Former deputy first minister Jim Wallace has been named as the next moderator of the Church of Scotland’s general assembly.
The ex-Scottish Liberal Democrats leader will become the Kirk’s ambassador at home and abroad next May.
The 66-year-old life peer from Orkney – deputy first minister from 1999-2005 – is the second elder in modern times to take up the 12-month role.
Lord Wallace, a member of St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, said: “I am delighted to have been asked to take up the role and feel humbled and honoured that people have put their trust in me.
“I am both excited and daunted about the challenge of the task that lies ahead and to be honest I have had to pinch myself that this is actually happening.”
Lord Wallace grew up in a Christian family and his late father John was an elder at Annan Old Parish Church in Annan, Dumfries and Galloway for 64 years.
Ordained as an elder in what was St Bernard’s Church in Stockbridge, Edinburgh, in 1981, he has been a member of the Session of St Magnus Cathedral since 1990.
Lord Wallace said he hoped to use the position of moderator to inspire and encourage people.
“I went into politics to make a positive difference to society and my motivation is grounded in my Christian faith,” he added.
“It is a core belief that if people are to live life in all its fullness as promised by Jesus, this has implications for the kind of society we want to have.
“People have to have good health, a sound education, rewarding employment and a healthy environment.
“I hope that my years of experience in public life as an MP for Orkney and Shetland then as MSP for Orkney will stand me in good stead as I carry out the duties of the Moderator of the General Assembly.”
Lord Wallace – who was acting first minister following the death of Donald Dewar in 2000 and resignation of Henry McLeish in 2001 – will relinquish his party’s whip in the House of Lords while he’s the moderator and won’t take part in next year’s Scottish election campaign.