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The time will surely come for Kate Forbes

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IN March 2023 I wrote an article for TCW on whether Kate Forbes could survive in the snakepit of Scottish SNP politics. I outlined the fact that Scottish culture had been shaped by its Christian reformation in the 17th century and the pivotal role played by John Knox, the minister and reformed Calvinist theologian. He insisted that wherever there was a Kirk there should be a school, and that all children, whether rich or poor, should have at least a basic education. The Calvinist ethos encouraged diligence, study, social responsibility and enterprise, and rewarded even those from very modest backgrounds.

This laid the bedrock for the Scottish Enlightenment which was characterised by the values of improvement, virtue, and practical benefit for the individual and society as a whole. In consequence wee Scotland gave the world some of the greatest philosophers, scientists, doctors, engineers, architects, authors, explorers and many others.

Sadly the last 20 years or so has seen the Scots determined to trash their cultural heritage, and indeed Scotland has secularised faster than almost any other European country. And led by the SNP, educational standards have plummeted. The NHS in Scotland is even worse than in England; deaths from drug abuse are the highest in Europe; and rather than focusing on these issues which are important to the people, the SNP has pushed woke social agendas such as gender recognition which resulted in a convicted rapist being sent to a female prison. The reality is that under Nicola Sturgeon and her successor Scotland has become deeply authoritarian, illiberal, retrogressive and exclusive, unless you sign up unquestioningly to all their dogmas. Having lost an overall majority the SNP teamed up with the Greens, a deeply intolerant party with a whole range of extreme policies.

Following Sturgeon’s downfall and the campaign for the new leader of the party, Kate Forbes came a creditable second to Humza Yousaf, gaining 48 per cent of the votes. She was clearly a very competent and popular candidate. However during the campaign almost the only topic of conversation around her was not her policies or experience, but the fact that she was a Christian and a member of the Presbyterian Free Church of Scotland, and that she held socially conservative views in line with her faith, especially on sexuality. This, it seemed, made her unfit for high office in the land where the Scots had once been known as ‘the people of the book’.

Following Yousaf’s resignation Forbes was clearly a possible candidate. Most commentators have agreed that she would be the best choice to take over the leadership of the party with energy, ideas and vision. However it seems that the political elites simply cannot get over the fact of her faith. This seems strange given that Yousaf is a Muslim and his faith has a strict moral code regarding sexual ethics.  

In The Times on April 30, the columnist Kenny Farquharson penned a piece on Forbes which to call a hatchet job would be an understatement. Although initially listing her qualities, he laid into her Christianity in a way which was savage, bigoted, intolerant and frankly hateful. As Campbell Campbell-Jack observed in TCW on Friday his animus towards her was not because she was a Christian, but a Christian who believed. He attributed to her attitudes which she has never

professed, and frankly lied about her. He focused on what he felt would be her attitude to single mothers, that they were all unworthy sinners, and that sex outside marriage was wrong. What pride could such a woman possibly take in a national leader who disapproves of her  very existence? He is clearly totally ignorant of Christian theology, or of Christ who regularly mixed with the poor and outcasts of society, who spoke words of love to prostitutes and who reached out to touch the untouchable lepers.

He concluded by stating that he wants a secular Scotland, where religious beliefs do not dictate the way people are governed, which is surprising since this is what they already have under the woke SNP, who proudly proclaim that modern Scotland is leftish-liberal, progressive, inclusive and diverse (although it is in fact regressive, exclusive and increasingly culturally conformist). It is also strange that when Humza Yousaf held a Muslim prayer meeting in Bute House, there was virtually no comment in the media. It is clear that it is Christianity which upsets the political elites in Scotland.

Christ and his true followers continue to upset the religious and political elites of our day. The Free Church, of which Forbes is a member, is a small denomination, and shows steady growth, unlike the woke established Church of Scotland which is in free-fall. There are regular new Free Church plants, not in the leafy prosperous suburbs with swanky buildings and ministers in flowing robes, but rather in school halls or empty shops in dilapidated shopping centres. The ministers will be wearing trainers and hoodies, much like their congregations who consist of the poor, those struggling with alcohol and drugs, single parents, prostitutes and all the marginalised of society. In other words the sort of people that Christ mixed with, and because of this was denounced by the elite and religious leaders of his day.

I am reminded of the account, near the beginning of St. Mark’s gospel, of the calling of Levi who later was named Matthew and became one of the 12 apostles and author of the first gospel. He was a tax collector, a very socially unacceptable position in those days, and not the sort of person you would expect a religious leader to call. Immediately following this Jesus is found at Levi’s home having dinner with him and many other ‘tax collectors and sinners’. (This, of course, is the start of the Church – the riff raff of this world sharing a meal with Christ). This deeply upset the religious elites who would normally have nothing to do with such people, and shortly after this they began to plot with the political elites (the Herodians) as to how they might kill Jesus, the shadow of the cross appearing near the start of his earthly ministry.

If Farquharson had written such a piece about Humza Yousaf and Islam, he would almost certainly be prosecuted under Scotland’s new blasphemy laws (sorry, hate crime laws), on the grounds of Islamophobia. Except, of course, that the editor would never have allowed it. However, Christophobia does not seem to matter. Nevertheless I hope that some doughty Scot will take the initiative and report him to the police although I doubt it will lead to a prosecution.

Kate Forbes has announced that she will not stand for the leadership of the SNP but will join the government formed by John Swinney. I, for one, am relieved; I think the media and the political elites would have metaphorically crucified her, not for her politics but for her faith. Swinney is a Sturgeon faithful, so I doubt much will change in Scotland. Forbes might get her chance in due course; she has time on her side.

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Dr Tom Goodfellow
Dr Tom Goodfellow
Tom Goodfellow is a retired NHS consultant radiologist who had a specialist interest in paediatrics and cancer diagnosis.

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