Open letter to St Giles Cathedral

Dear St Giles Cathedral (Edinburgh),

Myself and two friends visited the cathedral on the afternoon of Thursday 3 January and were treated in a rather uncompassionate manner by a member of staff there.

Despite all of us not being believers, we appreciate the beauty of this fantastic building. We were taking photographs inside of the wonderful stained-glass windows, and the great high vaulted ceilings when we took a seat to compose more pictures. At this point, a member of staff approached us and said, “Excuse me, you need a photography permit to take pictures.” I explained that we hadn’t seen the sign and that we would purchase them. We remained seated, whilst we took a few more photographs. Apparently our promise to purchase permits was not good enough for the man, who returned a minute or two later: “Excuse me, I told you to stop taking pictures!”

I ask you now to compare the two quotes I have provided, I am certain that you will agree with me that the man did not ask me to cease photographing the premises.  Furthermore, I feel that it’s worth pointing out that there were plenty of other people using cameras in the vicinity – not one was wearing a permit sticker either. We were the only people picked on by this man and, if I may be so bold, suggest that this was because we were the only young people in the building.

To quote Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Therefore I feel it would be most unwise to state my opinion on this man, but suffice to say that we picked him up on his poor attitude and he told us that he was going to go and get someone over. I don’t know if he did, we never waited to find out – criminalised for visiting a sacred monument, in a period when church attendances are falling and the church as an organisation is failing to engage with young people. ­If I may quote Luke again (Luke 6:41): “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

Yours in despair,

Angus Stewart Duncan


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