What would you say to the new First Minister?

We asked Catholic agencies a question – if you had a meeting with Scotland’s new First Minister, Humza Yousef, what would you say to him?

Lorraine MacMahon, Aid to the Church in Need

“The appointment of Humza Yousaf as First Minister of Scotland is a hugely significant moment in the life of our nation. 

We urge the new First Minister and his Cabinet to be a voice for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities at a time where in many parts of the world the faithful suffer more than ever before. 

We need Scotland to be a champion for Christians and others whose rights are being trampled underfoot: discrimination in schools, in the workplace, forced conversions, forced marriage and sexual violence, and some having to pay the ultimate price for their faith by giving their lives. Some years back, Mr Yousaf spoke up for persecuted Christians at an ACN youth rally in Carfin and he gave up Irn-Bru for Lent one year, giving the proceeds to the charity. 

ACN is strictly non-partisan. We wish Mr Yousaf well in his new role.”

Sr Roseann Reddy, the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative 

As an organisation involved in pro-life work in Scotland, my first reaction to the new First Minister is same old same old, nothing has changed. In fact, if anything, things have just got a whole lot worse.

It seems to me, and has done for a long time, that none of our politicians – there are a few rare exceptions – are in the slightest bit interested in the work of the pro-life movement, despite the incredible work we and other organisations have done over the past 25 years in helping thousands of Scottish women and their babies and families have real choices to choose life.

The new First Minister has already spoken of decriminalising abortion in Scotland and of supporting euthanasia legislation. This in itself would be sad enough were it not for the fact that this comes from a man who claims to have a deep faith.

Much was made during the process of electing the new leader of the SNP about the Christian beliefs of Kate Forbes and the attacks upon her were unbelievable, though not entirely a surprise to those of us who are so used to discrimination and bigotry almost every day. Our media coverage is so anti-Catholic, anti-Christian and anti-life that they are not even aware of it. I hear or see some form of it constantly, so much so that I now barely take notice and I’ve certainly stopped complaining.

I have no trust in politicians of any hue: they are not interested in me and I’m certainly not interested in them. Until we can find some politicians with true integrity, courage, vision and intelligence, I’m done with it all; I’m done with the lies and “my faith is personal to me, I’m not going to let it interfere with my work as a politician!” From John F. Kennedy right up to the present day, this has been the mantra of so many politicians and, until that changes, I’m going to expend my energy elsewhere.

Whoever we are, if our faith does not inform every aspect of our life, every decision we make, it’s pointless. So until we have some politicians who fit the bill, who really care for all their constituents, including the unborn, vulnerable, elderly and poor, I’m just going to keep working away at trying my best with the help of so many wonderful, faithful people to let my faith in Christ be the inspiration for everything we do – to be unashamedly pro-life, pro-family, pro-Christ and, when the politicians are ready to catch up, they know where to find me and hopefully you too.

Alistair Dutton, Chief Executive SCIAF

“SCIAF welcomes the election of Humza Yousaf as new Leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland. As both the first Muslim leader of a UK political party and the first ethnic minority First Minister of Scotland, his election is a landmark moment for a richly diverse Scotland which celebrates the contribution of all, as we work together towards an inclusive, socially just nation.

“Mr Yousaf has often talked about how his strong faith informs his values and aspirations towards a more just world – values with much in common with Catholic Social Teaching, which underpins SCIAF’s work. We hope that these values will shape his leadership, especially those which call for the global common good, solidarity with all our sisters and brothers across the world, and care for creation.

“The new First Minister has been a strong advocate for the issues that SCIAF works on. Mr Yousaf visited SCIAF projects in Malawi and Zambia during his time as Minister for International Development, meeting our partners and witnessing the incredible work they do thanks to the generosity of SCIAF supporters and Scottish Government funding. His door was always open to us, and we hope that he continues to be a champion of SCIAF’s goal for a just world in his new role.

“As well as working fast to create a fairer society at home, the new First Minister should maximise the positive impact that Scotland can have on the world. We urge him to continue to champion the issue of Loss & Damage started by his predecessor at COP26, to ensure a global fund to provide funding to communities to recover from the impacts of climate change gets up and running quickly. We also urge him to get Scotland on track to achieve and surpass its climate change targets quickly; reducing our emissions urgently, ensuring a just transition for workers in polluting industries, and building a greener Scotland that is no longer causing harm to our common home.

“Lastly, we urge Mr Yousaf to do all he can in his new office to tackle the global hunger crisis. As International Development Minister, the new First Minister joined Scottish organisations like SCIAF in 2013 to urge the G8 to do all they can to tackle the global hunger crisis. Just as Scotland has been a world leader on climate justice, we now urge the new First Minister to be a champion of food justice and do all he can to correct the deep injustice that millions still go to sleep at night hungry, in a world that produces much more food than we need.”

Fr Vincent Lockhart, National Director, Missio Scotland

I wish the new First Minister every success in what is surely a difficult task in challenging times for our country and the world.

The process of his election, however, was a cause for deep concern, most notably because of the treatment which Kate Forbes received during the election campaign from high-ranking members of his party because of her Christian beliefs. Despite the fact that she expressed her intentions to respect how others chose to live their lives, she was not afforded the same tolerance.

While Missio Scotland does not have any direct involvement with the Scottish Government, we are active in Catholic schools and seek to make our young people aware of the needs of other children in poorer parts of the world. I am confident that the new First Minister will continue his government’s support for Catholic education and respect the desire of parents to have their children formed in the Catholic faith in a school setting. The fact that he is a person of faith is very welcome and will, I am sure, give him an advantage in understanding the importance of spiritual formation in young people.

Although we are a small country, Scotland has always been very generous both financially and in terms of the number of Scots who have gone abroad to help others develop and prosper. Since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, our government has always been a great example of openness towards those countries which are need of support. I would urge the First Minister to expand that tradition and inspire us to take our place in the world community.

Lisbet Raeside, SPRED National Director.
SPRED supports people who have a learning disability to grow in their faith and contribute their gifts to their parish community. However, a person’s faith life is not distinct from their social and economic life.

The people we support want the same as everyone else. They want meaningful relationships, to feel part of a community and have access to their community’s activities. Many want to work. Many want to be part of a faith community but whether faith forms a substantial part of their support plan can depend on whether those preparing it appreciate the importance of faith and the capacity of people with a learning disability to have a faith life. Sometimes people are so anxious about the basics of care that faith and the right to a spiritual life is forgotten. Support plans should include support to participate in a faith community where that is the person’s wish.

Personalisation has given people more choice and control over the services they receive. This is a welcome improvement. However, families speak of plans agreed with a social worker to support their family member to live a full life being rejected on cost grounds. This results in frustration, disappointment and delay and it is often left to the family to find a cheaper and, in their eyes, inferior alternatives. Others tell us of difficulty in accessing appropriate respite care to help them continue to care for their family member at home. For decision making to be transparent the person who requires support and their family should have the right to be present and to speak at the meetings at which decisions are made about funding of their support plan.

Community based options are often cheaper than centre-based care, but they are not always better. Some people need the structure of a centre and good community support needs structure too. At their worst community opportunities consist of sitting in a café or on a park bench while a support worker focuses on their mobile phone. We need investment in both centre and community-based support, not in one rather than the other.

In SPRED we dream of a society where no one is left behind, where everyone has a voice, and we call on the new First Minister to listen to those who are least able to speak of themselves.”

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