Who is the fairest of them all?

I suppose that the idea of the political parties squabbling to represent themselves as the fairest of them all is something which we should welcome. Yet there is something about the current scrapping over public spending cuts which seems faintly unsavoury and its getting in the way of trying to think through different solutions to problems.

Now, I don’t like paying taxes. Who does like paying taxes? Yet the truth is, I think that moderating the cuts by asking everyone to pay a bit more in tax just might be a better option than the rather narrow choices that we are being presented with at the moment. And what kind of taxation am I talking about? Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the fairest tax of all?

Holding up that question like a mirror to society, I find myself sure that direct taxation (ie income tax) is the fairest of them all. I don’t find that view represented by any of the political parties at the moment. It is hard to hear much talk of reducing poverty, redistribution of wealth or of trying to build a society where social security, free health-care and universal free education are the common goals. I also hear no narrative except the cuts agenda. We are all the poorer for it.

The proposal this week that the brightest and best of our young people (in England at first, but there is a danger of it coming here too) be saddled with tens of thousands of pounds of debt at the start of their working lives is a grim warning that some battles already seem lost. The widespread acceptance of student debt is a cultural change I never wanted to see in the first place. The idea of making it so much worse is utterly frightening and seems to me to be very far from leading us to the best possible solutions for education.

Sermon – Quality of Mercy

Here is this morning's sermon about the release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie Bombing. Much of what I said is in the text below.

As I am preaching this morning, I want to take you on a journey. Not a journey from one place to another. Not a journey particularly from one idea to another. Rather a journey from one poet to another. We are going from Shakespeare to Burns today.

And can I say that I feel very comfortable attempting Burns this week. One of the most interesting things I have done in the last few days is to take part in the filming of something called the Glasgow Gospel. It is an attempt to retell the gospel in Glasgwegian. I was delighted, I can tell you to be cast as one of the religious leaders whom the child Jesus met with in the temple. And proud beyond measure when they gave me a speaking part. It must be because of my obvious local accent

I’m going to take the first reading, Solomon’s appeal for wisdom and use it quite unashamedly as a starting point, a place to leap off from. Like leaping from a diving board into the main news of this week which has caused such comment here in Scotland over a deed that was done in the skies over this diocese.

Let us begin with Shakespeare. [Read more…]