Scottish sectarianism a thing of the past

Dani Garavelli argues that Scotland’s insistence that sectarianism is it’s own dirty shame turns out to be a chimera when it comes to finding any signs of the kind of discrimination attendent with sectarianism elsewhere. The fact that Rangers and Celtic fans still sing gory songs on and off the terraces may be a sign that hard core bigotry persists but, she argues, this is more grist for the satirist’s mill than indications of serious social problems. Over in the Herald, the Catholic Archbishop, Mario Conti, would seem not to agree.

For some reason, we seem to have a perverse, almost nostalgic, attachment to the spurious notion that we west coast Scots are a miserable, violent bunch distinguishable from one another only by which foot we kick with. It is an image perpetuated by figures such as the composer James MacMillan, who has claimed, with no more than anecdotal authority, that anti-Catholicism is still rife in Scotland, and Donald Findlay, who seems to wear his Protestantism as a badge of honour. And then, of course, there are the TV documentaries, such as last year’s Panorama programme which interviewed doctors in A&E departments after Old Firm matches, to conclude the country was awash with sectarian strife.

But where is the independent evidence for this contention? In a country riddled with religious bigotry, you would expect discrimination to spill over into every aspect of society: housing, jobs, education, health. Yet strangely there have been no recent undercover exposes showing how Catholics/Protestants are being denied jobs or prevented from buying homes in particular areas.

The fact some Rangers supporters revel in singing the line “We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood” and that some Celtic fans belt out IRA songs shows there is still a hard core of bigots, but demographic changes have marginalised them to the extent that – like the social flotsam that frequents Orange marches – they are now seen less as a threat and more as a source of satire for Only An Excuse.

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