Former deputy first minister Jim Wallace is new Kirk moderator

  • Published
Jim WallaceImage source, Andrew O'Brien/Church of Scotland
Image caption,
Lord Wallace wore a robe that belonged to Very Rev Dr David Steel who was moderator in 1974-1975

Former deputy first minister Jim Wallace has been installed as the new moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness said he was "humbled and honoured" to have become the Kirk's ambassador at home and abroad.

The 66-year-old life peer from Orkney is the second elder in modern times to take up the 12-month role.

He will speak out on issues important to the Church.

Lord Wallace was inducted into the role at the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh.

Prince William, who is representing his grandmother, Her Majesty the Queen, as Lord High Commissioner, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon were also present.

Outgoing moderator, Very Rev Dr Martin Fair, supervised the passing of the cross and chain and ring of office to his successor.

Lord Wallace, a member of St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, said: "I stand before you, today, feeling both humbled and honoured and, I should add, with feelings of excitement and trepidation.

"Today, I ask for your prayers that during this Assembly and in the coming year, I may fulfil these responsibilities with love, grace and wisdom.

"And that if, or more likely when, I get it wrong, your prayers will be ones of forgiveness."

Image caption,
Lord Wallace was installed at the General Assembly where Prince William gave the opening address

Lord Wallace, a former leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, wore a robe that belonged to Very Rev Dr David Steel who was moderator in 1974-1975.

It was lent to him by the late minister's son, Lord David Steel of Aikwood, a Liberal Democrat peer and former presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament.

The Assembly Hall was the home of Scotland's devolved legislature for five years after it reconvened in 1999 and Lord Wallace, Lord Steel and Ms Sturgeon all took their oath of office as MSPs there.

A trained advocate and past deputy leader of the House of Lords, Lord Wallace grew up in Annan in Dumfries and Galloway. His late father John was an elder at Annan Old Parish Church for 64 years.

In his youth, Lord Wallace was a member of the Boys Brigade, involved with Scripture Union and was confirmed in the faith while a law student at Cambridge University in 1973.

Challenges facing the Kirk

"Brought up in a loving Christian home, I was nurtured in a faith which I believe has held me in good stead throughout my life," he said.

"When I was nominated, many people commented to me on the challenges facing the Kirk. Many of these challenges were there before Covid but the pandemic has possibly put them into starker relief."

He thanked Dr Fair for his "inspirational" leadership during a difficult year in office due to the Covid pandemic.

"With compassion and empathy you have reached out to people who are vulnerable, especially those experiencing mental health problems during these troubling times," he said.

Lord Wallace has moved to the non-affiliated benches in the House of Lords which means he will not belong to any parliamentary group and will cease to take the Liberal Democrat whip.

Dr Fair is returning to his role as minister of St Andrew's Parish Church in Arbroath, Angus.

Dr Alison Elliot was the first elder in modern times to take up the role of moderator of the General Assembly, serving in 2004-2005. She is a commissioner this year and will be watching proceedings online.