A wee confusion

Alistair Moffat's article ("Good riddance to the Wee Frees", 31 January) has reassured me with regard to the future of the Free Church of Scotland - if all our critics are as thoroughly confused as he is, the future must be good. The Free Church of Scotland wasn't the body he refers to as staying out of union with the Church of Scotland in 1929 (that was the United Free Church), nor was it the body that excommunicated Lord Mackay, then Lord Chancellor of England (that was the Free Presbyterian Church). More seriously, Moffat claims as fact the allegation that "a group of anti-progressive ministers . . . had persuaded the women to make false allegations" against Professor Donald Macleod of the Free Church of Scotland, "because they wanted to discredit someone who was attempting to drag the church into the 19th century". Perhaps Moffat can explain under what system of "justice" it came about that a sheriff made such statements (as the Sheriff John Horsburgh did in June 1996) about men whom he had never seen, who were never permitted to enter the courtroom and who were certainly never given the opportunity of defending themselves against such allegations. An investigative journalist might also wish to enquire why one of the witnesses for the defence was so desperate to take steps to ensure that the records of the Free Church of Scotland (records that would establish the truth, or otherwise, of the allegation of conspiracy) should be destroyed. Could it be that they would have revealed that perjury had been committed? There's a lot more to the story than meets the eye.

John MacLeod
Press Officer, Free Church of Scotland

This article first appeared in the 07 February 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The Prime Minister loses control