Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Independence for Scotland?

Why is Scotland becoming so keen on independence, or at least on the Scottish National Party? I remember my father faithfully voting for the SNP election after election. In those days, Perth was a Tory stronghold, one of the few blue islands in an overwhelmingly red Scotland. In my headstrong pre voting teenage years I used to dismiss this as a completely wasted vote. Well, I think my dad gets the last laugh. But it's from our political past that we get a clue as to where the strong SNP support comes from. The solid working class support base for Labour has largely vanished. The old industrial landscape of pit, mill and factory are a thing of the past, and with their demise, so also the Labour vote. The sons and daughters and grandchildren of these Labour voters are not to be relied upon to continue the family political solidarity. Indeed, the phenomenon of large groups of people engaging in similar types of behaviour is rapidly fading. Year on year, viewing figures for the top Christmas programmes decline. Compare the Queen's Speech nowadays with viewing figures 30 years ago. The difference is in tens of millions. It's the same for Eastenders. Or look at football match attendance statistics, political party membership, or even numbers shopping in our High Streets on a  Saturday afternoon. I remember when on a Saturday, Perth High Street and Edinburgh's Princes Street and Glasgow's Argyle Street could be guaranteed to be a sea of moving bodies. So, it's not just the Church which is seeing falling attendances. We just don't do the same huge crowd turn outs any more. It's not that we're not shopping as much, or watching telly on Christmas Day, or watching football as much. We are - but we're just doing these things differently. There is more choice, more variety, more ways of doing the same thing - we can pick our time, our preferred media, our version. So in this way the political landscape has changed along with everything else. The SNP do not have as big a support base as old Labour used to have, but the emergence of other parties like the Lib Dems, has weakened and diversified the overall vote, and in Scotland at least, the SNP have a broader political appeal than the Lib Dems and the other 2. It's not so much about independence as who is perceived to be able to do the job best.
This comment has some bearing on Church attendance. People who shake their heads at the supposed spiritual decay of the populace need to think more carefully. We are no less spiritual that we have ever been, I believe. We are just being offered more choice in the ways in which we express our spirituality. This I think means that there still are great opportunities for the Church (of every shade and description), we just need to engage a little more realistically with ways which might attract today's seekers.

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