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Introduction Session 5 of the Scottish Parliament marks a significant moment in the ongoing story of devolution


his is an exciting time for our nation. It is a both a challenge and an opportunity. A new season. It is a time for us, as Christians, to actively engage in helping to shape the future. We must become active citizens, not only for ourselves, but for generations to come. With the passing of the Scotland Bill in Westminster there are significant new powers coming to Holyrood that will shape the fabric of Scottish society across a whole range of new areas. These powers include for the first time the power to raise significant revenue as well as spending powers. This provides an opportunity for our politicians and an opportunity for the church. It gives the chance to ask again the question of what kind of nation we want Scotland to be, but also how we can use these powers to build such a nation. It also


challenges us to ask the question of how we build a parliament that is worthy of these new powers. For the church and for individual Christians this is an opportunity to speak with an authentic, constructive and prophetic voice into the new context we find ourselves in. As the Evangelical Alliance we represent thousands of Christians from across denominations and we are passionate about enabling Christians and politicians to connect with each other. This short resource aims to help you understand the new powers, to give a framework to think through them from a Christian perspective and to offer some practical pointers about engaging with politics, both in your own community and at a national level. Evangelical Alliance Scotland April 2016

Contents What Kind of Holyrood? Engaging with the new powers of the Scottish Parliament






Challenges we face


The new powers


The Vision












Engagement with Politicians




The Challenges We Face Scotland is a nation blessed with an abundance of resources


hether the physical resources of the land and the sea, the material wealth or the ingenuity of its people, Scotland is indeed a blessed nation. But it is also a nation with serious challenges: economic, social and spiritual. Since the global economic crisis in 2008, Scotland (like the rest of the UK and Europe), has faced a number of related challenges. Family and community life have been affected by challenges of unemployment, debt, lack of quality affordable housing and food poverty. Public services have come under immense strain with the constant pressure to provide more efficient services whilst facing monetary cuts year-on-year. Although economic growth has returned, these challenges are likely to remain for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, an ageing population, comparatively low birth rate, and lower levels of migration in Scotland, as compared to other parts of the UK, mean the number of economically inactive people in Scotland is set to continue to rise. Despite considerable government effort, longer term structural inequalities persist in health and education with often only a short walk separating affluent communities from those which are struggling. Average life expectancy in the most deprived parts of Glasgow is 14 years lower than


in the richest outskirts.1 Spending on GP resources is also 6% higher in the top 10% of the least deprived areas of Scotland compared to the bottom 10% of the most deprived, further compounding the issue.2 Educationally, very few young people from deprived backgrounds are accepted into the best courses at the top Scottish universities, not because young people from these areas are less able, but because obstacles and structural biases often prevent it.3 The decline in church numbers over previous decades not only represents a spiritual challenge, but it has also had a social impact as individualism has increased at the expense of community. Social isolation has increased hugely and consumerism has become the dominant feature in our lives, economics and politics.4 It is within this context that the Scottish Parliament has gained its new powers.

1 Data from the National Records of Scotland: http://www. 2 BBC News report, 30 November 2015: news/uk-scotland-34957653 3 Various agencies have data on this. One example is NUS Scotland’s report “Unlocking Scotland’s Potential”: http:// Scotland’s%20Potential.pdf 4 Evidence to a recent Scottish Parliament enquiry suggested that almost 40% of older people see TV as their main form of company newsandmediacentre/93466.aspx The UK recently was considered the European capital of loneliness http://www.

The New Powers The Scottish political landscape has changed significantly over the past five years


ince the last Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2011, the parliament gained more powers through the Scotland Act 2012. This gave the parliament a number of new powers: ●● The ability to raise or lower income tax by 10p in the pound ●● Control over stamp duty and landfill tax ●● Limited borrowing powers ●● Other limited powers for example on gun control Then there was the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, where the people of Scotland chose to remain part of the United Kingdom. This opened a number of wounds in Scottish politics, some of which still exist, and also resulted in a major shift in some party allegiances.

However, in the aftermath of the referendum came the Scotland Act 2016, which after eighteen months of negotiations, was passed into law in March 2016. This brings the Scottish Parliament a number of new powers, over a much wider area than the previous act. It includes: ●● A new Scottish Rate of Income Tax ●● Further borrowing powers ●● New powers to create taxes and benefits This means the Scottish Parliament has far more power than it ever had before, with the opportunity and responsibility to raise more of its own revenue and give it more power over how that revenue is spent.


The Vision This document sets out to present our values and vision


t is a vision of how the parliament may use its new powers to tackle the challenges face by our society in the coming years. This covers the four pillars of society we previously considered in our 2014 manifesto, What Kind of Nation? – family, society, economy and the environment. Brought up to date and taking into account the new powers of the Scottish Parliament we hope this new resource will be valuable as we engage with Holyrood over the coming years. Our vision is for a society with family at its foundation, where families are supported to flourish in their unique role. Where children are nurtured, primarily by their family and then additionally with the support of the wider community and the state in providing services such as education and childcare. Our vision is for a society, where faith and belief are respected and valued as part of a diverse and dynamic nation. We believe that society prospers best when


power is focused in communities rather than centrally in Holyrood. We would hope to see a growing partnership between the church and the state, where the current reality of the church as a service provider is recognised. Our vision is for a Scottish economy that benefits everyone in Scotland, with a reduced disparity between rich and poor. It is for an economy of the common good rather than individual greed and one that provides the dignity of productive work as well as humanitarian welfare. Our vision is that there would be no need for foodbanks because people no longer find themselves crushed under the weight of poverty and debt. Our vision is for an environment which is nurtured, and land used for the benefit of communities, both economically and ecologically. Our hope is for greater investment in sustainable energy, taking responsibility for ensuring future generations can still enjoy our landscape.

Family Our vision is for a society with family at its foundation


he Scottish Parliament has responsibility of over key areas of policy that affect family life. Education, childcare and health have long been devolved, as have the areas of fostering and adoption, charity law and local government, which impacts on areas such as social work. Two significant new powers have come to the Scottish Parliament as a result of the 2016 Scotland Act – firstly the new responsibility for significant tax revenue, which enables greater flexibility to support families, and, secondly, the responsibility for abortion legislation. The importance of family cannot be overstated; it is central within Christian understanding and has also been long recognised in wider society. Our vision of the family is one based on personal relationships of love and selflessness leading to security, stability and mutual support. This picture then extends beyond the immediate family to include those on the margins, the lonely, the vulnerable and the bereaved. In this vision, loving relationships and selflessness are the glue that holds society together, and, therefore, strong families and support for family life are vital for the flourishing of society. It’s for all these reasons that Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 protects the family

God sets the lonely in families. Psalm 68:6

in law stating that all people have the right to a private and So God created mankind in his own family life.5 Families are image; male and foundational to female he created society. Research them. God blessed shows that dysfunctional families them and said to are highly correlated them, “Be fruitful with stress, illness, and increase in reduced educational number; fill attainment and in the earth and addition there is a subdue it.” huge cost to society Genesis 1:27-28 economically.6 Put with the emotional cost of family breakdown, it shows the importance of government encouraging healthy and happy family lives. Family links to the economy go much further than just the economic cost of family breakdown. Family businesses are an important contributor to our economy today with 39% of private sector employees in the UK working for a family business.7 Across the UK, family businesses contribute more than 25% of our GDP.8 5 part/I/chapter/7 6 The Centre for Social Justice estimate the annual cost of family breakdown as £44 billion: http://www. family-breakdown 7 Data from the Institute for Family Business: http://www.ifb. 8 Data also from the Institute for Family Business.


And families also include our children. Strong family life is the stable context for our children to have the best possible start in life. This is why we uphold recognition of marriage in the tax system as well as government support for families in the early years of a child’s life. It’s also why Christians are so supportive of respite care, fostering and adoption – to allow all children to experience a positive family life. As the Centre for Social Justice rightly observes, “A child’s physical, emotional and psychological development occurs within the family environment; it is where the vast majority of us learn the fundamental skills for life.”9 The Scottish Government’s policy ambition to make Scotland “the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up” is to be commended, but we do have concerns with policies such as the Named Person scheme which as currently envisaged seems in danger of undermining the position of family rather than the stated intention of supporting the unique role that parents perform.10 Our vision is for a Scottish Government which upholds parental authority, trusting parents to make choices in the best interests of their children, without interference in all but the most serious of circumstances. There are a number of areas in which tax, education and social work powers can be used to develop policies to support, and not to hinder, families in their unique role. These could include having a family impact assessment as part of every new government policy, recognition of and support for marriage in government policy, increased support for fostering and adoption and recognition of the primacy of parental authority in relation to bringing up children. Furthermore the Scottish Parliament now has the power to decide how to 9 Taken from “Every Family Matters”, p.14, available at http:// reports/CSJEveryFamilyMattersWEB.pdf 10 This aim is set out in the Scottish Government’s Early Years Framework:


handle the issue of abortion. We recognise the genuine views around this sensitive issue and reject the polarisation and simplification of debate that often happens with abortion, just as we reject the dichotomy that would place the rights of a woman and her unborn child against each other. Almost all abortion is an avoidable tragedy caused by a relational breakdown at some stage and as Christians who affirm the beauty and wonder of life we long for a day when this tragedy and the circumstances that to lead to it become fewer and fewer. Holyrood has shown in debating assisted suicide that this can be done with grace and respect and there is the opportunity for the political debate around abortion to similarly take on this respectful tone. It is not an ‘us and them’ debate. It is about people, lives and families. And it is about the sort of society we are and ensuring that over time fewer people end up in a position where they see abortion as the answer.

Questions for our politicians… ●● How will you ensure that the powers of the Scottish Parliament are used to support families and family life? ●● Do you support a family impact assessment for government policies? ●● How will you support the role of parents in society and do you agree that parents have the primary responsibility for bringing up children? ●● Will you support increased investment in fostering and adoption services? ●● Will you work across barriers to help reduce the number of abortions in Scotland and how do you think this is best achieved?

Society Our vision is for a society where faith is respected as part of a dynamic nation


he Scottish Parliament has significant powers over areas of civil society and community life. Holyrood has responsibility for Scotland’s legal system and police as well as local government with its significant impact on local communities in areas such as planning, community development, social work, environment, parks and leisure facilities. Charity Law is also devolved to Holyrood. The new revenue powers build on the existing responsibility over local taxation (currently Council Tax) and offer increased flexibility in how best to resource local communities and support civil society. Our society has changed significantly over the last half-century. The decline of traditional industries, and the growth of the oil industry, have both had a huge impact on Scotland. Social housing policy has changed significantly. High rise apartment blocks have been built – and knocked down. The creation of the Scottish Parliament, and the decisions it has made, have changed our relationship with government. A number of services have been centralized, such as the police force and the fire service and much has been done to tackle sectarianism. And the church has changed, with fewer people attending church, a decline in Christian affiliation and a growth in secularism. As we consider our society the Bible is clear – Christians should speak up for

those who can’t speak for themselves.11 We believe society works best when we look out for those most in need. Financial pressures on government are significant; nevertheless, there is a growing opportunity for local communities to work in partnership with government of all levels to provide the services required in their localities, services often required by the most vulnerable people in those communities. We also need to recognise that government can’t do everything and that new ways of providing local Learn to do right; community services seek justice. need to be found. Defend the Churches and other oppressed. Take community groups provide vast amounts up the cause of the of social good and fatherless; plead where this has been the case of the measured there has widow. been an enormous (Isaiah 1:17) economic benefit to the country, compared to the government having to pay for these services themselves.12 Foodbanks are a great example of this. They provide an effective and personal service to people in desperate need 11 Proverbs 31:8. 12 Across the UK this figure is estimated at £3billion In Wales the figure is estimated at over £100million http://www.


and because the service providers are connected to the communities they are serving, they know the needs in those places. They are also a great example of why decisions affecting communities should be made at the most local level possible, to enable the voice of people most affected by those decisions to be heard clearly. The Scottish Parliament also has a responsibility to create the space for communities to flourish. This involves protecting freedom and creating a tolerant and plural public environment in which ideas can be debated, including those from a faith perspective. Freedom is one of the most fundamental values that has shaped our society. The Christian understanding of humanity is that God created people with free will – an ability to choose actions and relationships. Individual liberty and tolerance of views is therefore a vital part of our worldview. We believe in a society where people have the freedom to live in accordance with their beliefs, where difference of opinion is not just tolerated, but welcomed, and where freedom of speech, conscience, religion and belief is treasured. A society which values its freedom should allow people to challenge prevailing opinion

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and be heard, and provide reasonable accommodation of differing beliefs within public life. Faith should not be restricted to the private sphere any more than any other activity. It’s because of this that we are passionate about protecting religious liberty at home, and also across the world where Christians are now sadly the most persecuted people group globally.13

Questions for our politicians… ●● How will you promote freedom of speech, conscience and faith? ●● How will you promote increased local accountability in community decisions and development? ●● Do you agree that local authorities should have the ability raise revenue in a way that is appropriate to local needs? How do you think this is best done? ●● How will you help create the space for churches and other community groups to flourish? 13

Economy Our vision is for an economy that benefits everyone in Scotland


he most obvious new power given to the Scottish Government in the Scotland Bill 2016 is the power to set the Scottish Rate of Income Tax. This is in addition to existing powers over Council Tax, Land and Building Transaction Tax and some borrowing powers. Excluding VAT assigned revenues this means the Scottish Parliament will be responsible for generating the revenue needed to cover approximately 36% of devolved expenditure – four times what it was before the Scotland Act 2012.14 Consumerism is hard to avoid in modern society. It’s a part of everyday life, whether it’s the latest gadget, car, the housing ladder or the job market. Advertisers are always trying to tempt us with the next “must-have” item.

The labourer is worthy of his wages. (Luke 10:7)

The Bible counters this. Jesus was clear – possessions and money aren’t the most important aspect of life. Honouring God and a heart for justice and the poor are marked out as more important in scripture.15 That’s not to say wealth itself 14 WebSPEIRResources/2015.11.10_Citizens_Guide_Draft_FINAL. pdf 15 Micah 6:8

is bad, but the valueless pursuit of the accumulation of wealth is. A Christian understanding of the economy is one based on shared relationships, interdependence, promotion of the A man’s life does common good and not consist of the working together abundance of his to solve problems, possessions. rather than playing (Luke 12:15) sides against each other in order to gain an advantage. People also have value. Our time and work have value. Our vision for Scotland is for an economy where employers pay a fair wage to their workers so they don’t have to worry about how to pay their rent or mortgage, heat their home or feed their family. The living wage is an important component of ensuring people can live their lives without living below the breadline.16 Therefore, we would support incentives for companies to become accredited Living Wage employers, because we believe tackling poverty and its effects is for the wider good of society.17 16 In 2014, the Trussell Trust released a report “Below the Breadline”, looking at food poverty in the UK and its causes, one of which was identified as low pay: https://www. 17 The Evangelical Alliance was accredited as a Living Wage employer in 2015

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One of those effects is personal debt. Median household debt in Scotland (excluding mortgages) was £3,500 in 2012.18 In addition, over a six-month period in 2015, the Trussell Trust handled approximately 35,000 foodbank clients.19 This was a year-on-year rise of just under 20% over a network of almost 50 foodbanks in Scotland.20 We live in a rich country, but many people do not live in a reality which reflects that. Successive Scottish governments have long recognised the need to tackle poverty and high levels of economic inequality, and have used a number of national outcome indicators to monitor equality levels.21 We believe in an economy that allows people to fulfil their potential: where everyone has enough, where compassion replaces greed, and where dignity is at the heart of tackling poverty. Levels of government debt, as most of us know, are also very high. The UK’s national debt is now over £1.5 trillion, having doubled since the start of the financial crisis in 2008.22 Divided equally per capita 18 personalandhouseholdfinances/debt/articles/ wealthingreatbritainwave3/2015-07-27 19 20 21 outcome/inequalities 22

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across the UK, that would make Scotland’s debt about £125 billion, and it is continuing to rise. The Scottish Government will have borrowing powers in the new parliament, but with the existing Scottish budget deficit already around £10 billion, per person three times that of the rest of the UK, we need to find other ways to balance our budget as a nation.23

Questions for our politicians… ●● How would you use the new tax powers to benefit society as a whole rather than just promoting individualism or consumerism? ●● What concrete steps would you take to tackle poverty in Scotland? ●● How would you use the new welfare powers to provide dignity and care to those who use welfare services? ●● How would you tackle the structural inequalities that exist in Scotland?


Environment Our vision is for an environment which is nurtured


he Scottish Parliament has long held power over environment and planning, tourism and transport. However, the Scotland Act 2012 brought in further power, over Landfill Tax, and the 2016 Bill extends parliament’s powers still further, to include Air Passenger Duty (APD), onshore oil and gas licensing, energy efficiency and fuel poverty schemes. This gives the parliament a wide scope of powers in the area of the environment. Stewardship of resources is a fundamental Christian principle. Stewardship isn’t related only to our finances; it covers our skills and also our natural resources. Therefore, Christians have a duty to care for the world and to ensure that we take decisions that are sustainable, allowing subsequent generations to enjoy God’s creation. Care for creation is set out clearly in the Bible. We are to steward the earth, not to destroy it, but to rule over it in an orderly manner. This is the basis for a good environmental policy, with commitments to sustainability and subsidiarity, with decisions about land, fishing and energy taken at as local a level as possible. Resources should be used in a way that strengthens communities for the generations to come. The new powers over APD and Landfill Tax could be used to demonstrate our

commitment to the environment. Whilst we all enjoy cheap flights, if we are serious about environmental concerns, we must also ask how much we are willing to change our attitudes and lifestyles, and how much we are prepared to pay in order to tackle the pollution caused by them. Scotland has a zero waste strategy with a target that 70% of waste be recycled by 2025, with no more than 5% of waste going to landfill.24 Landfill Tax can help with this; God saw all that he however, only 40% of waste is currently had made, and it recycled. In order was very good. to meet the target, (Genesis 1:31) positive incentives are needed alongside tax to encourage recycling and reuse, especially for businesses.25 With a huge coastline and facing both the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, Scotland has 25% of Europe’s potential tidal power. It also has 25% of Europe’s offshore wind potential and 10% of its wave energy potential.26 These natural resources provide a fantastic opportunity to invest in new technology and training. This will not only help Scotland to further reduce its long-term dependence on oil, but will 24 25 recycling 26 All these figures are from the Scottish Government: http://

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also allow it to be at the forefront of clean technology and provide us with a skilled economy for the future. Our reliance on cars has contributed greatly to air pollution in many of our major towns and cities. EU targets on levels of nitrogen dioxide have repeatedly been broken, contributing to poor health for many, especially in urban areas. Recent scandals involving car manufacturers underline the need to tackle this issue by, for example, encouraging greater uptake of zero-emission vehicles. We should also make it easier for people to reduce car use, by encouraging people to be more active and by looking at ways of better integrating public transport and ensuring it is affordable for everyone. In cities especially, we should make it easier for people to cycle by designing infrastructure that doesn’t create conflict with other road users. Finally, it’s also important to consider how we use the resource of our land, and we would support further consideration of land reform and the ways in which land can be best used for the benefit of communities.27 Ownership of land in Scotland is still concentrated in the hands of a tiny number of interests with 50% of 27 For further info and resources on Land Reform see Land Reform: A Christian Ethical Response hosted by Highland Theological Collage and Evangelical Alliance Scotland. www.

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land in Scotland owned by less than 500 people or companies. It is hard to square this with Christian principles of human equality given at creation or with pictures of land stewardship given in the Bible.28 Ultimately land should be used for the good of communities; however, it is hard to see how this can be so without distribution of ownership being more diverse than it currently is.

Questions for our politicians… ●● What policies do you have to effectively steward Scotland’s resources? ●● How do you think we can enable the best use of our land for future generations? ●● What incentives would you give to people and businesses to encourage better environmental practice? ●● Do you support the use of Air Passenger Duty as an environmental tax? Why or why not?

28 At Creation humanity is made equally in God’s image as male and female with equality of dignity and worth. (Gen 1:27-28). In the Old Testament nation of Israel, land is distributed fairly by family groups and tribes with stewardship principles of fallow years and debts including land debts being cancelled every 50 years in the year of Jubilee (see Leviticus 25).

Engagement with Politicians Whatever your views, there are plenty of ways you can engage with the political process.


s Christians, it’s vital we participate and make sure the voice of evangelicals is heard in the corridors of power. On some issues, there will be almost universal agreement amongst evangelicals; in other areas, there will be a much greater diversity of views. However, even when this is the case, we can have a profound impact in the course of debate by the values we bring: integrity, compassion and a heart for justice and for the poor. The way in which we conduct debate is as important as the arguments we put forward in the process. The first thing we can do is to show up.29 We must make our voice heard by voting. Voting in elections is the primary method by which our democracy is realised. Whilst you may never find a party with which you agree with completely, you will find there are some issues that are more important to you than others, and you can find out where candidates stand on those issues and vote in line with those. In the run-up to major elections, we often help churches to engage by organising hustings events and our friends at CARE produce good resources on specific policy areas. However, your involvement doesn’t need to end at the ballot box. In between elections, you can contact your local representative (Councillor, MSP, MP or

MEP) about relevant issues, whether these are local issues in your area, or policy issues in their parliament or local council. It’s also important to contact your representatives to encourage them. They have significant and demanding roles and often don’t get much thanks. On many issues, representatives will often vote in line with their party whip, but on contentious issues, they will often gauge public opinion on the basis of contact from their constituents. If we don’t show up in this way they won’t know what we think! Aside from contacting your local representatives, pray for them. Perhaps your local church could also commit to praying for them. If your church runs activities throughout the week, why not invite them to see the work your church is involved with, so they have an understanding of the impact your church has in the local community? Finally, we need people, including Christians, to commit to stepping up to be public leaders. Maybe you agree with one party enough to join them? Perhaps you could stand as a candidate? This is not for the faint-hearted, but we need Christians to be salt and light in our society in all areas, be that business, the voluntary sector, media and the public sector, even politics!

29 The organization Christians in Politics produced a website about Christians engaging in the electoral process: http://

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Five ways to engage your politicians‌ 1. Go to see them in parliament or at their regular surgeries. You can go on your own or as part of a group. 2. Invite them to see you at your church or community project. You could also invite them and other candidates in your area to church hustings. 3. Write to them to discuss legislation and to encourage them. 4. Pray for them in their role. 5. Become a public leader.

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Conclusion What kind of Holyrood?


e’ve tried to cover a lot in this short resource and inevitably there’s much more that could be said about the powers of the Scottish Parliament. Ultimately, as we engage with Holyrood our desire is that our society would reflect God’s values more and more, and through that, benefit everyone in Scotland. We return to What Kind of Nation? for our final thoughts on what such a Scotland could look like…

This is where we believe the Bible takes us. This is the society we long to see. This is the result of a nation seeking wisdom, living for justice, showing compassion and walking in integrity. It is the kind of nation that will flourish in every conceivable way. New powers are coming to Scotland. It is up to our politicians to rise to the challenge of using them and it is up to us to seize the opportunity of positive engagement, to see that the powers are used in the best possible way, reflecting godly values and for the benefit of everyone in Scotland.

This is a Scotland where… ●● The economy is based on values ●● Poverty is unacceptable ●● Welfare is effective and dignified ●● Relationships are treasured ●● Families are supported ●● Marriage is honoured ●● Children are nurtured ●● Freedom is protected

What kind of Holyrood do we want to see?

●● Justice is transforming ●● Communities are empowered ●● Our environment is cherished ●● Resources are stewarded ●● Land is shared

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What Kind of Nation?

Education Resource

Public Leadership

Serve Scotland

What Kind of Church?



PRACTICAL ACTION Bethany Christian Trust

Christians Against Poverty

Christian Values in Education

Trussell Trust


This resource was written by Noel Slevin and edited by the EA Scotland team. We would also like to thank Kathie Turner and Patrick Bridgeman for their assistance in proofreading and design of the document. For further information about this resource or the wider work of the Evangelical Alliance in Scotland please contact us using the details on the back cover.

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Evangelical Alliance Scotland Blair Court, 100 Borron Street, Port Dundas, Glasgow, G4 9XG Tel: 0141 353 0150 | Facebook: EAScotland | Twitter: @EAScotland The Evangelical Alliance. A company limited by guarantee Registered in England & Wales No. 123448. Registered Charity No England and Wales: 212325, Scotland: SC040576. Registered Office: 176 Copenhagen Street, London, N1 0ST Evangelical Alliance Scotland 2016 Designed and printed by Verve GRP | | T: 0333 123 4678

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What kind of Holyrood?  

Engaging with the new powers of the Scottish parliament

What kind of Holyrood?  

Engaging with the new powers of the Scottish parliament