Minister(church) in medals outburst to MSPs

Minister in medals outburst to MSPs - Herald Scotland | News | Politics

A senior Kirk minister caused fury yesterday after telling MSPs that gallantry medals for soldiers who killed their enemies should be abolished.

The Rev Ian Galloway, convener of the Kirk’s church and society council, made his outburst to a panel examining issues surrounding the End of Life Assistance Bill put forward by Margo MacDonald.

Evidence was being heard from a range of faith groups including Kirk, Free Kirk, Methodist, Muslim, Jewish and a Humanist representatives. Most opposed the Bill on principle but the Humanists gave it support.

Ms MacDonald, playing devil’s advocate with Dr Bill Reid of the Methodists, said: “We award medals to soldiers who kill other soldiers, and that’s the taking of human life.”

Mr Reid began to reply: “We’ve already gone along the line of the just war and all the rest, but I think that’s different...”

But Mr Galloway intervened to say: “On that point, I just don’t think that’s a good idea that we do that. I think it’s terrible. I think we should change it.”

The MSP asked whether that meant no medals and he replied “absolutely”, prompting Ms MacDonald to say: “To Colonel Jones in the Falklands?”

Mr Galloway replied: “I think that killing in war is tragic. I think the fact that they happen is tragic, and if it is a social necessity that we do these things then I do have a bit of a problem about the way that our value system holds it up.”

The Church of Scotland, which has about 20 armed forces chaplains in its ranks, tried to turn the issue back to Ms MacDonald’s original question, with its convener of chaplains, the Rev Neil Gardner, saying: “Margo MacDonald was incorrect when she suggested that medals were awarded to soldiers for killing people.

“Medals are not awarded to soldiers for killing people, they are awarded for acts of outstanding bravery, which often lead to lives being saved.”

Schools Minister Keith Brown, the only Scottish Government minister to have served in the forces, was dismissive of Mr Galloway’s view. Mr Brown, who fought in the Falklands as a Royal Marine, said: “Medals are not given out for killing people, but for acts of bravery.

“It is the very least society can do to recognise what service personnel have done for their country.”

Neil Griffiths, of the Royal British Legion Scotland, said he was “horrified” that someone in Mr Galloway’s position could believe such a thing.

He said: “Medals for valour or for action under enemy fire are not sweeties to be handed out. They are not glorifying war.

“In fact they may well be a reminder to a soldier of one of the most terrifying moments in his life when he was defending his country and his colleagues.”

Former SAS commander Clive Fairweather, who went on to serve as Scottish Chief Inspector of Prisons, said most soldiers were actually “rabid pacifists” because they had experienced the horrors of armed conflict.

Mr Galloway later tried to defuse the row, saying: “The giving of medals to soldiers for bravery in the field of battle is of the utmost importance and many courageous soldiers throughout history have rightly received recognition for their heroic acts.”

He thinks, therefore he thinks he is.

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