I NOTE Neil Mackay’s The Big Read article (“A crisis of faith”, April 4) in which the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair, is reported as maintaining that “Christianity isn’t about those who like to sing hymns on Sunday, it’s about being where people are vulnerable, fragile and broken – and being alongside them.”

I read elsewhere that the Archbishop of Canterbury in his Easter message referred to the church getting “involved with resisting injustice, treasuring our world, tending the needy – it’s why Christians throughout the centuries have lived with compassion and love for all who are excluded and marginalised.”

Pope Francis in his traditional Easter message exclaims that “the poor of every kind must begin again to hope”.

But to return to the Moderator, Dr Fair maintains that the message of Jesus is “a bold, moving philosophy, which even the most committed atheist can respect ... that’s if the Kirk carries it through, of course”. An interesting qualification “if the Kirk carries it through”.

I think the continuing decline in interest in the Christian faith is a tragedy. It is about so much more than life after death. It is about working for a fullness of life for all here and now, especially those who are “excluded and marginalised”. Such care and compassion is at the very heart of Christianity, the Moderator being perfectly justified in describing it as being a “a bold, moving philosophy”.

John Milne, Uddingston.


IT is perhaps ironic that at a time when all sorts of politicians are praising churches for their caring work during the pandemic the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland suggests that the Kirk may have only 15years of survival left ("A crisis of faith", April 4).

The Right Rev Dr Martin Fair is clearly a parish minister of the highest calibre and also a very perceptive commentator on the religious state of church and nation. He is a man of hope and sees the way forward through the church's caring work in society. Few would doubt the importance of that. A problem arises when you look at the teaching of Jesus Christ.

In his own day the crowds gathered to see his miracles and listen to him but at the end of the day they couldn't stand him and crucified him. Much of Jesus's teaching is anathema to our 21 century society. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) carried much that our society finds too challenging – viz loving enemies, prioritising the poor, attitudes to sexuality, the emptiness of riches, don't be anxious, trust God, don't judge others. All these things create an attitude of "taking things too far" in the minds of many in our society and present a barrier to them embracing Christianity. However as the church declines in our part of the world in many others Jesus is building His church and more and more people are following the greatest person who ever lived on planet earth. At the latest count a total of more than 30 per cent claim to be associated with his cause.

Bill Wallace (Rev Dr), Banchory.


I WAS interested in Neil Mackay's interview with the Moderator, and I agree with what Dr Martin Fair says.

I belong to a lay Buddhist practice which has no monks, no nuns, no priests, no temples. Before lockdown, we met in each others' houses, and when there were too many for a private house, we hired a hall. If, as Dr Fair suggests, the Church of Scotland sells its buildings, which are too big to maintain, it can use the proceeds to work in the community. This is what my Buddhist tradition does. All through lockdown I have had the support of my Buddhist group, either on Zoom or on the phone.

I am not a fan of technology, but I am grateful for the opportunity to use it while we are not able to meet in person. I look forward to being able to meet up with other Buddhists as soon as we are able.

Margaret Forbes, Kilmacolm.


HOW I wish that Labour in Scotland, having shaken off the dead hand of Jeremy Corbyn and looking very much improved, would now drop its semi-nationalist tone and wishy-washy attitude to another break-up-the-UK referendum. Instead of endlessly attacking the Tories, it could mount attacks on the real enemies of the working people of Scotland, whom they are supposed to champion.

Its opponents should be nationalists in general and the SNP in particular. Maybe someone should whisper to Anas Sarwar that the Tories are the opposition in Scotland and in going for them he is doing the SNP’s work for it. If there is an offer to work with others of a different political hue in order to defeat nationalism, it should be warmly welcomed.

He should try to shake off this image that he and his party seem happy enough to be, like the Greens, another set of Nicola’s little helpers, ready to do her bidding.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh.


I AM pretty apolitical and certainly not a keen supporter of any of the main parties in Holyrood, likely leaning toward the Green Party if any. I have always enjoyed and admired Iain Macwhirter’s writings. I sense a change, howeve, in recent times that has seen him become possibly less impartial on the subject of independence. His article last week ("Indy is in Sturgeon’s DNA just as much as Salmond’s, but ...", April 4) perhaps reflects that change.

What I took from is that the time for independence is not now. He also says: "Only if you are a radical, an insurgent, a risk-taker – yes, a gambler– does independence really make sense, at least right now".

I don’t regard myself as any of these things yet I think independence makes sense. Now.

Mr Macwhirter goes on to suggest a host of possible reasons to not be independent, including currency, losing the monarchy, a possible hard border, getting back into the EU, the time things would take, and he also quotes the Institute for Government on the difficulties and possible hardships of independence – a body that is hardly impartial themselves on this subject. Ultimately, none of his reasons stand up. I will need a much more cogent argument as to why now is not the time and why independence shouldn’t happen.

I read a great deal, on both sides of the discussion, but I am still waiting to read, or hear, a sensible and persuasive argument against "why wouldn’t you?".

The discussion on independence has moved on, and it’s now incumbent on those who don’t want independence, and so run all of our own affairs, to come up with sensible reasons why we shouldn’t. I’m not holding my breath.

George Archibald, Lasswade.


MUSING on the likelihood of there being enough room in a massive ego for a shred of decency, I saw, with the change of one letter, a parallel in history to this new party – Elba. That was the springboard for Napoleon’s vainglorious shottie at reclaiming his empire. (There was a misjudged Russian venture in his story,too.)

The question is whether the upshot – Waterloo – will be a bloodbath, or, preferably, entertainment in 1970s glamrock outfits. We live in strange times.

Tash MacLeod, Gairloch.


RON Mackay in his column of March 28 and Michael Tolland in his letter today (April 07) have been critical of the immigration plans of the heartless Priti Patel. What both have failed to highlight is the worst threat of the recently adopted points-based system which will effectively condemn our young people to second-class status in their own country.

Freedom of movement within the EU does not require anyone to be particularly "intelligent and forward-thinking" in order to be welcomed into another EU jurisdiction. Brexit has now brought us a points-based system which effectively retains freedom of movement for those who can command higher salaries but denies it to others, leaving low-skilled, lower paid occupations to be filled exclusively by our indigenous population with no requirement to achieve a high rating for intelligence and forward thinking. What employer is going to invest in training and career development of our school leavers when a ready supply of "oven-ready" well-educated immigrants is available? Our young people face a future in which they are likely to be streamed in the direction of the lower-paid, often seasonal, jobs which immigrants were previously more than willing to occupy.

Watch out for the introduction of harvesting and fruit-picking into our school curriculum.

Willie Maclean, Milngavie.


I HAVE been reading Ally McLaws' column ("Living with cancer during a pandemic") with great interest and it is encouraging to see you supporting it as a forum for discussion about the effects of cancer. For too long, cancer has remained a hidden topic with many people still afraid to discuss it openly because of old myths and unfounded truths.

Ally’s column is very valuable in supporting cancer patients, encouraging those who may feel isolated with their cancer diagnosis to talk about it, and to seek out the emotional support they may need to help them live well with their diagnosis.

There are many sources of help and support available for those diagnosed with cancer but whole families, often the patient’s carers, can be greatly impacted too, as Ally has highlighted in his column over recent weeks. It can be an extremely anxious time for everyone affected and many people find it can be very helpful to discuss their feelings with a caring and professional listener.

For anyone affected by a cancer diagnosis, patient or family, I encourage them to make good use of the support services available if they feel this might help them to cope.

Thank you to Ally for his openness and for highlighting the support that cancer patients and their families might benefit greatly from using.

Sandra McCall, CEO Ayrshire Cancer Support, Kilmarnock.