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Keywords:

  • United Kingdom;
  • Scottish independence;
  • Church of Scotland;
  • Roman Catholic Church;
  • non-religion;
  • referendum

The Scottish independence referendum debate, like the Act of Union of 1707, has significant religious dimensions. The Act gave special recognition through the monarch to the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The Church, a national church, has not yet declared a position on independence, but is seeking to protect its existing privileges whatever the result. The Roman Catholic Church, recognised by the Scottish Parliament, unlike its formal rejection by the UK Parliament and monarchy, symbolically associates itself with the case for independence. Paradoxically, Catholics supporting independence subject themselves, in their religious lives, to an authoritarian foreign power. The SNP Scottish Government attempts to draw Roman Catholic support for independence from its traditional support base in the Labour Party by cultivating a sense of religious grievance that is not justified by the evidence. Old religious divisions are still relevant but non-religion is growing fast and resulting in new perspectives on the independence debate.