I apologise to the Presiding Officer and members. Owing to my being required to host an event in Parliament shortly, I will have to leave the debate before it concludes.
Last night, I shared with my 80-year-old mum, who is a lifelong churchgoer, the fact that I intended to contribute to the debate. Her response was, “Well, that’ll be interesting.” She was, to put it mildly, amused by the prospect. Although I was raised in a Christian household, I have turned out to be—there is no other way to put it—an avowed atheist. I think that my mum fears another collapsing-beam episode, if not the full chamber roof falling in, should I rise to praise the activities of religious groups, but at the risk of tempting fate, I genuinely congratulate my friend and colleague Kate Forbes on securing the debate.
We absolutely should recognise good work of the nature that Serve Scotland seeks to co-ordinate, assist and promote and, in so doing, we should celebrate the contribution of religious groups to making Scottish society the society that it is. I am increasingly unsettled by the push by some people to denigrate and marginalise people of faith—any faith—and to dismiss their views and their right to hold them. I was raised to respect the reasonable and deeply held beliefs of other folk, however much I might struggle to understand them, and—more than that—to be appreciative of the positive contribution to society that they might make.
As an MSP and prior to becoming one, I have seen many examples of faith groups converting their beliefs into welcome praiseworthy actions. In Arbroath, in my constituency, churches have been running a street pastors project for the past six years. As Kate Forbes and Dave Thompson highlighted—