Scotland politics

Alex Salmond says he prefers 'people of faith'

Alex Salmond and Rev Stuart MacQuarrie Image copyright Church of Scotland
Image caption Alex Salmond appeared in the video, shot at the Scottish Parliament, alongside Rev Stuart MacQuarrie

Scotland's former first minister Alex Salmond has revealed that he prefers "people of faith to people of no faith or people who have lost their faith".

He made the statement in a video for the Church of Scotland.

Mr Salmond, who is now the SNP MP for Gordon, also said that he believed all denominations had a key role to play in society.

The Scottish Secular Society said the politician's remark was "controversial and divisive".

But a spokesman for Mr Salmond later clarified that the former first minister had been "talking about faith, not religion".

Mr Salmond, who is the SNP's foreign affairs spokesman at Westminster, was featured in the video alongside the Rev Stuart MacQuarrie, the Church of Scotland's chaplain to the University of Glasgow.

The clergyman had been at Holyrood to deliver the first "time for reflection" of the new parliamentary year.

Mr Salmond recalled that he was a champion for the chamber event, which features religious and humanist speakers.

Speaking during the three-minute video, he said: "I am biased, of course, because I am a Church of Scotland adherent and I prefer people of faith to people of no faith or people who have lost their faith.

"All denominations have a key role to play in society and we are very fortunate in Scotland because we have a tremendous ability, among religions and denominations, to come together and support good causes."

The chairman of the Scottish Secular Society, Spencer Fildes, said he was unhappy with Mr Salmond's comment.

He said: "For Alex Salmond to say he prefers people of faith is a controversial comment to make.

"With one sentence he has separated the religious and none religious, affording special place to the religious in his own world view; preferring one half of the country to the other.

"It's an incredibly ill-thought and divisive comment to make."

Gordon MacRae, chief executive of Humanist Society Scotland, also said he believed Mr Salmond's comments had been "deeply innapropriate".

He added: Non-religious people in Scotland constitute a larger group than any single religious denomination, and non-religious humanist wedding ceremonies are now one of the most popular ways for couples in Scotland to celebrate their love."