Free Church court victory
Lord Uist has found in favour of the Free Church of Scotland in a dispute over church property on the Isle of Skye.
The Free Church Continuing (FCC) had been using the Broadford church and manse since the Free Church split in 2000. The Free Church of Scotland (FC) took legal action to claim these properties in a case heard before Lord Uist, in the Court of Session on 12-15 May 2009.
In his judgement, Lord Uist dismissed the FCC’s case and adjudged that the Broadford property belonged to the local FC congregation. He said: ‘The FC which existed before January 2000 is the same FC which has continued to exist since then. On the other hand, the FCC is a new body which was set up after January 2000’; the FCC themselves ‘do not dispute that the FCC is a new body set up after January 2000 and that it has a separate and distinct organisation and structure from the FC’.
He concluded: ‘The FCC are not, either in name or composition, the FC; they have entirely separated themselves from the FC and have no right under the trust to the use and occupation of property intended for the benefit of the FC.
‘In other words, the FCC are a breakaway group who have taken themselves outwith the institutional framework of the FC and set up their own, new framework’.
The FC in their response to this judgement have said that they ‘are delighted with the clear decision and hope that will pave the way for settling other local property issues without recourse to law’. There are about a dozen similar church property issues to be resolved.
The FCC insists this legal action was unjust and unnecessary and that bringing it broke an undertaking given by the FC at the International Conference of Reformed Churches, in 2006.
Rev. John Macleod, principal clerkof the FCC, responded: ‘The FCC are considering with their legal advisers the most appropriate way forward … The FCC would wish to see the matters under dispute settled in a way which is God-honouring, just and fair’.