Catholic leaders in Scotland are hoping the influx of Polish migrants to the country will affect the outcome of the upcoming elections for the country’s parliament.
Around 40,000 immigrants are now working in Scotland, 90% of them Poles, who are in turn almost all practising Catholics.
The elections for the 129-member parliament take place on May 3rd.
The contest will see a tight race between Labour, who have been in power since 1999, and the Scottish National Party.
If the SNP win a majority of MSPs, they are committed to holding a referendum on Scottish independence before 2011.
The Roman Catholic Church is urging Poles to vote “with their conscience,” a thinly veiled reference to their objection to a range of measures introduced by the ruling Labour executive in Edinburgh, from gay adoption to civil partnerships.
Labour has traditionally been strongly supported by Scots Catholics, but in recent times senior Church figures such as Cardinal Keith O’Brien have voiced support for Scottish independence.
There are reports that the Church is even considering producing its own election literature in Polish.
Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, told the Daily Mail, “Labour has ignored warnings from the Catholic Church every step of the way about important policies on a whole range of matters involving the family and moral values.
“The Polish people who have come to Scotland are likely to be more traditional in their views and probably likely to find some of the legislation that we have seen here as unacceptable.”
The SNP plans to print a manifesto in Polish, but the party, along with all the other main political groups at Holyrood, supported gay rights legislation brought forward by the Labour executive.
When rebel SNP MSP Roseanna Cunningham tried to bring forward an amendment last December blocking gay couples adopting, she was defeated in the Scottish Parliament by 98 votes to 11.
The Tories, Greens, Labour, Lib Dems and her own party roundly condemned her proposal.
Despite calls last year from the Roman Catholic Church to oppose the bill, MSPs backed the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Bill by 101 votes to six.