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Reverend Professor Donald Macleod

The Rev. Professor Donald Macleod of the Free Church College preparing to testify in the superquarry public inquiry at Leverburgh School, Isle of Harris, 9 November 1994.
(Photo © Bill Lucas, Hebridean Press Service, Stornoway)

Statement of Supplementary Witness – Rev. Prof. Donald Macleod, Free Church College, Edinburgh

Lingerbay Quarry Inquiry: Theological Principles

To an extent that has no parallel elsewhere in the world, the ideology and culture of Harris are underpinned by presbyterian theology. So far as ecological theology is concerned, however, there is nothing distinctive in presbyterianism and my perspective merely reflects the broad Judaeo-Christian tradition.

The most important influence on that tradition has, obviously, been the Jewish Scriptures, particularly the early chapters of the Book of Genesis. But I believe that the basic emphases of that tradition have a force beyond that of a mere external canon. They commend themselves to the deepest instincts of men and women, as, interacting with their environment, they experience both awareness of the existence of God and a sense of responsibility to the world in which He has placed them.

The points I would wish to emphasise may be summarised as follows:

1. God as Creator has absolute sovereignty over the environment. We must use it only in accordance with His will; and we shall answer, collectively as well as individually, for all our decisions in this area.

2. Theologically, the primary function of the creation is to serve as a revelation of God. To spoil the creation is to disable it from performing this function.

3. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition there is an intimate link between man and the soil. He is taken from the ground; his food is derived from it; he is commanded to till and to keep it; and he returns to it. This implies a psychological as well as theological bond. Although such facts should not be used to endorse naked territorialism they do raise the consideration that rape of the environment is rape of the community itself.

4. The precise responsibility of man to his environment is defined very precisely in the Judaeo-Christian tradition.

4.1 Man has to "keep" it (Genesis 2:15). This is not simply an insistence on conservation. It designates man as guardian and protector of the ground.

4.2 Man is the servant of the ground (Genesis 2:15). This is the usual meaning of the Hebrew word popularly rendered to us as to till. Christian theology has largely failed to recognise this emphasis. Any insistence on the more widely perceived notion of man's dominion must be balanced by the less familiar but equally important concept of man as servant.

5. There is no place in the Judaeo-Christian tradition for divided guardianship of the land. In particular, there is no place for the idea that agrarian rights may belong to the people while mineral rights belong to someone else. This dichotomy is central to the current debate. From a theological point of view the present arrangements, while perfectly legal, are indefensible.

6. Man's relationship with his environment has been disrupted by the Fall. One primary symptom of this is that he is always tempted to allow economic considerations to override ecological ones. In the present instance the divinely appointed guardians and servants of Lingerbay are the people of Harris. Unfortunately, these very people are now suffering a degree of economic hardship that threatens the very survival of their community. Torn between their love for the land and their need for jobs they face a cruel dilemma. Capitalism offers to help them in characteristic fashion: it will relieve unemployment provided the people surrender guardianship of the land (thus violating their own deepest instincts).

I am prepared to clarify, amplify and defend the above positions as required.