Christian News from Scotland

News stories from Scotland and beyond

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

SNP and Romans Team Up

It is reported that SNP leader Alex Salmond and Roman Cardinal Keith O'Brien have agreed a pact to campaign against the 300-year old Act of Settlement, the law which bars Roman Catholics from becoming King or Queen.

The pair will call on ministers to revoke the rule, which O'Brien has described previously as "the country's shame". Salmond and O'Brien say they will also campaign together against plans to replace Trident with a new generation of nuclear weapons.

The 1701 law bans Catholics from becoming either King or Queen and bars the monarch from marrying a Catholic.

Unlike his fellow Roman Catholic leaders in England, the cardinal has taken up the issue of the Act, insisting that only by correcting institutional discrimination within the law can the blight of sectarianism in Scotland be properly tackled. Last year, he told First Minister Jack McConnell that he should press for the Act to be revoked if he was serious about taking on religious bigotry.
A spokesman for the cardinal said that he and Salmond had now agreed to press jointly for the Act's removal from the statute book.

"The meeting will be followed up with initiatives to raise awareness about this," the spokesman said. "There was agreement that the issue had slipped into the background in recent years and that people needed to be reminded of the injustice that it represents."

A spokesman for Salmond added: "Both agreed to work at ending the poison and hatred sectarianism brings to Scotland. That is why it is so important that the Act of Settlement is abolished because sectarianism is inherent in the Act."

The agreement between the cardinal and Salmond will rekindle memories of the close ties the SNP leader forged with the late Cardinal Winning, who became increasingly sympathetic to the Scottish Nationalist cause in his later years.

SNP party chiefs have seen it as crucial to eat into the Roman Catholic community's traditional support for Labour, if they are to make inroads into their rivals' grip on central Scotland. Salmond penned an article for Winning's church newspaper and was rewarded by the cardinal's declaration that Scottish nationalism was "mature, respectful and international in outlook".

Winning first raised the issue of the Act of Settlement, a campaign which has now been taken on by O'Brien.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has conceded the act is "plainly discriminatory" and "plainly wrong" but ministers have so far refused to back a repeal, blaming the legislative difficulties in doing so.

Revoking the Act would also mean having to change dozens of other Acts, both in Britain and across the Commonwealth, which refer to it.

They insist that the law can be altered if and when an heir to the throne declares a wish to marry a Roman Catholic and that it is not discriminatory in practice.

O'Brien is also understood to have put his views on the Act to Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown, who he also met on a visit to London.

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