“Is sectarianism a problem? Yes. Does it cripple Scotland? No.”

Alex Massie at Think Scotland, has doubts about how Scotland’s government is trying to tackle sectarianism. Not the least the ushering in of a new invasive form of ‘thought policing’…

It is right and proper and necessary that religiously-motivated discrimination be outlawed in the public realm but government lacks either the means or the right to criminalise private thoughts or prejudices. Even, perhaps especially, when those thoughts or prejudices are ugly or inconvenient. The government should not be in the business of peering into men’s souls. Nor those of women neither.

Of course there are bigots in Scotland and more of them than most of us would like. Nevertheless, the notion that sectarianism is a blight on the country as a whole – rather than upon some unfortunate communities – is a fiction unsupported by evidence and no number of government advisors or special commissions will change that.

This is good news just as much as the endless exhortation to be ashamed by the darker recesses of your compatriots’ bigotry is bad news. Most Scots bear no responsibility for the bigotry of a minority of our compatriots and could do without being lectured by our elected representatives for the prevalence of feelings we do not actually even hold. Is sectarianism a problem? Yes. Does it cripple Scotland? No. [Emphasis added]

  • foyle observer

    Religion is practically non-existant, north of Glasgow.

  • sevendouble

    ‘Bigotry in Scotland is a fiction and that’s good news’.
    I’m 63 and have lived in Scotland all that time.
    It’s not a fiction.
    I can remember when a Catholic could not get a job in certain areas, but even now, we have an Edinburgh jury who ‘let off’ a man who, in front of 15,000 people and a live television audience, assaulted the Celtic manager, someone who had been attacked twice in the street, been driven off the road, while he had a small child in the back seat of his car, and been the subject of threats painted on the road outside his house.
    He had bullets and bombs sent to him.
    This was not done by nut cases from Northern Ireland. These outrages were perpetrated by people from, Glasgow (University medical students), Edinburgh and Kilwinning (Ayrshire).
    But call Professor Steve Bruce from Aberdeen University. He’ll tell you that it’s all a myth.

  • sevendouble

    Sorry, I did not mean to imply that ‘nut cases’ only came from Northern Ireland.
    We’ve plenty of our own.

  • Alanbrooke


    we know you sent us lots of them.

  • sevendouble

    And you were very welcome to them.

  • michael-mcivor

    ” Is sectarianism a problem? Yes.Does it cripple Ireland?no-not any more-

  • DC

    Does it cripple Ireland?no-not any more

    Orange Hall de-flagged* – http://youtu.be/QMFky_q118E

    *warning contains sectarian language.

  • runepig

    First off, Neil Lennon (I shall endeavour to tread carefully). No doubt a lot of what has happened to him has been distressing (and neither is it acceptable), however, my impression is that some of the events quoted have been misattributed to sectarianism as opposed to a personal dislike of the man or his actions. While I don’t really follow football anymore, I know that many Celtic supporters had little time for him, including those in his home town (for good reason I gather), and it is only more recently that his profile has been rehabilitated somewhat (whether this is down to his performance as manager, him growing up somewhat, or a combination of both I cannot say).

    Secondly, sectarianism in Scotland. Obviously problems remain, however having lived most of my life in the central belt and being young enough to have avoided being asked what team I support when going for job interviews, I can say that for the majority of people, it’s not an issue. Outside certain pockets of society, whether geographically or linked to football etc, modern Scotland is generally a pretty secular and tolerant place – those who are religious are free to get on with being so, but most Scots, especially those of Generation X or later, don’t really get hung up on religion (whether they’re a lapsed Catholic, CoS merely by default or even unsure whether they’re anything in the first place).

    Notably, despite the high profile constitutional debate in Scotland at present, it’s almost entirely detached from religion, as is politics in general (certainly at a national level). Probably the most marked difference I find living in NI (and one of the most frustrating things) is that religion/sectarianism is inextricably linked to politics and many other aspects of life. Unfortunately it looks like this isn’t going to change any time soon either.

  • Neil

    See Alliance want to have deposits for flegs on lampposts DC? Meanwhile Naoimi is building bridges – or rather suggesting the new one in the park in East Belfast is named after your new Prince George. She can win back your vote maybe DC. Also meant to say, congrats on getting a mention on the hated LAD page!

  • DC

    a mention hmmm.

  • Neil
  • michael-mcivor


    ” orange hall de-flagged “-

    Hardly anywhere near Ireland being crippled-

  • Ruarai

    Scots tend to exist somewhere between denial and total denial on sectarianism in Scotland.

    The Lennon stuff was a window, the jury verdict nothing less than spectacular. But also watch how writers on Lennon always find a way to suggest it’s more about him that those issuing the abuse, threats and assaults. And this despite several Celtic players like McGinn and McCourt, club lawyers and board members also getting death threats.

    Just look at the behaviour of the Scots regiments in NI compared to the English.

    Massie is way off here; they’ve a real problem

  • DC

    Yeah missed it, but glad you guys are all having fun over there with that one!

  • Neil

    Not I, was in Rathmullan basking in the sunshine at that stage. The glorious twelfth wha.

  • DC

    Hardly anywhere near Ireland being crippled-

    I suppose so, how about the Love Ulster parade in Dublin, the supporters couldn’t even get off the bus?

  • runepig

    Scotland is not free from blame, association and/or responsibility historically when it come to NI (e.g Black and Tans, Scottish regiments during Operation Banner, visiting Orange Lodges/bands), however in a contemporary context this is mostly peripheral, for instance drunken bands and spectators crossing the water for the 12th. My point is that for the majority of Scots today, they don’t need to deal with sectarianism on a daily basis as we do in NI.

    To illustrate:

    NI – Orange Marches, associated protests and riots, flags/painted kerbs/bunting/banners, fleg protests, political parties linked to paramilitaries and religious denominations, composition of government demarcated by religious denominations, lack of community policing.

    Scotland – Orange Marches.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    In Scotland (well, Glasgow and that part of the Central Belt) it seems to me that it is pretty much the reserve of the working/non-working classes or those from deprived backgrounds.

    Unfortunately, my last stint in Glasgow ended just before Rangers went doon.

    I can only imagine/hope that that helps things immensely, the Old Firm games were crippling for the city.
    The number of idiots that come over from here is pretty big and our idiots fill the heads of their idiots with nonsense and dogma.

    I lived near Parkhead at that time and if I was on the ‘wrong’ train some times I’d pretend to be a slav and chatter/stutter to my missus in her own language to avoid them tuning into my accent with they’re Buckfast* filled heads: “колико jе сати, the girl ye?”

    Once the train popped out out a Charing Cross and we’re in the West End then it all disappears (mostly). The students and the middle class aren’t so bothered.

    As runepig said, the OO marches aren’t a big deal, they’re just occasions for undesirables to congregate in Glasgow Green and get hammered.

    Everyone with (seemingly, bearing in mind how judgemental I am) an education or a brain has nothing to do with it.

    Unfortunately, when I was home for my local 12th, I did notice a marked reduction in the number of participants that I would recognise as teachers, lawyers even ministers etc

    I wonder if the NI marches are going the same way?

    Incidentally, once you go to places like the North East, there is a massive reduction (seemingly to the point of non-existence) in sectarianism.
    The only dealings I’ve ever had sectarian-wise in Aberdeen has been with Northern Irish students.


    “Just look at the behaviour of the Scots regiments in NI compared to the English.”

    Could you expand on that please? We’ve hit yet another one of my ignorant blind spots.

    *Not stereotyping the Scots, Buckfast simply was always in the background somewhere

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    “Hardly anywhere near Ireland being crippled-

    I suppose so, how about the Love Ulster parade in Dublin, the supporters couldn’t even get off the bus?”

    Hardly the best example of sectarianism is it?

    Had every one been carrying solely ‘Ulster flags’ (the yella wans) well, that might have helped a bit.

    Did warming up by re-enacting the UVF gun running help?
    Bearing in mind that the UVF aren’t very popular in Dublin…

    Out of the entire metropolitan area, how many people descended on the march?
    A relatively small number of scumbags who were despised by the rest of the Dublin folk.

    And to compare it to Scotland (well, the Central Belt), well, I can only talk from personal experience, but when I spent a summer in North Dublin I honestly didn’t see any sign of it and certainly not compared with the (bottle) ‘in your face’ bigotry of Glasgow.
    I even expected ‘piano-player-in-saloon-stops-playing’ style silences when I declared my tribe, but it was greeted with a deflating indifference.

    DC, this is weak man…

  • sevendouble

    Neil Lennon was not threatened, attacked, nor did anyone attempt to murder him, when he played in England. The unbearably loathsome character traits that brought all this on his head, appeared only after he signed for Celtic.
    Alan Massie trots out this sort of stuff whenever the subject of sectarianism arises. His verdict is always the same. I’m sure the circles in which he moves ensure that his ear is firmly to the ground.
    Next port of call is usually Professor Steve Bruce of Aberdeen University. He too will assure you, as he always does, that sectarianism in Scotland is just a myth.
    And the subject will be shelved for another year or two.

  • Irishlassabroad

    I have lived in Scotland for almost 6 years now and feel the sectarianism here is very much associated with social status. I live in Stirling and work in Glasgow and have never personally experienced any sectarianism since I moved here. I was home last weekend and drove past so many flags etc up for the 12th – you forget what Northern Ireland is like in the Summer after a few years away. It is definitely less in your face in Scotland. I am no saying it doesn’t exist but as previous commentators have expressed in middle class Glasgow West End or Stirling you really don’t see anything.

  • Reader

    Irishlassabroad: It is definitely less in your face in Scotland. I am no saying it doesn’t exist but as previous commentators have expressed in middle class Glasgow West End or Stirling you really don’t see anything.
    Aren’t you looking in the wrong places? Surely sectarianism is delivered and measured in discrimination and violence; not in flags and symbols.

  • runepig

    Reader, surely it’s measured and delivered in both? What are UVF flags if not sectarian?

    Incidentally, seeing Saltires and the Lion Rampant flown by loyalists on lampposts gets my goat. Just because Loyalists identify with Scotland in some fashion, doesn’t mean the feeling’s mutual. It would be nice to see the Scottish Government and other Scottish instututions disowning this practice.

  • Reader

    Runepig: What are UVF flags if not sectarian?
    In themselves, they’re as sectarian as the flag claimed by the organisation that carried out Kingsmills, I suppose.
    Then, your point about the Scottish flags. Are they sectarian, or only sectarian if flown by the wrong sort of person? If a loyalist sneezes, is it a sectarian sneeze?
    I prefer to recognise sectarianism by deeds, not by mind-reading.

  • runepig

    Regarding UVF flags, my point is that you don’t routinely see republican paramilitary flags, or even tricolours, in PUL or shared/neutral areas in NI (not in my experience anyway). Conversely Union Flags, UVF/OO flags and banners, bunting etc is routinely (and often illegally) placed in nationalist and shared/neutral areas every summer. Pray, tell me, is this not sectarian? Because to those in the CNR community – or even blow-ins/immigrants/outsiders/visitors – it’s intimidating, which presumably is the point (“This is OUR Wee Country”).

    My point regarding Scottish flags is that use of them by loyalists is sectarian and exclusionary – as is ‘Ulster Scots’ culture in general. For instance, the Saltire is the national flag for all of Scotland – Protestant or Catholic, of Scottish ancestry or Asian or East European or African or English, or Irish for that matter. It’s inclusive, as is Scottish society for the most part. Loyalists use such flags to demarcate their ‘territory’ and exclude those who don’t share their ‘culture’.

    Another example would be Burns Suppers. Many people and groups of all backgrounds throughout Scotland (and worldwide) hold these to celebrate the life and work of Burns – a renowned egalitarian. A good example which would be an anathema to many in NI would be the Edinburgh University Celtic Supporters Club and their Tommy Burns supper – a celebration of the Bard and the Celtic legend/namesake. I sincerely doubt a Celtic supporter, or indeed anyone who isn’t of a PUL background would be welcome at an ‘Ulster Scots’ Burns Supper.

  • I think we need another word to replace “sectarianism”. We might have differing ideas about what it means but surely it simply means that a person belongs to a sect and there are dozens of them, Christian and non- Christian.

  • FuturePhysicist

    See Alliance want to have deposits for flegs on lampposts DC? Meanwhile Naoimi is building bridges – or rather suggesting the new one in the park in East Belfast is named after your new Prince George. She can win back your vote maybe DC. Also meant to say, congrats on getting a mention on the hated LAD page!

    If she literally goes back to building bridges, I would have no problem with one being named after her. East Belfast needs to embrase the skilled engineers who built the city out of the mud, those that have allowed their communities to obtain pride and self-worth and who will emancipate the loyalist communities once again, not simply a family over in England that doesn’t spare a thought for them.

    I have no problem with bridges named after royals, so long as they participate heavily in the manual and intellectual labour to create them.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Do the Scots then have a ‘manageable’ level of sectarianism?

    i.e. Keep your head down during certain football games and don’t wear football jerseys or Ulster rugby or Tyrone GAA tops in certain places then all will be fine?

    How much of it is actually propped up by the old firm?

    Is there any official opinion on whether mixing schools makes/made any difference?

  • PaddyReilly

    Sectarianism in Scotland is a traditional local blood spot, rather like fox-hunting in Galway and Leicestershire, bull-fighting in Spain, and rodeos in Montana.

    This is quite different from ‘Northern’ Ireland where sectarianism has been raised to the status of one of the borders. Sectarianism defines Northern Ireland in the way that water defines Polynesia: it is as necessary for the continuation of the state as dykes are for the existence of Holland. That is why it is so bothersome.

  • HeinzGuderian

    If sectarianism is necessary for the continuation of the state, the roman catholic church must take most of the credit, as without it, our little children would be educated together. 🙂

  • I don’t think that children learn to hate based on what they are taught in school. The hatred is learned at home and from peers.