Some people think that religion and politics don’t mix and should be kept separate but this is not a view that I share.

The Church cares about people and everyone is affected by every single decision made by politicians in some way.

We are concerned about the impact of politics in the broadest sense – we do not engage in party politics – and it is our Christian duty, following the teachings of Jesus Christ, to give voice to the voiceless and stand up for the vulnerable and dispossessed.

The Church of Scotland engages with governments and parliamentarians on a regular basis to discuss a wide range of topics of mutual concern and to try and find a way to work together for the common good.

It is in this context that I will be spending tomorrow with the leaders of the parties in the Scottish Parliament – assuring them they are held in prayer, providing pastoral support if needed – as part of the Moderator’s annual Scottish Parliament week, which will also involve giving Time for Reflection.

I will be using the opportunity to urge the leaders of the SNP, Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Greens to redouble their efforts to tackle the country’s appalling drug misuse deaths and suicide rate.

Recent statistics show that 1,264 people in Scotland died of drug misuse in 2019, a 6 per cent increase on the previous year, while 833 people took their own lives in Scotland in 2019, up from 784 the previous year. These figures are deeply shocking.

This cannot be allowed to go on and I fear the situation, exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, will only get worse unless meaningful and effective action is taken.

We’ve got to do better and although I am the Moderator of the General Assembly, I’m first and foremost a parish minister and these subjects are ever before me in the lives of real people.

I set up the Havilah outreach programme at my church, St Andrew’s in Arbroath in 2006, which supports people living with addictions.

I have seen the devastating impact of this public health catastrophe on the lives of people and their loved ones. I’ve also seen the transformative power of faith in Jesus Christ to help turn lives around.

Last year, Havilah started providing support to people struggling with mental health – I oversaw the introduction of this service as a reaction to the tragic suicide of Scott Hutchison, the frontman of the indie rock band, Frightened Rabbit, in 2018.

Therefore, I look forward to discussing with party leaders how the Scottish Parliament’s recent decision to declare a "mental health crisis" can lead to meaningful action.

I hope they will recognise that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable people in the most deprived communities.

The Church believes that the response to the country’s recovery must focus not on putting the world back the way it was, but with a renewed effort to tackle poverty.

We acknowledge that the impact of the pandemic, particularly on children and young people, the elderly and those without access to the internet, has been severe.

The Church is glad that the Scottish Government has worked with us closely throughout the pandemic to try and keep people safe and we support the temporary closure of church buildings.

I am looking forward to sharing with MSPs the many brilliant, practical ways in which congregations have supported the communities they serve over the last year.

The Church has not taken a position on the Scottish independence question but I will make clear to party leaders that it wants to be an influential voice when it comes to debate about what kind of country Scotland could be.

I will also spend time with Ken Macintosh, the presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament, and hope to meet with the new leader of the Scottish Labour Party in due course.

Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair is Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.