Partygate: Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak should be made to repent like 17th century Scottish sinners – Susan Morrison

Back in the 17th century, long before the KGB, the CIA and MI5, Scotland had The Kirk Sessions.

Friday, 15th April 2022, 4:55 am

Surveillance was the game, getting Scotland godly was the aim. These days they’d be rebranded to TKS, with a mission statement like “TKS. Watching you so God doesn’t have to”.

Sinners in this super-spiritual nation had to be hunted down and held accountable, and you bet they were.

Of course, TKS didn’t have bugging devices, long-range lenses or leaked emails about “bring your own booze” parties to spy on people. What they did have was neighbours, and by jiminy, everyone in Scotland seems to have leapt to the game of snitch on the folk next door.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

We know a lot about what everyone was accusing each other of, because, being Scots, we took notes.

The perp would get hauled before the kirk, and I like to think that the congregation, having sat through a fairly long sermon, then sighed and settled back. They could have reached for the Mint Imperials, if only they had been invented then.

All of the charges were carefully written down by the kirk session clerk.

Brilliant historians have dug deep in these amazing archives, and so we know that in July 1609, one Marion Mitchell got hauled before North Leith Kirk Session for calling the minister a liar.

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak's partying during lockdown should see them set in the stocks, says Susan Morrison (Picture: Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Read More

Read More
Partygate: Boris Johnson may survive for now, but fines for Covid lockdown breac...

She had committed a “sin of the tongue”. We in Scotland had a particular penance for such loose talk. The accused had to literally hold their tongue before the congregation, then give that tongue a stern ticking off.

Quick aside, you would have thought Marion would have been a bit more careful with that sinful tongue of hers, but no. In addition to bad-mouthing the minister, she opened verbal fire on a woman she accused of trying to steal her husband, went full-on Jeremy Kyle, called her a “commoun hure” and swore at the entire congregation. What a Sabbath that must have been. Bet she was the talk of the steamie for weeks.

Persistent offenders could face the stocks, which was fun for all the family. Well, not the sinners, obviously. Righteous kirk-going folks would make a day of the sinner standing stock still and go along to show they had community support, if by support you mean rotting veg and the occasional contents of the chamber pot being lobbed at the sinner.

So, you see, we know a lot about public shame, name and blame. And we know how to deal with it.

So, Messrs Johnson and Sunak, half-hearted apologies and feeble fines be damned. Convene the kirk sessions and get that clerk a new pen. We see sins of the tongue, lies to the people and birthday cake in a Tupperware box.

Haud yer tongues in shame, or better still, bring back the stocks. I’m talking full works here, five full days at the Mercat Cross, with the peasantry chucking rotten cabbage, squishy tomatoes and rancid tatties, although, given the food prices right now, quite understand if people generate their own volleying ammunition. You know what I mean, people.

This being a national crime, we’re talking touring every Mercat Cross in Scotland, and we’ll accept applications from community centres, shopping malls and bus stops to be considered temporary stock stands.

This is how we do repentance, Scottish-style.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.