Serve Scotland

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 12th September 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

That is a great example of what I was about to talk about. There are so many people from charities and churches who choose to stop—they do not walk on by; they stop to help the helpless and give their time, care and effort to those who need it. Often, when we are tucked up in bed, they are out in the cold, the wind and the rain. They follow in the footsteps of those in Scotland who have been a voice for the voiceless and advocates for the marginalised for centuries.

In fact, many church-based charities were established decades ago, when the public sector was much smaller and it was left to individuals and churches to care—people such as Thomas Chalmers, with his commitment to education, or Tom Allan, with his desire to see social work established in Glasgow.

Of course, the public sector has an important role to play and I thank the Minister for Local Government and Housing, Kevin Stewart, for taking part in the debate. However, tonight we are highlighting Serve Scotland, which is a network of charities such as Blythswood Care, Bethany Christian Trust and Glasgow City Mission. Those charities follow gospel teachings to radically love their neighbour and see every human being as born with inherent dignity and worth.

Voluntary work by faith charities produces almost £100 million of economic impact in Scotland every year. Although that is a whopping big number, the impact on the lives of individuals and families cannot be quantified. At its heart, the debate is about people across Scotland who see the need; who recognise the brokenness in our society; who hate—with such a vengeance—the injustice that is endemic in our society; who hate the abuse of children; who hate the loan sharks that heap debt on vulnerable people; who hate the revolving door of homelessness; who hate the poverty that entraps families; and who hate the fact that we live in a world that is so rich and yet people starve. However, rather than just hating injustice, they are also loving others and showing compassion.

I am grateful to colleagues who will speak tonight and I am sure that they will highlight examples from their constituencies of how church-based work and faith communities have helped individuals and families. I started with a story about the Good Samaritan and I would like to finish with a story. The problem is that there are so many stories that I could not pick just one to finish on.

There are stories of children who were living and sleeping on the streets of India and who are now safe. There are stories of men and women who have been homeless in our cities for years and years and who now have their own place to stay. There are stories of mothers and fathers who had been borrowing food from other people and skipping meals to feed their children. All those stories have a positive outcome because of volunteers, some of whom are in the public gallery, and because of the churches across Scotland. Those volunteers chose not to just sit in a pew and talk; they chose to get out and act on their faith.

For all the stories that we hear, there are plenty more that do not have a positive outcome yet. That is why I start the debate by applauding the vital work of churches, who hate injustice like we do, who love people and who will not be content until peace and love reign supreme in Scotland. [