As politicians of all parties campaign for elections to the Westminster Parliament, senior figures in the Church of Scotland are urging positive engagement with the political process - with an emphasis on social justice concerns.
Writing in the Kirk's magazine 'Life & Work', The Rt Rev William Hewitt, Moderator of the Presbyterian denomination's General Assembly, urged churchgoers and others to act from hope rather than cynicism.
He declared: “[N]o doubt by the time of the election itself, many will be weary and wish it over. There may be some who will simply opt out, but I would want to stress the importance of taking part in the democratic process."
He continued: “Voting is not only a civic duty, but is a right we should cherish. We remember those people in the past who won the right to vote, and those around the world who envy us for having the freedom to choose our own government."
“Some people say that there is no point in voting because the parties are all the same. This is unfair, as we elect individuals, whose values and opinions will always be different. We have a responsibility to discover what our candidates are saying and what the party manifestos are proposing.
Political reformers argue that relying on individuals is not enough, and that changes in voting and parliamentary systems are now urgent to ensure that people's view are proportionally reflected in Westminster election results, and politicians are properly held to account.
“We all know that the major issues of economic recovery, education and health will dominate [the election], said Hewitt. "However the Church is pushing for an end to Trident, both from a moral and an economic point of view. It is also particularly important to vote for a party that respects human rights and to make sure that no racist or fascist candidate can be elected.”
Meanwhile, Iain McLarty, Moderator of the Kirk's Youth Assembly, wrote: “It may be a cliché that youth and idealism go together but youth involvement in politics always seems to peak when there are large moral issues to be dealt with such as civil rights and opposition to war.
“The Obama campaign was successful in gaining the support of young people because it gave them a vision of radical change to support. Politicians need to be aware of these issues that energise young people because they are often the big issues which are given political lip service in manifestos before getting lost among the smaller battles fought every day.
“While nobody would deny that this election is primarily about the economy, we need to make sure that issues such as climate change and global poverty are not ignored, both adversely affected by the economic downturn and needing urgent action if their effects are not to become irreversible.
"These are also issues where the churches are particularly vocal. Perhaps this concurrence is unsurprising given the idealistic message of the Christian faith but it is worth bearing in mind when thinking about how we as a church can influence the political agenda,” commented McLarty.