Patrick Harvie’s talk on how Humanists can win friends at the Scottish Parliament

Despite the change from the usual Edinburgh Group meeting on the first Monday of the month, there was a full house to hear an entertaining and informative talk from Patrick Harvie MSP on Winning Friends and Influencing People in the Scottish Parliament.

Religious organisations have a lot of access to the Parliament, and do a lot of lobbying, but Patrick said that quiet conversations, access to the right ear, and social contacts can be just as effective. He does not believe that the influence of the religious organisations is as strong as it appears.

Patrick touched on three live issues where humanist voices are
important: the Equal Marriage Bill, Assisted Suicide and Education. He
also hopes that non-religious voices will be heard during the
commemorations of the First World War next year.

Time for
Reflection at the Scottish Parliament – which should be an alternative to
prayer – has until now been dominated by religious speakers. It ought to
reflect the latest census figures in which 37% of the population are
not religious. This, and his description of the “Prayer Breakfasts” has
prompted us to think of ways in which the balance can be improved –
possibly by holding a Humanist Reception or an event for MSPs.

There
was an interesting Q and A session, covering among other subjects halal
and kosher slaughter, petitions to councils, the possible influence of
devolution on the move away from religion, and nuclear power. Patrick’s
answer to that last one had some of us dashing to google “thorium” when
we got home.

Anne Murray, Committee Member, Edinburgh Group

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