Gary McLelland (Humanist Society Scotland):
Members of the Scottish Parliament, I would like to tell you a story about a wee boy from a land far, far away. It was a wonderful land, made rich by the many different cultures and practices that had developed over its ancient history. This wee boy, though, was born into one particular clan that was marred by division and differences, so much so that its people largely kept to themselves, and even the children of that clan played only with other children of the same clan.
The wee boy loved his clan, but eventually he decided to go out into the world to explore, and he was astounded to discover that there were people of different clans, and some people with no clan at all. They believed different things and they believed them with just the same passion as his own clan did.
Even stranger, he met some people who said that they did not belong to any clan at all. They also spoke in a strange language, and there was a phrase they used that stuck in his mind. They said:
“For a’ that, and a’ that,
Its comin yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man the warld o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.”
The wee boy, now a young man, liked that idea a lot. He saw that it could be a way of uniting the clans by telling them that they were all part of a greater clan, the clan called humanity, in which everyone was equal—men and women, black and white, gay and straight, able and disabled. He began to tell people about his big idea but, to his surprise, some people were not interested. They said that the old ways were the best and that, anyway, the man who had written that poem that he cared so much about was a scoundrel and rogue, and they werenae gonnae be telt to behave by the likes of him.
The young man was frustrated, but he decided that when he grew up he would do everything in his power to ensure that the children of his land grew up to look for the things that made them similar to one another, not different, to challenge and question things for themselves, and to wonder what the words “fairness”, “equality” and “democracy” really mean. What they mean to me is secularism—the guarantee that everybody will be treated fairly and equally, whatever they believe.
As only the fourth humanist to address the Parliament, and as part of an organisation that works to promote secularism in Scotland and reflects the views of the millions of Scots who value fairness, equality and democracy, I leave you with those questions, and thank you for listening.