RELIGION: Bishops urge politicians to put human life at centre of political discourse

By Bill Heaney and Peter Kearney

Scotland’s Catholic Bishops have released a pre-election Pastoral letter, urging Catholics to play their part “in putting human life and the inviolable dignity of the human person at the centre of Scotland’s political discourse” and to warn politicians against imposing “unjust restrictions on free speech, free expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion”.

In a 1,000-word letter distributed online and via Scotland’s 500 Catholic parishes, from Clydebank to Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh, Rosneath and Arrochar, the Bishops ask Catholic voters to give consideration to six key areas, when selecting a candidate:

Beginning and end of life

Family and Work

Poverty, Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery


Free speech, free expression, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Catholic schools

Pointing out that “society relies on the building block of the family to exist and flourish” the bishops add that the “government should respond to this reality with policies creating economic and fiscal advantages for families with children.”

Voters are also urged to visit the website and to use the resources there to help them consider a range of election issues and to question candidates.

The full text of the Pastoral Letter is shown below:

Scottish Parliament Election 2021 – Putting Human Life and  Dignity at the Centre 

A letter from the Catholic Bishops of Scotland

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This election presents us with an opportunity to play our part in putting human life and the inviolable dignity of the human person at the centre of Scotland’s political discourse. As Catholics we have a duty: to share the Gospel and to help form the public conscience on key moral issues. It is a duty of both faith and citizenship.  This election is an opportunity to be the effective witness our Baptism calls us to be.

The new parliament and government will be tasked with leading the recovery from the damage wrought by the current health crisis and to tackle the significant impact it has had on many aspects of life including health care, mental health and wellbeing, religious freedom, and care for the poor. It must also build on the positives arising from the Pandemic, including caring for the most vulnerable, and a renewed sense of respect for human life, human dignity, and the value of community.

These are some of the issues you may want to consider in the forthcoming election:

Beginning and end of life

It is the duty of parliamentarians to uphold the most basic and fundamental human right to life. Elected representatives ought to recognise the existence of human life from the moment of conception and be committed to the protection of human life at every stage. Caring for the unborn and their mothers is a fundamental measure of a caring and compassionate society; a society which puts human dignity at the centre.

We ought to be mindful of a further attempt to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland, likely to happen in this parliament. Legalising assisted suicide or euthanasia suggests that some lives are not worth living, contrary to the Christian belief that every life has equal dignity and value. It is incumbent upon our parliamentarians to show compassion for the sick and dying. This is not achieved by assisted suicide or euthanasia but by ensuring support is provided through caring and attentive politics, including investment in palliative care.

Family and Work

Society relies on the building block of the family to exist and flourish. The love of man and woman in marriage and openness to new life is the basic, fundamental cell upon which every society is built. The well-being of Scotland and its future depends on the flourishing of family life and government should respond to this reality with policies creating economic and fiscal advantages for families with children.

The pandemic has placed immeasurable pressure on businesses and many people have lost their livelihood. The state has a duty to sustain business activities by creating conditions which will ensure job opportunities, especially in times of crisis. This must be accompanied by a just wage to provide a dignified livelihood for the worker and their family.

Poverty, Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

Sadly, poverty remains a scourge for too many people. The marginalised, the homeless, and the lonely and isolated have been cast further adrift because of the pandemic. And poverty now affects 24% of children in Scotland. We need elected representatives who respect a preferential option for the poor, who are willing to prioritise their need and respect their human dignity.

Our government must also work with the international community to adopt an even more effective strategy against human trafficking and modern slavery, so that in every part of the world, men and women may no longer be used as a means to an end, and that their inviolable dignity will always be respected.


The next group of MSPs will be tasked with protecting our neighbours at home and abroad from the poverty and climate crises which continue to rage on. In November Glasgow will play host to the COP26 international climate change summit. We should listen to Pope Francis’ call to ‘hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’ by lifting up the voices of the global south and coming together to rebuild our Common Home in a way that leaves no-one behind. Scotland can also demonstrate global leadership by strengthening its commitment to becoming a carbon neutral country.

Free speech, free expression, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion

If Scotland is to be a tolerant, open, diverse country then we must be free to discuss and debate ideas, even those which are deemed by some to be controversial. Whilst being mindful of the need to protect citizens from hate, government must not overstep into the realm of unjust restrictions on free speech, free expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This must include, among others, the freedom to express belief in the biological reality of sex and gender.

Catholic schools

The right of parents to choose a school for their children which corresponds to their own convictions is fundamental. Public authorities have a duty to guarantee this parental right and to ensure the concrete conditions for its exercise. Thus, parliamentarians ought to continue to support an open and diverse state education system which includes Catholic schools.

We pray that this election will put human life and the dignity of the human person at the centre, and that candidates will ensure debate is respectful and courteous. 

We urge you to visit the website and to use the resources there to help you in your consideration of election issues and to use the tools available to question candidates.  

+ Hugh Gilbert, President, Bishop of Aberdeen

+ John Keenan, Vice President, Bishop of Paisley

+ Brian McGee, Episcopal Secretary, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles

+ Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh

+ Joseph Toal, Bishop of Motherwell

+ Stephen Robson, Bishop of Dunkeld

+ William Nolan, Bishop of Galloway

Monsignor Hugh Bradley, Archdiocesan Administrator, Archdiocese of Glasgow 


  1. Maybe the churches should be asking the Scottish Government why they have been funding with millions of pounds organisations who are aligned to the cause of making it legal for sex for all over 12 years old.

    Promoted as some form freedom to be enjoyed by all gay, lesbian, intersex, trans or more normally sexually oriented over twelve years of age, there are many, many of us who consider those who promote these policies to be nothing less than paedophiles in our midst.

    Folks truly need to be aware of this before they cast their votes on the 6th May 2021, and in being a candidate of the party of government, and a long term gay rights campaigner, maybe we could get a candidate comment about the funding of organisations who align with the reduction of the age of consent.

    Make no mistake this is a monstrous issue. Candidates need to be clear on where they stand on this. Sex with 12 year olds irrespective of orientation is paedophilia, no if, no but, no matter what the new age politicos say. These are just children!

  2. ILGA World – the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

    Just over a year ago they released, as part of a 200-member caucus of other groups, something called “The Feminist Declaration”. It’s a mostly-innocuous document but buried in the middle of it is a very disturbing section.

    ”Eliminate all laws and policies that punish or criminalize same-sex intimacy, gender affirmation, abortion, HIV transmission non-disclosure and exposure, or that limit the exercise of bodily autonomy, including laws limiting legal capacity of adolescents, people with disabilities or other groups to provide consent to sex”

    And the definition of adolescents is –

    ” Adolescents is the phase of life between childhood and adulthood from ages 10 to 19 ”

    And the organisations signed up to the IGLA ( or International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association ) and funded by the Scottish Government include –

    – LGBT Youth Scotland and
    – Stonewall Scotland

    And for connection it might be worth noting that up until 2017 one of the directors of LGBT Youth Scotland SNP MP for Stirling Alyn ‘ daddy bear ‘ Smith.

    With all the focus on Trans and GRA and HCA is it not time that the Scottish Government issued a statement on the protection of children. Sex with a ten year old no matter their orientation is wrong and we know only too well how paedophiles lurk in our midst. Jeffrey Epstein, Prince Andrew, Jimmy Saville, and even men of the cloth have all been accused of such behaviour and we cannot be too careful about how we protect our young.

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