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Evangelical churches join indy debate

THE independence debate is heading for the pews with the UK's largest evangelical Christian organisation launching a series of hustings in churches across Scotland.

The Evangelical Alliance says the independence debate is too narrowly focused on "bland economic debate" over matters such as EU membership, the pound and pensions.

The organisation represents 200,000 Christians in Scotland. Members come from churches including the Baptists and the Salvation Army.

It will publish a manifesto this week arguing there should be more focus on aspirations for Scotland's future. Its recommendations include a "ruthless commitment to eradicating poverty in all its forms" and restoring dignity to those reliant on the welfare state.

Hustings in seven cities in June will bring together politicians and the public to debate the issues.

Fred Drummond, director of Evangelical Alliance Scotland, said it it vital to discuss "what kind of future we want for our children and grandchildren".

He added: "The economic issues are important but they are not the whole story; there are many other important matters, such as poverty, on which people are hurting which need to be addressed.

"It cannot be right that the poorest 20% of the population contribute a larger percentage of their wealth in tax than those in the top 20%. It cannot be right that those in work find themselves having to rely on state handouts and food banks."

The manifesto will be unveiled at an event at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday. It does not take a position on independence.

Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, said: "We have churches at the heart of almost all communities and together they provide community services such as food banks in a way that is unparalleled in modern Scotland.

"From our day in, day out experience in Scottish communities we have something to say in this referendum debate."

In February, a report from the Church of Scotland, which also takes a neutral stance on independence, called for the referendum debate to address issues such as social justice, rather than focusing on the economic and financial consequences of constitutional change. That report is currently being debated at venues across the country.

The Catholic Church in Scotland - also neutral on independence - is holding an event at the Conforti Institute in Coatbridge on the April 29 to discuss Scotland's future.

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