The Referendum on Scottish Independence, with voting on September 18th 2014, results in a 55 to 45 percent decision to stay within the United Kingdom. Opinion polls ten days before the vote put the "Yes to Independence" campaign ahead and these polls trigger urgent visits to Scotland and appeals from from the leaders of the Conservative,Labour and Liberal Democrat parties in the Westminster Parliament. Their vow of increased powers for the Scottish Parliament persuades suffficent voters for there to be a "No" majority.
The Referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain part of the European Union on June 23rd 2016 leads to a (unexpected) decision to leave and a subsequent change of Prime Minister. However, of the four nations of the United Kingdom both Scotland and Northern Ireland vote to remain while England and Wales vote to leave. Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, insists that Scotland should not be taken out of the European Union against its wishes and does not rule out a second Independence Referendum should this happen.
THE WIDER WORLD
In the wider world the United Kingdom has ended its combat role in Afghanistan after 13 years, but is again being drawn into war in the Middle East - joining a United States led coalition in support for those opposing the militant group, The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is in control of considerable areas of both Iraq and Syria.
In the Church there will be more discussion on same gender relationships. The Scottish Parliament has redefined marriage and same gender marriage became possible in Scotland from December 2014. At the General Synod in June 2016 there is approval for the first reading of a change to Canon Law which would enable two people of the same gender to be married by Episcopalian clergy. The change will be considered by Diocesan Synods early in 2017 and, to come into effect, needs the approval of the June 2017 General Synod. And - as the conclusion of an older argument - the Scottish Episcopal Church still awaits the election of a woman as a bishop (an event possible since 2003).
CHANGING ATTITUDES IN RELIGIOUS BELIEF
Changing trends in religious belief will continue to affect all the Churches. The Scottish Episcopal Church remains relatively small with around 350 congregations, while the Presbyterian Church of Scotland has 1427 and, south of the border, the Church of England more than 16,000. Financial constraints throughout the United Kingdom mean that maintaining the traditional parish system is becoming increasingly difficult, and advertisements seeking to fill parish vacancies frequently offer part time or "house for duty" posts. However, new ways of "being Church" are (perhaps all too) slowly developing alongside the familiar patterns. Both new and old ways have the ultimate intention of enabling people to meet God, and such a union is what actually matters. When the Church, all the people of God, remains faithful to Jesus' teaching to love God and to reach out in care to all whose lives touch ours then in the end all shall be well .
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