The leader of Scotland’s Roman Catholic church, Cardinal Keith O’Brien has accused the current Scottish Government of “moral cowardice” in an article in the Sunday Times Scotland newspaper. (With all the corruption stories around in Scotland, the SNP will never be remembered for moral leadership, or ethics – Ed)
The Sunday Times reports :
Scotland's Roman Catholic chief attacks the government over its failure to tackle antisocial behaviour epidemic
The leader of Scotland’s Roman Catholics has accused the Scottish government of “moral cowardice”, which he claims has left the country on the edge of an “abyss of social collapse”.
In a scathing attack on Alex Salmond’s administration, Cardinal Keith O’Brien accuses ministers of being too scared to take a moral lead on social issues such as drink and drug abuse, promiscuity and anti-social behaviour.
Instead of tackling the root causes, O’Brien says politicians are resorting to “ever more frenzied regulation” which he claims is powerless to curb dangerous and immoral behaviour.
“Scotland is staring into the abyss of social collapse. Too many of our young people are caught up in a maelstrom of drug- and alcohol-fuelled promiscuity, hedonism, vandalism and outright nihilism,” he writes in today’s Sunday Times.
“It is a whirlwind, which we will reap for a long time to come. We are paying the price for denying too many of our young people security, stability and morality, a price paidin shattered lives and broken children.”
He adds: “Like the manic sorcerer whose spells have gone disastrously wrong, our politicians cannot control the urge to cast yet more spells upon the chaos. It is an approach that seems to be driven by moral cowardice.”
O’Brien describes the government’s crackdown on cheap alcohol as “flawed” and “utterly discredited” because it assumes binge drinking can be cured by “ever more frenzied regulation”.
The comments are likely to alarm Salmond. The SNP’s rising fortunes have been partly due to the collapse of traditional Catholic allegiance to the Labour party in the west of Scotland.
Gerry Hassan, a policy analyst and political author, said MSPs had helped foster more open debate on certain moral issues but were wary of being seen to lecture people.
The Scottish government denied that ministers lacked moral courage. “We have shown on a number of fronts that we are not afraid to take bold, decisive action where needed — not least in our radical proposals to tackle Scotland’s alcohol misuse problem,” a spokesman said.
Last month the Scottish government confirmed it intends to ban loss-leading drink promotions, including two-for-one deals, and to introduce a minimum price for alcohol.
Ministers say excessive drinking costs Scotland £2.25 billion a year, including a £400m for industry in lost productivity and absence, £400m for the NHS Scotland and £288m for policing costs.
Cardinal O’Brien’s article from the Sunday Times :
We obsess over the symptoms and ignore the cause
Cardinal Keith O’Brien
Scotland is staring into the abyss of social collapse. Too many of our young people are caught up in a maelstrom of drug- and alcohol-fuelled promiscuity, hedonism, vandalism and outright nihilism. It is a whirlwind, which we will reap for a long time to come.
We are paying the price for denying too many of our young people security, stability and morality, a price paid in shattered lives and broken children. Yet as the human debris of our failure accumulates, our politicians have become paralysed by a chronic fear of moralising. In place of leadership and a moral compass, a stifling political consensus seems to compel our parties and our parliament into ever more frenzied regulation.
In recent weeks much coverage has been given to the decision by the Scottish government to limit sales of alcohol to young people by increasing the selling price through restrictions on a variety of retail offers and by asking local authorities to consider raising the age for alcohol purchases. This policy mirrors the approach taken by this and previous administrations to drug use, vandalism, anti-social behaviour, obesity, even promiscuity, and might usefully be called the “command and control” model of public governance.
Advocates of such a model take the view that “bad behaviour”, whether it be public drunkenness, health-threatening over-eating or teenage promiscuity, are all immutable and unchangeable. The urge and desire to commit acts of this type cannot be curbed, far less removed, goes the argument, therefore public, social and health policy must all be orientated towards mitigating the effects.
It is an approach that is deeply flawed and utterly discredited. It is also, however, the logical destination for a policy that refuses to judge or differentiate between actions conducive to the public good and those who threaten it.
When our fellow citizens err and lapse, we seldom focus on them or ask why they behaved as they did. Rather we rush to impose legal restraints, forgetting that no external restrictions can ever match the effectiveness of self-restraint. When a toddler is shot with an airgun, we regulate the sale of such weapons; alcohol abuse by our young people is met with legislation to restrict sales, and sexual promiscuity with regulations aimed at ensuring contraception and abortion are widely available. We do not as a society take action to tackle the underlying motivation; instead we limit our action to blunting the impact of our excesses. We obsess over the symptoms and ignore the cause.
Scotland has one of the highest divorce rates in the western world and one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates and sexually transmitted infection statistics. These trends are connected. A report published in 2007 revealed that if you experience family breakdown, you are 75% more likely to fail at school, 70% more likely to be a drug addict and 50% more likely to have alcohol problems.
In the face of all this evidence, our parliament has enacted legislation making divorce easier and faster and giving greater legal recognition to cohabitation, while our taxation system ruthlessly penalises long-term legal commitment. These attacks on marriage and stable family relationships have caused unimaginable misery, pain and life-long failure for thousands of children and have had disastrous social and economic consequences.
Like the manic sorcerer whose spells have gone disastrously wrong, our politicians cannot control the urge to cast yet more spells upon the chaos. It is an approach that seems to be driven by moral cowardice and perhaps because the alternative, to admit they were wrong, is far too frightening.
Is remedial action too late? Can we yet modify and correct the most corrosive attitudes and behaviour that are causing our society to splinter? Hope remains. In a recent YouthLink Scotland survey on attitudes, interests and aspirations of young people, when asked to identify those they most trusted and respected, encouragingly the vast majority put parents at the top of the list. Today’s children are tomorrow’s parents.
To help and sustain them in their parenting, we must urgently restore support for marriage. Marriage remains an ideal to which most people aspire, and it still provides the surest foundation for strong and healthy families. For couples intending to marry,
we should offer at public expense universal access to marriage preparation courses; for those facing difficulties in their marriages we should ensure remedial and reconciliation services are easily and quickly available. The cost benefits of preventing breakdown hugely outweigh the gargantuan costs of dealing with the after-effects. We must also reform the tax-credit system, which currently favours children who live with a lone parent rather than with both parents.
Unless we reverse course, our divorce rate, teen pregnancy rate, sexually transmitted infection numbers and alcohol- and drug-dependency problems will multiply. We cannot micro- legislate or regulate our way out of this situation. We cannot possibly predict every conceivable aberration and prepare a parliamentary response to it. Instead we must educate a new generation in morality and objective truth.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien is leader of Scotland’s Roman Catholics