Catholic Union calls for clarity on Scottish church openings

The Catholic Union has called for churches across Scotland to be open in time for Easter.


In a letter to Nicola Sturgeon, Catholic Union President Sir Edward Leigh, called for a commitment that churches in Scotland will be allowed to open for Easter at the latest and urged Scotland’s First Minister to set out guidance on this as soon as possible.


Nicola Sturgeon set out Scotland’s route map out of a lockdown on Tuesday 23 February. In her statement to MSPs, she said her hope was to see places of worship in Scotland reopen on Monday 5 April “or possibly a few days earlier.” Easter Sunday this year falls on 4 April.


At her daily coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday 24 February, Ms Sturgeon said that communal worship would be allowed to resume “in time for the Easter weekend and Passover.”


But speaking in Holyrood the following day, she refused to put a date on when reopening would be possible and told Labour MSP Elaine Smith, that there would need to be “careful consideration to see what the state of the virus is” before making any final decision.


Churches in Scotland have been closed for private prayer and communal worship since 5 January.


The Catholic Union previously requested evidence for the decision to close places of worship to be published. In response, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell MSP, said: “In most cases it is difficult to say with any degree of certainty where an individual has contracted the virus”.


Catholic Union Head of Public Affairs, James Somerville-Meikle, comments: “People in Scotland have had to endure some of the darkest days of the pandemic without access to churches. Despite our call to produce any evidence for this decision, we have seen no information that proves this measure is needed to control the virus. In fact, we have seen rates of infection fall across the UK, including in England and Wales where churches have remained open.


“While Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to see churches open for the Easter weekend, there is no commitment on this in the Scottish Government’s route map out of lockdown. We need to have a date agreed for reopening rather than just warm words. Easter is fast approaching, and churches need time to plan for reopening in a Covid-secure way.


“With rates of infection continuing to fall, we see no reason why there should be a cap on the number of people who can attend services. This is best left to individual churches, rather than arbitrarily imposed by the Scottish Government. People worked extremely hard last year to make churches Covid-secure and enforce social distancing. There is no reason why this should not work again.”


Read Sir Edward Leigh’s letter to Nicola Sturgeon here: Letter to Nicola Sturgeon 24.02.21