Helping an MP or MSP out as an intern is a good way to launch yourself on a parliamentary career. You will even get the opportunity to open and read constituents’ letters, binning or shredding any you don’t like before the MSP gets to see them.
It may have attracted only a few dozen people, but the conference on a ‘Christian ethical’ response to Land Reform at the Highland Theological College attracted two Christian MSPs: Dave Thompson (SNP) and Murdo Fraser (Scottish Conservatives). Even a BBC Alba crew came along to film clips for their news bulletin.
Perhaps most startling at the conference was the contribution from Evangelical Alliance (Scotland)’s Public Policy Officer, Kieran Turner who declared the conference “a model for political engagement”. The Evangelical Alliance claims Turner’s role is to help the Evangelical Alliance “connect with politicians in Holyrood”. A model for the Evangelical Alliance, that’s for sure! This is what he says in the footage taken at the event: –
“Often the way Christians can engage, and have engaged with their politicians, hasn’t been the most productive; hasn’t been the most useful and it certainly hasn’t brought the results that that engagement intended to bring around.
Before I did this job I worked for a number of MSPs, regional Highlands and Islands MSPs. I lived for a time in Inverness – got to cover really issues right across the length and breadth of the Shetlands down to Dunoon which is in the Highlands and Islands area of the Scottish Parliament that kind of works. And part of the role I did, as well as help them run campaigns as well as writing speeches was to open the letters they got from constituents. There were various letters about various issues as you can imagine. And there was a reasonable number that would come from Christians and from Churches. Some of them were constructive, some of them were useful and also a lot were not constructive at all.
Frankly, to be honest there were times I was glad I was the one opening the letter because I was able to bin the letter without actually showing it to the MSPs. So offensive was it. So angry. So bitter to these MSPs who had perhaps a tenuous Christian connection but in most cases not a ‘live’ Church connection. And yet sometimes this is what they were seeing of what Christians and what the Church thought in its political engagement and so; I was embarrassed at times and as I say at times… I just binned them. [Laughs]. I didn’t even show them them. And I had a file actually where I kept some of them and eventually when I left I just shredded them because I thought: I don’t want people to see this as being the way we did business as Christians. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t make a habit of binning constituency caseworks. Please don’t think that’s what we did and I’m sure Murdo [Murdo Fraser MSP, who was present in the audience] would never advocate such things….” But it was an eye-opener for me actually of the way as Christians we can contribute in a constructive way to the public debate or we can contribute in a very destructive way to the public debate…”
Douglas McLellan, Chair of Scottish Secular Society, stated in response to the news constituents’ letters were being vetted in this manner: “An equal and secular society values the ability of citizens to communicate with their elected representatives unhindered. When the religious believe they have a privileged position, when they believe their views are better than others, then you get this mindset that says its ok to censure and destroy other viewpoints.”
Interesting. One of the MSPs during the debate on same sex marriage said that it was the letters from the haters that prompted her to vote yes. I think we should question why one Christian thinks he should be able act as a gatekeeper to the views of other Christians communications with MSPs.”
Kieran Turner is a controversial character. He joined John Deighan from the Catholic Church and Dr Salah Beltagui, chair of the parliamentary committee of the Muslim Council of Scotland to give evidence against same-sex marriage on behalf of the Evangelical Alliance in 2013. He said then: “We have a huge amount of churches and organisations that provide a huge amount of social welfare in Scotland – running food banks and doing debt advice, homeless projects and groups like the Salvation Army. It is partnered with local authorities and statutory agencies as they deliver these services – we think that is a good thing, we want that to continue. But we are concerned that their views on marriage could become a hindrance to them in that partnership.”
See the video here (1:30 into video).