ALTHOUGH I have lived in England for most of my life, I remain proud of my Scottish heritage and have traced my ancestors, on my father’s side, back for six generations to the early 1700s in Crawford, Lanarkshire. For such a small nation Scotland has produced a wealth of great men and women involved in all aspects of science, medicine, and culture.
Many factors have contributed to this wealth of talent, but a crucial one is, undoubtedly, education and in this the key individual is John Knox, the minister and reform Calvinist theologian. He played a pivotal role in the Christian reformation in Scotland in the seventeenth century and the founding of the Presbyterian church (the Kirk). In 1660 he outlined a plan ‘for the vertue and godlie upbringing of the youth of this Realm’. His aim was that every church should have a school and a schoolmaster and that all children, rich or poor, should be educated to a basic level, with high schools for more advanced learning. Although it took many years for the fulfilment of his plan the Kirk had a central role in the supervising of these schools and in the appointment of the schoolmasters (dominies).
The Calvinist ethos encouraged diligence, study, social responsibility and enterprise, and rewarded even those from very modest backgrounds. The Scots were known as ‘the people of the book’.
From the 18th century onwards the Kirk schools led Scotland to have the highest standard of literacy in Europe at all levels of society. In the 19th century the schools were increasingly taken over by the state, but the educational debt to the Kirk remains.
Fast forward to the present. A headline in the Scottish Daily Express in August 2022 read ‘The Nats have destroyed five centuries of Scottish educational excellence in just 15 years‘. This sentiment was echoed by many other publications and reports which demonstrated declining standards in maths, science, and English. Things became so bad that the SNP government withdrew from international comparison tables to avoid embarrassment.
This should be seen against the background of deepening secularisation of Scottish society. Indeed Scotland has secularised faster than any other European country, and many Scots seem determined to trash their Christian heritage which has framed and shaped modern Scotland for generations, including education. The woke SNP have been at the forefront of this and proudly proclaim that modern Scotland is leftish-liberal, progressive, inclusive and diverse. The reality is that under Nicola Sturgeon and her cronies Scotland has become deeply authoritarian, illiberal, retrogressive and exclusive, unless you sign up unquestioningly to all their dogmas. To make matters worse the SNP are now in partnership with the Greens who have their own deeply destructive and intolerant ideologies which will, inevitably, impoverish the country in pursuit of an impossible fantasy.
Which brings me to Kate Forbes, who is applying to become the new First Minister replacing Sturgeon. The sole topic of conversation around her is, of course, not her policies or experience, but the fact that she is a committed Christian, a member of the Free Church of Scotland, and she holds views which are entirely consistent with her beliefs, but which differ profoundly from the current cultural zeitgeist which prevails in Scotland.
There have been many ad hominem attacks on Forbes, often highly unpleasant and vindictive, and it has regularly been stated that there is no place in public life for such a bigoted and hateful individual, which is deeply worrying for many others in Scotland who share her views. Will it soon become impossible for a believing Christian to become a teacher, a lawyer, a nurse or a doctor?
More subtle have been the attacks on the Free Church, which has been portrayed as a fanatical religious sect led by men in shiny black suits, hitting people with heavy Bibles, closing playgrounds and banning any sort of fun or enjoyment (didn’t all our governments do that recently?)
The Free Church is a small denomination, and although I am sure it is not perfect it is growing steadily, unlike the established Church of Scotland which is in free-fall and which amply demonstrates the concept ‘go woke, go broke’. 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.
Professor Kathleen Stock, no stranger herself to ad hominem attacks, wrote a brilliant article in UnHerd last month: ‘We have a clash of two religions. One of them is full of sanctimonious swivel-eyed moral scolds, rooting out heresy and trying to indoctrinate everybody into their fantastic way of thinking. The other is a branch of Calvinism . . . Faced with a choice between their representatives on earth, I know which kind I would prefer to see in high office.’
I cannot prove that the catastrophic decline in Scotland’s educational standards is solely related to its secularism, but it is axiomatic that if you chop off the roots of a tree, the fruit will start to die. This flight from our cultural heritage into an age of unreason in much of Western Europe has been well chronicled by Douglas Murray (an atheist) in his books, The Madness of Crowds and The War on the West. The Orwellian concept that 2+2=5 is true if the state deems it so is the iceberg which sank Sturgeon’s ship.
The SNP are currently voting on their choice of leader, with the third candidate being Ash Regan. Nationally the polls suggest that Forbes is leading, but polls of the party are equally balanced between Forbes and Humza Yousaf so the outcome is very uncertain.
I have mixed feelings. I think Scotland would benefit from a leader prepared to challenge woke ideology, but Forbes is young and I am unsure if she has yet developed a thick enough skin to withstand the snakepit that is SNP politics. Also she has a young baby, and she should be able to enjoy the early years without the inevitable pressure of high office.
Yousaf is the preferred candidate of Sturgeon. But no strong leader ever wants to appoint a successor who may prove to be better. Yousaf has proved himself to be so incompetent in his various posts that, if appointed, Scotland would quickly fall out of favour with the SNP – which can only be a good thing.
Regarding the one overarching question, all three candidates have stated that they will see an independent Scotland in five years. However none has produced a coherent road map as to how to get there.