Well, that's the headline in last Friday's Scottish Catholic Observer anyway....
THE Scottish Government’s campaign for independence was dealt a blow this week with the announcement that the new Christian democratic political party coming to Scotland opposes it.
Michael Elmer, leader of the Centre Democrats in England and Wales, was in Scotland last weekend to meet with leading Scottish Catholics and Christians—including internationally renowned composer James MacMillan—to discuss working to launch the Scottish Centre Democrats in the autumn.
“There needs to be a party for those who embrace Christian values and are willing to claim the centre ground: In economic terms those who reject both planned economies and naked capitalism,” Mr Elmer told the SCO. “I think Scottish voters will be interested in a party that is pro-life in the broadest sense—against poverty and the death penalty as well as abortion—and against independence.”
In the end, I think there are two stories here. First, there is the attempt to create a centre right, socially conservative party in Scotland. James MacMillan has blogged about his desire for such a party before, back in September, when Murdo Fraser was suggesting a reinvention of the Scottish Conservatives:
As I've discussed before, here and here , the current rush towards lifestyle liberalism as the plat du jour of every major political party in Scotland leaves orthodox theists and particularly Catholics with little place in current politics. Although my suspicion is that this is more likely to lead to apathy and an alienation from politics and the independence project, Catholics less Eeyore-ish and less given to duvet decades than myself might well instead respond with the sort of frenetic activity required for a new political movement. I wish them well.
But the obvious space for such a party or movement in modern Scotland doesn't mean that it is necessarily an 'opposition to independence' as claimed by the SCO. James MacMillan makes this clear in a comment on the SCO website:
Putting aside the prediction of the referendum result, this makes more sense. Whatever happens in the referendum, but particularly if it goes in favour of independence, there will be a shake up in the Scottish political scene. In particular, the unionist parties -and perhaps above all the Conservatives- will have to reinvent themselves. Moreover, unless we are to assume a Scottish political scene frozen into parties defined by an increasingly remote historical question, the internal tensions within the nationalist project between liberals and conservatives might also suggest a realignment within the SNP. So in post-independence (or even devo-max) Scotland, such a new party might well find a place, putting aside detailed questions about the viability of this particular, Centre Democrat, project.
But this leads on to the second story: why is the SCO running such a story under such a headline? I have absolutely no idea in detail what has been going on behind the scenes, but I'm quite sure that, in particular, the consultation on same sex 'marriage' and the clear intention of the current political class to drive it through willy-nilly has caused consternation among serious Catholics and among the Scottish hierarchy. As I have said, one possible response is an alienation from political life in Scotland and, as a consequence, a disenchantment with the potential of the independence project and a resigned support for the unionist status quo. That appears to be behind the 'spin' of the SCO headline. On the other hand, there is a more 'activist' response, and the attempt to reclaim Scottish politics from lifestyle liberalism. That, in itself a project compatible with any possible results of the referendum, is (rather ironically given MacMillan's own clear unionism) perhaps in practice rather more compatible with the fluidity which would be consequent on a vote for independence rather than the status quo.
Expect even more anguish as it becomes obvious that the consultation on same sex marriage needs scare quotes around not just 'marriage' but also 'consultation':
John Deighan, parliamentary officer for the Scottish bishops, said Scotland deserved more from its political leaders.
“It is disappointing that party leaders have been so cavalier in joining the bandwagon for redefining marriage,” he said. “We deserve a more reflective approach from those in a position of political leadership.”