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The Religious Factor in the Scottish Independence Referendum (2015-2016)

Field of study: Religious Studies

The 2014 referendum in Scotland, which brought victory for unionists, was characterised by a high level of involvement of religious organisations. Most Christian Churches chose to be neutral on the referendum dilemma; this was inspired by prevailing viewpoints among the clergy, who objected Scottish independence. Analysing the stance of the Church of Scotland, Roman Catholic Church, Episcopal Church of Scotland, and Free Church of Scotland, I argue in this paper that the chosen path of neutrality played more in favour of unionists. The Churches’ influence on the referendum’s outcome was far beyond statistical error: had Churches publicly supported independence, it would have been likely that Edinburgh would now be negotiating the terms of “divorce” with London.

Keywords: churches, Scotland, religion, independence, referendum

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