Scotland’s Shame? Not In My Name.

23 July 2013

There are many Scotlands and they’re all dreadful. That at any rate seems to be the message from the Scottish government’s anti-sectarianism ‘taskforce’. We’re all in denial about sectarianism and the shadow it casts over Scottish society. Of course it’s hardly surprising that those people who spend their lives ferreting for evidence of sectarian behaviour conclude that sectarianism is both more broadly found and more deeply ingrained in Scottish society than your own experience may suggest. What do you know anyway?

Conveniently, of course, such conclusions also demand that more public money be spent educating the poor, bigoted, people of Scotland to change the way they think and act. Then again, sectarianism has been defined down to farcical levels. You will recall, I am sure, that there was a moment when government ministers could not decide if singing the national anthem constituted a ‘hate crime’.

Doubtless there remain plenty of bigots in Scotland. Doubtless too there remains some low-level, localised, sectarian discrimination in the labour market. The notion this latter is a problem across the country, however, is fanciful. Certainly passions and prejudices are easily stirred even if much – though not all – of it disappears after the final whistle at Ibrox or Parkhead.

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But since we like to think of Scotland as a diverse and infinite place it seems perverse – even insulting – to suppose that all these Scotlands are infected with the virus of sectarianism.

For that matter and despite what Duncan Morrow, chairman of Alex Salmond’s ‘taskforce’ on sectarianism, says, there’s little evidence that we really need to have yet another ‘national conversation’ about sectarianism. Previous chats of this kind have, I think, generally been a waste of time. But it is time – and modernity – more than government action that has made all the difference. No-one, not even the professional bigot-seekers, thinks sectarianism in Scotland anything like as rampant or virulent or institutionalised as once it was.

Indeed the available evidence suggests that, at least by some measures, sectarianism is no more prevalent or problematic than homophobia. And yet we do not have government-appointed anti-homophobia taskforces, far less are we enjoined to endure a ‘national conversation’ about this ‘secret shame’. Homohphobia is deplorable but it’s not crippling Scotland. Nor is sectarianism.

That’s the subject of my Think Scotland column this week:

Dave Scott, campaign director for the anti-sectarianism charity Nil By Mouth told Scotland on Sunday that “Sectarianism is not unique to any one religion, culture or social class and the days of sweeping it under the carpet are over. Over 7,000 people have been arrested for sectarian offences over the past decade. Interestingly, only a third of these have been football-related. So the evidence proves this problem goes well beyond our touchlines and terraces.”

To put this in context, the police catalogued 270,053 crimes last year. Of course crimes and arrests are not the same thing. It may well be that many “sectarian” crimes do not lead to arrests. Nevertheless 700 sectarian-related arrests a year does not suggest that sectarianism is a major crisis. Far less, given the likely geographical concentration of these arrests, does it imply that this is a nationwide epidemic requiring yet more government intervention.

Crown Office figures report that there were 762 charges brought in 2012-13 on the grounds of “religiously aggravated” crime. Forty percent of these were in Glasgow and 50% were alcohol-related. By comparison 729 “hate crime” charges were the product of prejudice on the grounds of sexual orientation and 4,012 the result of racial prejudice. Bigotry predicated upon religion is no more attractive and every bit as reprehensible as bigotry based on sexual orientation or race but it takes a strange kind of self-loathing to think that, judged by the Crown Office’s own figures, sectarianism is a greater problem for contemporary Scotland than homophobia or common racism.

And yet the breast-beating and hair-rendering continues. The plain truth of the matter is that sectarianism is not, at least in terms of the law and its official statistics, a major problem in contemporary Scotland. That does not mean there are no pockets of bigotry or Scots whose minds are polluted by prejudice. Of course there are. But it does suggest that these pockets are smaller and these people fewer in number than is often suggested. We are not as bad as we sometimes seem to enjoy thinking we are.

Whole thing here. Brace yourself for more government ‘action’ however which will, as is invariably the case, lead to further infringements upon liberty and speech. Because it’s good for you, you know? All this to defeat a ‘scourge’ that’s neither as strong nor as widespread as commonly imagined. Most Scots – like most people elsewhere – aren’t bigots and it’s reasonable for them to be upset by the thought that their government appears to think they are.

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  • HarryTheHornyHippo

    Scots are good at milking gravy trains for cash… you not heard of the United Kingdom gravy train… they threaten independence, we give ’em more cash… it’s in their blood this kind of thing… so to speak… an economy based on aid donations from London doesn’t know any alternative way to behave… welcome to Africa, welcome to Scotland.

    • terregles2

      There is indeed a gravy train piled high with revenue from Scottish resources of whisky, food exports,forestry,renewables,North sea oil, North sea gas, fisheries, electronics,zinc,iron,pharmaceuticals,textiles,petrochemicals, electricity, hydro power, electronics, etc. The gravy train continues to trundle down to HMT Westminster. Think that is why Westminster is trying to frighten the Scots out of independence.
      Scottish exports are booming. Best to check the export figures and economic analysis before comment. A look at the McCrone report might also help to keep you up to speed with basic UK economics.

      • HarryTheHornyHippo

        Zoo ist bonkers me dear. Scots exports are booming… UK exports are booming… because the pound is low, it ain’t got jack to do with the wonder of Scotland darlin’, sorry to break the news; that which Scottieland exports is a dip in the ocean of UK plc… forestry and whisky… Ha! You sound like Robert Mugabe… ‘in zimbabwe we are much exporting very fine products of maize and tobacco… soon we will be super power’… I do love you T2.

  • Cymrugel

    As one of the targets of this nonsense, I can say hand on heart that it has never really affected my life in any meaningful way.
    Yes sectarianism does exist in a few isolated pockets and there is a problem with footie largely confined to Celtic and Rangers, but in most of the country its a dead letter, apart from small parts of Glasgow.
    I once worked with a Rangers fan who was vehemently anti-Catholic. Upon questioning it transpired that he was an atheist who had never been baptised and whose parents were not even church members. He grew quite irritated when asked in what sense he was actually a protestant. It was quite simply an outlet for his pathology, as with some unreasoning racists.
    He and his ilk are a hangover from a different era and destined to join the rest of the dinosaurs in the glass cases before long.

    • terregles2

      I completely agree with what you say. The truth is if these bigots could not hang their ignorance on a religious peg then it would most likely be a racist peg. They are ignorant and ignorant people will always find something to hate.

  • Angus_Og

    According to my dictionary, sectarianism – “a narrow-minded adherence to a particular sect or party or denomination”. So what is the problem ? We live in a free country and if some Catholic’s dislike Protestants or vice versa, that is their prerogative and has nothing to do with the State. Similarly , the disapproval of homosexuals.

    In the street I was brought up on in the West of Scotland , families who lived across from one another would cross the road rather than pass in the same side – governments can’t legislate against that.

    Violence against someone just because of his/her religion is no longer a big issue in Scotland and neither is racism but you wouldn’t know that from the daily media reports. Both,along with the disapproval of homosexuals (“homophobia”) is being hammered down our throats , with no let up. Most of those so called “crimes” are alcohol fuelled diatribes.

    Until fairly recently “sectarianism” was just ignored in Scotland but given the advent of mass immigration and ” homosexual marriage” the authorities have rightly concluded that if the Scots cannot tolerate their own religious differences then they much less likely to tolerate islam or homosexuality. This is what it’s really about.

    • terregles2

      Sectarianism is certainly not nearly as prevalent as it once was in parts of Scotland. I work beside some people who are non Catholic and they are sending their children to the local Catholic school simply because it is the best school in the area. A few decades ago that would never have happened.
      Most people I know anyway are not Catholic or non Catholic they are mostly athiests or agnostics. They care about lots of things but religion is certainly not one of them.

      • Redneck


        May I just check, are you saying therefore that Catholic schools are a good thing or not?

        • terregles2

          I think in general it is better if all children are educated together and religion should be taught at home or in personal time.
          I would prefer it if children learned about every religion including athiesism and all attended a non faith school.
          On the issue of Catholic schools in some ways they are becoming irrelevant as so many non Catholics are sending their children to the school they prefer for location etc and not on religious grounds.
          I was just making the point that many non Catholics in Glasgow attend Catholic schools and that would never have happened a few decades ago.

          • Redneck


            Thank you, I’d agree with every point.

    • Cymrugel

      Catholic schools were set up as a response to sectarianism. They did not create it

      It ill behoves a society that harassed RCs for years to lecture them ob their divisive schools and often this is just the continuation of anti-Catholicism under another guise.

      RC schools are respected institutions with consistently high standards and are the schools of choice for many non RC parents, which is why many have a roll with up to 50% non RCs.
      RC schools run in the rest of the UK without any problem and much further afield.
      If you want to argue for the abolition of religious schools on principle say so, but spare us the crocodile tears over sectarianism.

      • terregles2

        I quite agree with what you say. Very many Catholic schools have high standards and out perform some non Catholic schools. I am just glad that many non Catholics now send their children to Catholic schools in Glasgow as it is an indication that people are now more tolerant and do not have the same prejudice as they had towards Catholics years ago.

  • Noa

    If government pays for bigotry it will create more bigots.

  • AndyB

    Big Brother Loves You

  • allymax bruce

    It would be helpful to the people if a public campaign was introduced, saying what is, and isn’t homophobic, racist, sectarian, etc; I just think people don’t really know the parameters, thus are unaware as to the legal boundaries.
    I also think people wanting to voice their opinions on these issues, are unfairly being labelled homophobic racist sectarian etc, when they themselves don’t consider themselves homophobic, racist, sectarian etc. People wanting to express their opinions on political issues that have big impacts on society, like same-sex marriage, immigration, religion etc, don’t consider themselves to be homophobic, racist, sectarian etc; in-deed, by conflating crime, with peoples public opinions, is extreme, and clearly shows Scotland is not for Free Speech, nor Freedom of Expression.
    I wonder, if by forcing postmodern laws on Scots society, we have regressed to an inverted ideal of Feudalism? People are not homophobic for having an opinion on same-sex marriage. People are not racist for having opinions on immigration. People are not sectarian for having opinions on religion. We’re bombarded with these issues via the media all the time. So, if these issues are directed at us in current affairs, political discourse, and public policy, then why are we being criminalised for having opinions on them?

    • Wessex Man

      Would you rather have the media not discuss what is clearly a very big problem, if you censor the press, as Hacked off are fully aware, people especially who like to be above the law will be!

    • Radford_NG

      Not just in Scotland—-which does have it’s own particular `Celtic/Rangers` take on the world—but through-out Great Britain people are persecuted for expressing `incorrect` views and using`wrong`words.

      • Wessex Man

        no their not, don’t try and divert a very nasty occuring in Scotland with the “through-out the” jibe, we don’t take that religous rubbish to our games!

      • terregles2

        Indeed it is sad that some people throughout the world use football as a vehicle for bigotry and racism. There is hardly a country anywhere in the world that has not suffered from the scourge of football hooliganism. In 2002 an investigation into football violence in Argentinia declared that football violence had become a national crisis. In almost every European city we have seen unacceptable levels of football violence and rioting.

        The Uk has its regular share of violence at clubs throughout the UK. The Euro 96 riots in Trafalgar Square cast a shadow on a great football tournament. The recent Newcastle/Sunderland rioting fans once again tainted football for all the decent fans.

        The dismal sectarian chanting at a Rangers/Celtic match should be consigned to the dustbins of history along with the hateful racist abuse chanted by West Ham fans at the Tottenham crowd. The shameful throwing of banana skins and animal noises that some of our black players have endured are truly shameful and tarnish the great game of football. Sectarianism and racism different sides of the same coin and both equally odious.

        I do not think the Scottish government’s recent legislation on abusive chanting is a particularly good piece of legislation but at least they have tried to do something.

        It also seems sad that Mr Massie’s excellent recent piece on the English cricket team receives less response than this article which once again gives the anti Scottish posters another opportunity to post their misinformed biased comments about Scotland and the Scottish people.

        • Wessex Man

          Trust you to try and smear English Football with your rantings!

        • Shaun Walker

          and for that reason we wont be inviting the provo lovers or the neanderthal bigots into english we english will keep all the tv revenue for us..after the yes vote..we can demand a vote for independence and cut the reaining celtic cancers off…

  • Theuniondivvie

    ‘Crown Office figures report that there were 762 charges brought in 2012-13 on the grounds of “religiously aggravated” crime.’

    Of course there was a distinct lack of Old Firm matches in that period, and the startling rise in domestic abuse and assaults when those matches were taking place would not be recorded as sectarian crimes in any case. Perhaps Rangers’ period of purdah will draw some of the poison, but I doubt it.

    ‘There are many Scotlands and they’re all dreadful.’

    The author seems to be the only one setting up that proposal, though I suppose a crass hook was needed to hang the piece on. My point of difference would be suggestions (from whichever quarter) that this is a problem ingrained in ‘Scottish’ society; it exists largely in the West of Scotland, and in relatively small sections of the communities that reside there. However that certainly means it’s Scotland’s problem and we need to do something about it, for the very good reason that no one else will (certainly not Westminster, local government or those insulated from sectarianism by upbringing and geography).

  • Keith D

    I think you’re understating the problem significantly.Far from being over at the final whistle this sectarianism continues well into the next day in Glasgow with drink fuelled violence including stabbings and shootings.Not quite the same narrative as that experienced in Edinburgh Alex.
    Lets not forget that in the undoubtedly macho culture of Glasgow tough guys,reporting crimes to the Polis is just not done.
    And you’ll find the “racial prejudice” crimes were not racial at all.But religious,just spoken of differently because its targeted at muslims.

    • CraigStrachan

      Surely you are not suggesting that Edinburgh doesn’t experience drink-fuelled violence? But anyway, the thing about drink fuelled violence is that it is fuelled by drink, which is no doubt the root cause of many of those stabbings and shootings. Not sectarianism. Drink. And looking at people the wrong way.

      • Keith D

        I’m not Craig.I know Edinburgh.I am suggesting,through 40 years experience,that drink ,plus a large dose of tribalism ,is a potent combination.If you live in a part of Glasgow and are religiously targeted for abuse,do you report it and get your head kicked in next week,or do you keep schtum?

        • CraigStrachan

          Well, it’s been a while since I lived in Glasgow, and things may have changed, but I never saw or experienced “religiously targeted” abuse. You were more likely to be targeted for abuse for no particular reason at all.

          • Keith D

            Interestingly when referred to as an Orange b…..d or a Fenian b…..d I took it as religiously targeted.Never mind I was wearing a Thistle top eh?

            • CraigStrachan

              You were called Orange AND a Fenian for wearing a Jags top? Never heard of such a thing, and it defeats the whole purpose of the Jags.

              • Keith D

                Different games,same deal.Drink involved heavily of course.And yes it does defeat the purpose.The mindset is if you’re not one of them,your “big team” must be the other..Never mind,just the one cheek this year.Canny wait.

          • terregles2

            Glasgow has changed a great deal in recent years. It’s an excellent city or so I am told by the people I know who have moved here from other places.

            • CraigStrachan

              I liked it fine the way it was, to tell you the truth. In my day, you were just as likely to encounter an aggressive and/or falling-down drunk in the city centre on a Saturday night. It’s just that he (or these days as likely she) wouldn’t have arrived up the town with a posse in a stretch limo.

              • terregles2

                You are right Craig, I am always amazed that all the old cliched nonsense about Glasgow are still believed to be facts.
                Glasgow is a great city to live and work in and if you don’t go to Parkhead or Ibrox you never hear secterianism. Obviously it exists at football but after an old firm game in our office it is a laugh hearing the banter between the opposite fans.
                There is certainly no malice between them just good Glasgow patter.

        • terregles2

          Anywhere I have ever lived in Glasgow I have lived beside a mixture of all religions or indeed the majority who have no religion at all. I don’t know where you lived in Glasgow but I have never had anyone ask me what religion I was nor have I ever met anyone who would care about my answer.

          • Wessex Man

            and you’ve never been to a football match between Celtic and Rangers!

    • terregles2

      Plenty of tough guys in Glasgow reporting crimes to the police. Just look at the list of trials and the many witnesses appearing at Glasgow High court and Glasgow Sherrif Court.
      The only thing we hear the next day after an old firm game is banter between the Rangers and Celtic fans who are pals and work beside us.

      • Wessex Man

        “I believe in angels in everything they say!”

      • Keith D

        The exceptions make the rule.Oh,I hear plenty of banter as well.And most of it good natured.I’ve also seen the darker side of that I’m afraid.the only place I know you can be barred from a pub for wearing a blue/green tie.Seriously.

        • terregles2

          In all my years living in Glasgow I have never heard of anyone being barred for the colour of their tie. You must be going back many years and you must have been in some slum area of Glasgow. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to go into any pub like that anyway.
          If they did that now they would be charged under the anti secterianism law.

          • Keith D

            You have obviously led a sheltered existence.Though having been exiled in the South now for over 5 years I’m very aware whats changed during that time through my frequent returns. Except that at the next Old Firm match,just like at the recent Glasgow Cup Final,it’ll all be business as usual.

            • terregles2

              Don’t think I have led a sheltered life. I have lived in and visited many areas of Glasgow but have never come across a pub with a green/blue tie code.
              If you are referring to pubs right beside Parkhead or Ibrox it is mostly football fans who go there but then for the average Glaswegian it would not be first choice for a night on the town. Even the guys I know who do the subway pub crawl are in and out of the Ibrox stop asap but they have never encountered the green tie problem. People who I know who live in those areas go elswhere for a night out.
              The next old firm game hopefully is a long way off and like many Glaswegians I would not be bothered if it never took place.
              It gets a bit tedious when Ranger and Celtic are held up to so much scrutiny for their shortcomings. I do not attend football matches but I have been unfortunate enough to be in Newcastle and London when there have been hordes of football fans travelling to their football grounds and I don’t think any football club in the UK or indeed throughout Europe can be complacent about the behaviour and chants of their supporters. They certainly have no room to criticise any other club.

              • Keith D

                Theres no room for complacency anywhere in the UK I agree.Just that theres an underlying tribalism in the West of Scotland,that while receding is still there.Witness the Glasgow Cup Final a couple of months back.

                • terregles2

                  I quite agree with you. It’s just that I think it is quite easy now to be oblivious to sectarianism if you don’t go near a football match.
                  I think most of us everywhere would just want all racists and all bigots who attend football to shut up and grow up.

              • HarryTheHornyHippo

                Dear old terregles2, eventually she always has to bring it back to a slur on the English… but she loves and respects us really.

                • terregles2

                  Why would I not love and respect the English. I have an English boss and he is a great person I have lots of English friends here in Scotland and English family and friends south of the border.. What’s not to like?
                  The great thing is I meet more English people now in Scotland than I meet when I visit England. Brilliant..

                • HarryTheHornyHippo

                  Let me guess… you tell people you have lots of black friends too T2. Are you single sweetheart?

  • Robert Taggart

    Scotlands shame ? – one J G Broon – a protestant fundamentalist bigot.
    ‘Mancy’ knows all about that – no super casino – but still the innately incompetent numpty natives vote Liebore !

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