Latest from Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office

70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day
Friday 8 May 2015 will mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day. The First Minister has written to the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office to invite Scotland’s Christian communities to remember this occasion alongside churches across the country by ringing their bells at 11am on Saturday 9 May 2015. This invitation to Scotland’s Churches is part of a wider programme of events to be held across the UK from Friday 8 to Sunday 10 May.  Churches are welcome to take part at alternative times in a way that is appropriate to their circumstances if required.
The First Minister writes “I recognise the substantial and enduring influence of the Christian faith in transforming and inspiring Scotland’s people. Throughout our history the sound of church bells has heralded significant moments, none more so than the announcement of peace across Europe in 1945, so poignant after years of sacrifice and silenced bells.”
Further information about the UK wide commemorations is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ve-day-events-and-general-information
We hope that you will be able to join the commemorations and would be pleased to hear whether your congregation has been involved in any local events.

Parliamentary News
The Education and Culture Committee published the Stage 1 report of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill. You can watch a BSL version of the Stage 1 report on Youtube.The Bill is an important step in helping to meet the linguistic needs of BSL users.  The Members Bill, brought forward by Mark Griffin MSP, proposes further duties to promote the use of BSL, principally by requiring BSL plans to be prepared and published by the Scottish Ministers and 116 public authorities.

The licensing of air weapons is now a step closer following the publication of the Scottish parliament’s local government and regeneration committee’s Stage 1 report on the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill.

The Health and Sport Committee produced its recommendations on Stage 1 of the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill. A full parliamentary debate with vote will be held before May 29 which will decide if the Bill progresses to the next stage of a three part process or falls.
Patrick Harvie said he was disappointed that the committee had placed so little emphasis on responses to the criticisms of the Bill, many of which he claimed were “grounded in an ideological opposition to personal choice.” Rev Sally-Foster-Fulton, Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, says: “Critical flaws in the proposed legislation include an absence of any mental health check and a minimum age of 16. Both make the bill in its present form untenable. However, the overriding opposition is an abiding concern for the most vulnerable in our society and the negative impact right to die legislation may have on their quality of life. In our focus on autonomy and personal choice, there is the danger we forget that personal choice does not exist in a vacuum and a choice for some may undermine choices for others. Every personal choice has a community impact.”

The Stage 1 report of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill has also been published. The report makes a number of recommendations concerning the bill as it continues its parliamentary passage.
The measure aims to strengthen the criminal law against human trafficking and exploitation as well as ensuring that victims have access to immediate appropriate support.

Faith leaders across the UK have signed a statement calling on nuclear weapons states to join with other states to implement new approaches to eliminate nuclear arsenals.
Ahead of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference meeting from 27 April to 22 May 2015, senior representatives from eight faiths in the UK, including Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist, have given their backing to a statement calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. The faith leaders argue that nuclear arsenals “violate the principle of dignity for every human being that is common to each of our faith traditions”.

Consultations
The Scottish Government Gaelic Language Plan 2015-2020Draft for Consultation (SG)
The Scottish Government is seeking views on the second iteration of its Gaelic Language Plan, to inform the execution of their commitment to Gaelic, and to inform how they can best support the development of the Gaelic language in Scotland.
Closing date: 22nd May 2015.

Equally Safe – Reforming the criminal law to address domestic abuse and sexualoffences (SG)
A consultation on proposals to create specific offences concerning domestic abuse and the non-consensual sharing of private, intimate images, the introduction of statutory jury directions in sexual offence cases, the extra-territorial effect of the law concerning sexual offences committed against children and the circumstances in which a court can grant a non-harassment order.
Closing date: 19th June 2015.

To see a full list of current consultations, please refer to the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office Update or visit our website.

Good Luck
We offer our good wishes to Mr John Deighan who has moved on from his position as Parliamentary Officer at the Catholic Parliamentary Office this month.  John had been in the role since the creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. John has now taken up the position of Chief Executive Officer for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (Scotland). We wish him well in his new role.
Staying in Touch

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