Humanists to join Kirking ceremony for new Parliament #sp16

For the first time non-religious people will be represented by Humanist Society Scotland in the opening ‘Kirking’ ceremony.

  • Kirking ceremony is traditionally a Christian service, in recent years it has had representation from other religions
  • The tradition, dating from the pre-1707 Parliament was restarted following devolution in 1999
  • Non-religious people will be represented for the first time by Humanist Society Scotland

In an historic move, Humanists will be represented in the Kirking ceremony for the first time by HSS Chief Executive Gordon MacRae. Gordon will share a recital of Being a Human Being by Scottish poet Tom Leonard.

Scottish poet Tom Leonard welcomed the reading

Scottish poet Tom Leonard welcomed the reading

HSS Chief Executive Gordon MacRae commented:

“We’re delighted to be asked to participate in this year’s ceremony. As Scottish society changes it is only fair and proper that representatives from the large group in society that seek to lead ethical and fulfilling lives without religion are included in the country’s important ceremonies.

“During the course of the next session of Parliament, MSPs will need to address many complex issues such as transgender rights, devolution of abortion and the role of segregated schooling on education attainment.

“We wish all MSPs the best as they prepare to undertake this important role.”

Tom Leonard welcomed the use of his poem, commenting:

“I am pleased to grant permission to the Humanist Society Scotland to use my poem, just as I was pleased to grant permission to the last person who asked me, a nun seeking permission to use it in Catholic schools in Manchester.

“To me the responsibility of being a human is more fundamental then theism or non theism though it can with no contradiction include either.”

Gordon MacRae will read Being a Human Being by Tom Leonard (originally written for the instalment of Mordechai Vanunu as Rector of the University of Glasgow):

not to be complicit
not to accept everyone else is silent it must be alright

not to keep one’s mouth shut to hold onto one’s job
not to accept public language as cover and decoy

not to put friends and family before the rest of the world
not to say I am wrong when you know the government is wrong

not to be just a bought behaviour pattern
to accept the moment and fact of choice

I am a human being
and I exist

a human being
and a citizen of the world

responsible to that world
—and responsible for that world

Notes: For further comment please contact Gary McLelland on or 07813060713.

This is the first time that non-religious world-views, such as Humanism, have been included in the Kirking ceremony.

Recent research by the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey confirmed that a majority of people in Scotland are not religious:

Information for journalists available from The Scottish Parliament website:


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