By Democrat reporter
A fundamentalist representative of the Catholic Church in Scotland has called out the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) “open and vicious hostility” towards pro-life Christians.
Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office at Holyrood, has slammed the SNP for its treatment of pro-life MPs within the party, such as Dr Lisa Cameron.
Michael Robinson, SPUC Director of Communications, said: “The realisation that the SNP is by now an anti-life party, which actively seeks to discriminate against Christians and especially Catholics, even within its own party, is becoming clear as it sets itself against unborn children.”
Such hostility, which some believe threatens pro-lifers within the party with deselection, is seen as a way of influencing future abortion votes.
Many “middle of the road” Catholics will be shocked by this, just as they refuse to have any truck with anti gay groups within or outwith the Catholic Church in Scotland.
These people, who are considered to be in a majority, both within “the people of God” and the clergy, a significant number of whom are themselves gay, although allegedly non-practising, deprecate the high profile currently being given to the fundamentalists who receive the official support of the hierarchy.
That is the bishops and archbishops of the Church in Scotland who are still struggling to get over the Cardinal O’Brien scandal and the ongoing inquiry and investigations headed by Baroness Helen Liddell into child abuse in Catholic institutions such as orphanages and remand homes.
Fundamentalist Mr Horan, who appears to have been courting controversy since his appointment, said in a statement distributed to the media through the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC): “Alarmingly, recent reports suggest that religious affiliation, pro-life beliefs and the belief that gender is not fluid and changeable may lead to some individuals being excluded from the SNP candidate selection process ahead of next year’s Scottish parliament elections.
“If true, this would undermine entirely Ms Sturgeon’s claim that diversity of belief was something the SNP was ‘proud of’.”
Mr Robinson said: “As Mr Horan indicates, the SNP is solidifying itself as Scotland’s premier anti-life and anti-Christian party.”
Many Catholics would disagree with that. Indeed the Catholic Church’s stand on politics in recent years has been widely seen as pro SNP.
The fact that both the Church and the SNP fly the same flag, the Saltire, on high days and holidays, has added to the party’s popularity, although mainstream members of the party – like so many Scottish Catholics themselves, according to Professor John Haldane of St Andrews University – are unfamiliar with the detail when it comes to religion.
The most recent vote in West Dunbartonshire Council was in favour of “a woman’s right to choose” which appeared to go through unanimously, although it is sometimes difficult to hear what is going on there, despite the fact that there were a number of Catholic councillors present for the vote.
Disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien and Baroness Helen Liddell.
Andrew Muir, who has announced he will once again be an Independent candidate in the next local government election, has been given short shrift in the Council chamber when he has come to address the elected members on abortion to which he is opposed.
Indeed, the SNP have banned Mr Muir from joining their party or attending any of the meetings of their Dumbarton branch.
The most vocal of the SNP members for “a woman’s right to choose” in relation to abortion was Cllr Caroline McAllister, who represents the Renton ward, where a significant percentage of the electorate are Catholic.
“Respect the right to freedom of conscience”
The SPUC release states that Dr Lisa Cameron SNP, MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, received a death threat against a family member earlier this year after she voted against banning pro-life vigils outside abortion clinics.
Dr Cameron also faced calls for deselection after she used her free vote to stand against the legalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland in 2019.
“It was a free vote, a conscience vote”, she said. “I didn’t rebel or vote against the party whip. And yet now it’s virtually certain that abusive party activists will make sure I’m deselected and lose the job I love.
“Unfortunately, it is becoming more difficult for Christian MPs to be able to vote on matters of conscience freely due to safety concerns, as freedom of religious belief appears to be being continually eroded.”
Mr Horan defended the right of Dr Cameron and others to stand up for the unborn.
He said: “It is of paramount importance that all parties respect the right to freedom of conscience in their candidate selection process and that a diversity of views is not simply tolerated, but welcomed, including the belief in the dignity of human life in the womb.”
The Catholic Media Office has been asked to comment on this and released the following statement today: “
“In July last year, as preparations were being made for December’s UK General Election, the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, Bishop Hugh Gilbert wrote to the Leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon. His letter was sent amidst claims of unfairness in the process of selecting SNP candidates and of open and vicious hostility towards party members who held pro-life views.
Dr Lisa Cameron, MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, was on the receiving end of a significant degree of virtual and actual hostility for her belief in the right to life of the unborn, including calls by some for her deselection.
Bishop Gilbert sought reassurance from Ms Sturgeon that the SNP supported freedom of conscience within the public square. Happily, Ms Sturgeon was pleased to give that assurance, stating that she was “proud of our diversity as a party” and declaring that “a number of faith groups are represented amongst SNP Parliamentarians and in the Scottish Cabinet.” The First Minister’s words were reassuring and welcomed.
Bishop Hugh Gilbert (front row extreme right) with the rest of the Scottish hierarchy.
Alarmingly, however, recent reports suggest that religious affiliation, pro-life beliefs and the belief that gender is not fluid and changeable may lead to some individuals being excluded from the SNP candidate selection process ahead of next year’s Scottish Parliament elections. If true, this would undermine entirely Ms Sturgeon’s claim that diversity of belief was something the SNP was “proud of”.
It may be that in SNP branches across the country officials are prepared to discriminate against and disadvantage their party colleagues solely on the basis of their religious belief, their belief in the right to life of every human being or on their beliefs about biological sex. They may not be aware that they are acting in direct conflict with the position of their party, as expressed by their party leader.
Next May, people in Scotland will go to the polls to elect a new Scottish Parliament. It is of paramount importance that all parties respect the right to freedom of conscience in their candidate selection process and that a diversity of views is not simply tolerated, but welcomed, including the belief in the dignity of human life in the womb and the right to disagree with transgender ideology.
It is not for political parties to dictate how their parliamentary candidates should think. By all means, ensure that they are committed to the policies of the parties they seek to represent, but on matters of conscience, they must be free to act in accordance with their beliefs. Failure to respect this fundamental right would be a retrograde and dangerous step for our democracy. “
Anthony Horan, Director, Catholic Parliamentary Office
The Catholic Church believes that human life exists from the moment of conception. Editor