EU Referendum: Statement by the Primus of Scotland

Posted Jun 24, 2016

The primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. David Chillingworth, bishop of St. Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane, has responded to yesterday’s EU referendum in the U.K. with the following statement.


The decision of the people of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union is one of the most significant political events of our generation. It turns away from the long term project of building a new Europe following the devastation of two World Wars. It aspires to reclaim national sovereignty and to establish Britain as a major independent world trading nation.

The people have spoken and the will of the people must be respected.

In a hard-fought and at times bruising campaign, it has been clear that debate about Europe has allowed a number of difficult issues to come to the surface. The debate and the patterns of voting suggest that our politicians in recent years may not have paid sufficient attention to some of the deeper issues which are present in our life. The inevitable and necessary period of reflection which must now follow will allow space for questions of poverty and immigration to be explored.

Those of us who live in Scotland are aware that the outcome of the Referendum is potentially of great significance. We hope that our politicians on all sides will take time for careful reflection and consultation.

This a time when we should hold all of our political leaders in our prayers.


Chillingworth also spoke on BBC Scotland this morning with the following Thought for the Day.

So now we know. There is some sense of an end point. But this leave result really marks the beginning of a long period – a time for working out of the implications of the choice which the people have made. That will occupy us for years to come.

It’s another beginning too – the beginning of the process by which we find healing after a bruising Referendum Campaign. It’s part of the way we do things that there are some issues so important that we should ‘let the people decide’. But as the campaign has run its course over the past weeks and months, there has been growing concern about whether that has led to a tendency to over-simplify complex issues and to political debate which has at times been fractious and angry. We may regret this – but it also shows how important this choice has been.

So now we have to put it all together again.

Faith can be about many things. I believe that it’s particularly about how we deal the painful past and find healing – in less religious language it how we let go and make a new start. You can probably hear in my accent a bit of Northern Ireland – where I was one of many who worked to lay to rest the legacy – not just of a short and bruising Referendum campaign – but of hundreds of years of bad history.

To say that ‘that was then and now is now’ isn’t enough. You have be able again to recognise the ‘other’ person as somebody of integrity – that person whom you may have thought and maybe said was lying or scaremongering or bringing in issues which were nothing to do with the matter in hand.

That means relationship – lots of coffee and talking which is serious and quiet. It means that, in the period of difficulty and uncertainty into which we are entering, our elected representatives express clarity but have the courage to be flexible.

To fight the political battles with passion – that’s what politicians are for. But they must also build the agreements which bring measured and ordered movement. That’s what the people who have voted now need.


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