow maximum participation and focus on their views rather than that of a “top table”
Participants wrote down their views on index cards and also offered a vision statement on themes identified by the discussions. These views were collated and analysed to form the basis of the report being launched tomorrow
The Kirk has urged its congregations to ensure that Gospel values of peace and social justice remain central to the referendum debate, at a time when many in politics are focusing only on the economic and financial consequences of constitutional change.
Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow was contracted as a trainer and facilitator for the 'Imagining Scotland's Future' process, which was constructed and run in a deliberately non-partisan way.
* The full report is available online.
* More on the Scottish independence referendum from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/scottishindependence