Scotland’s Catholic bishops have praised First Minister Alex Salmond as a “wonderful champion” for Scotland.
In a letter to Mr Salmond on Saturday, the day after he announced he would be stepping down, the bishops said they wanted to “acknowledge your long and outstanding career in politics”.
The letter, signed by Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, president of the bishops’ conference, added: “With good reason, you have been described as one of the most able and influential political leaders that Scotland and the United Kingdom has ever produced.”
“The bishops are especially grateful for your recognition of the important place of religion and faith in Scotland, for your support of Catholic education as making its own distinctive contribution to the good of Scotland as a whole, and for your sensitivity to the issues around religious freedom which are emerging in our country as they are elsewhere. You have also shown real concern for those in our society who are less affluent and less fortunate.
“And of course, you have always been a wonderful champion and ambassador for Scotland at home and abroad. We hope that your political successors will be inspired by your example and continue to protect and promote these same values,” the letter said.
The bishops said they remained “grateful” for the government’s support for the visit of Benedict XVI in 2010.
Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) for over two decades, has been First Minister since 2007.