AS a commissioner to the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly of 2018 and 2019 I listened with interest to the debates over divestment from oil and gas stock. I doubt there was a single person in the room who would argue that our voracious consumption of fossil fuels is not detrimental to the environment; it should have been a simple and easy decision for us. But I voted against divestment, twice, because our voracious consumption of fossil fuels is neither simple nor easy ("Kirk must divest from fossil fuels if it is to lead society, argues MSP", The Herald, October 23, and Letters, October 28, 30 & 31) .

For 200 years in the West we have exploited fossil fuels for the sake of material development and have succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of the early industrialists, so much so that our entire way of life is enmeshed with fossil fuel consumption.

It’s not just a simple matter of driving an electric car or powering our homes with solar energy, laudable practices though they may be. The trouble is that we are surrounded by oil-based products, thousands of them, and use them every day, so much so that life without them has become inconceivable. It’s everywhere and in everything from clothing to make-up to cleansers to paint to medicines to computers to sports equipment and on and on. Every piece of plastic, every synthetic fibre, every chemical that has improved my standard of living immeasurably can trace its origin to oil and its countless derivatives. Oil and fossil fuel consumption is not just a way of living, it has become a way of being, for all of us.

Divestment cannot be reduced, as it was at the General Assembly, to a binary decision of for or against, good guys and bad guys. I cannot argue with those who voted to divest or those who block the streets with eco-protests and call for revolution, they’re right. Divesting would be a great symbolic gesture, but only that. True divestment would mean something else entirely. It’s not that I lack the will to divest from this way of life, I just can’t imagine what that would look like, so I voted no, twice.

Rev Dr John Carswell, Hamilton.

MAY I refer to my letter of October 28 challenging those in the Kirk who favour divesting all of our stocks and shares in the oil and gas industry. I wish to make it known that I am expressing my own personal opinions in this regard and am not representing or attempting to represent, any church establishment.

The resulting tumult of correspondence to my piece, signed apparently by a litany of the great and the good of the Kirk, including past moderators, conveners et al, is most welcome since their out of touch with reality headlong rush to occupy the high moral ground,vindicates the General Assembly’s decision not to carry out their divestment proposal, a decision which they refuse to accept.

As they have stated, the CO2 pollution problem has been known for some 40 years, so what have all these activists been doing in the interim? Not I am sure, selling off any of their pension funds which may include oil-related investments, nor in any other immoral industries such as those which abuse human rights or burn down rain forests to plant soya, which we in turn purchase. Have they personally ceased the use of oil and gas products at home or in our church buildings? I don’t believe so, for just like the rest of us, they depend upon the oil and gas industries to exist.

Not for the first time, the stench of hypocrisy may surround the righteous.

Opposition to cashing in our shares does not mean deserting the poor and disadvantaged as is suggested, nor does it mean ignoring the climate change which we face. It is however rather looking at how best we may resolve the problem by, along with other more influential investors, persuading the industry to effect the necessary change, by increasing its R&D budgets and utilising the resources and technology which only it owns, to finally eliminate damaging emissions. It would certainly not be achieved by walking away in a huff, but rather by remaining within the enclave and arguing for support.

Ian Cooper, Bearsden