Celtic Connections

14MAGG120By Chris Cairns

Qualifying Group no. 7 for the 1988 European Championship read as follows:

Republic of Ireland
Bulgaria
Belgium
Scotland
Luxembourg

I bumped into Big Charlie in the office the day the groups were announced.

‘Did you see who we got in the qualifiers?’ he asked me.

‘Who?’

‘Scotland.’

Big Charlie, like me and just about everyone else in Glasgow City Council’s Housing Benefits Office was Scottish. Technically.

But he was also from exactly the same ‘community’ as I was – Glaswegian, working class … and Catholic. That meant he voted Labour and supported Celtic in the same way it meant he ate food and drank water. It also meant he concerned himself with matters across the Irish Sea more than in the land of his birth.

Scotland, we told each other, was no more than the ground we stood on. At Old Firm games we waved Irish tricolours, sang The Soldier’s Song and booed the ranks opposite who were busy waving Union Jacks and singing the Sash. Away from football, we railed against Thatcher’s government, sympathised with striking Yorkshire miners and lusted after Kate Bush. We watched the BBC News from London, but the moment it was over and Reporting Scotland came on with its parochial shite about fish quotas and Kilmarnock Sheriff Court, we switched the TV off.

When Scotland did force its way into our consciousness, it was not as a welcome visitor; Hogmanay was a couthy, embarrassing teuchter-fest; the Scottish National Party were ‘tartan Tories’; Scottish football fans; ‘Huns in fancy dress’ and anyone in a kilt basically asking for a kick up the arse. People who asserted their pride in Scotland were living in a romanticised and irrelevant past; Bannockburn and the pneumatic tyre were no excuses for independence and Nazi-like delusions of superiority.

Fast forward 25 years and Scotland is about to make history – one way or another – and that dismissiveness is simply impossible to maintain. As the polls currently stand, the Yes Campaign has a job on its hands; at the time of writing there is something like a 20 per cent gap on the No camp to bridge. On the other hand, the substantial number of ‘don’t knows’ who remain suggests there is at least the chance of narrowing this. To that end, there has been much discussion recently about ‘forms’ of nationalism that may be deployed to win over the doubters.

Nicola Sturgeon spoke at Strathclyde University of her belief in a utilitarian nationalism – wanting an independent Scotland, not for its own sake, but for what it will make possible, in social and economic policy initiatives, for the betterment of the Scottish people.

Allied to this is economic nationalism which makes the case for a small, dynamic and adaptable Scottish economy, underpinned by a wealth of natural resources and tailored to our own needs and capacity.

Then there is constitutional nationalism which argues for a fairer democracy and more open government freed from the arcane hole-and-corner nonsense of Westminster.

I can understand, indeed subscribe to, these essentially intellectual strands of political philosophy. But what, I ask myself, of that old fashioned nationalism of identity? It has almost become the nationalism that dare not speak its name. Because for those who hold to this first and foremost the answer to the question ‘Why do you want an independent Scotland?’ is simply: ‘Because I’m Scottish.’ And that, for some, takes us dangerously close to questions of ethnicity and race.

But does it? And by eschewing all talk of identity and culture in an effort to present a ‘modern’, civic – safe – nationalism, do we perhaps risk chucking the wean out with the bath water? Besides which, there is Scottish … and there is Scottish.

I realise my defence of Scottish identity as a legitimate subject to explore in the context of the 2014 vote would carry more weight were I first or second generation Pakistani, or even English! But talk to any SNP activist in the west of Scotland still gamely trying to sow the seeds of a nationalist sentiment and you will appreciate just how stony the ground is in Labour’s Glasgow wastelands. And that is now. Back in the day, an SNP canvasser was as welcome on the average Glaswegian doorstep as the angel of death. For many years I shared those hostile instincts towards Scotland and all things Scottish. I had no choice; they were as much a part of my environment as council housing and rain. Even the annual Scotland/England match was compromised for us. Sure we liked the idea of beating England, but supporting Scotland meant supporting the Scottish Football Association and that meant supporting the dour, protestant, Masonic, ‘anti-us’ establishment we had been brought up to believe existed throughout Scotland.

John Grieg of Rangers, a lumbering thug of a centre half who trapped the ball further than most could kick it – 44 caps.

Bobby Murdoch of Celtic, arguably the most accomplished midfielder in Britain at the time – 12.

Our fathers rested their case.

And, of course, when Scotland lost, as they usually did, that was simply more proof that everything up here was rubbish: the weather, the music (I still flinch at the opening ‘ta-da’ of anything played on the accordion) but mostly, the football. The glories of the 1960s (Lisbon and Wembley) had faded. Scottish football was on the slide and, if we were honest, Sportscene on a Saturday night was a chore to endure before the reward of Match of the Day which followed.

This was our version of the Scottish cringe and, as is perhaps already clear, it consisted of two apparently contradictory elements; indifference and disdain. Mention of matters important to the realm of Scotland would, depending on circumstances and our mood, elicit either a dismissive shrug, as if we’d been asked to opine on Clackmannanshire’s municipal budget, or heartfelt, passionate scorn. Scotland either wasn’t worth wasting breath on … or it got a derisory earful of abuse.

Odd behaviour, and odder still that it was not the preserve of Glaswegian working class Tims. I don’t remember being self aware enough to notice this at the time, but it is undeniable that we shared this view of Scotland with those at the opposite end of the human spectrum to us – the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. Through their prism too, Scotland was either unimportant or it was duff. The whole tartan/shortbread tin/Granny’s Hielin’ Hame/Wha’s Like Us deal was pathetic. Scots were puffed up yet second rate fools who lived in the past and off government subsidies, who spent their time squabbling over the trivialities of local government or banging on about North Sea oil – the greedy, selfish bastards. (See Tory manifestoes passim).

Even more troubling for us – had we bothered to analyse it – would be the parallels with the obvious multiple personalities of our friends at Ibrox. (Apologies for bringing it back once more to football – not an unimportant element of growing up in Glasgow). They would stand during a Wednesday cup tie, say, against Celtic and sing God Save the Queen with gusto … only to drown out the same tune with jeers as England lined up against Scotland at Hampden the following weekend.

Confused we certainly were. And annoyed.

As will be obvious to any halfway competent psychoanalyst, our apparent indifference to Scotland was an act. The truth was Scotland troubled us. It asked questions we didn’t want to be asked, and – much more significantly – stirred up emotions we would rather stayed hidden in the mud at the bottom of our murky little ponds.

For ‘Scotland’ in those pre Holyrood days, read ‘nationalism’ – of any sort – and that was a dirty word. We were socialist, usually republican (apart from my mum and others who remembered the royal family staying in Buckingham Palace during the blitz and thought it terribly heroic) and, thanks to Thatcher, growing ever more militant. We were the keepers of the flame, the descendents of Keir Hardie, John Maclean (conveniently forgetting his championing of home rule) and Manny Shinwell. We were internationalists, supporters of the working classes all over the world. The idea of sealing the border, issuing passports and settling back to count oil revenues went completely against the grain.

And just as dangerous, political nationalism was abhorrent, so the other sort was risible. We lost no opportunity to ridicule the worst excesses of cutesy and kitsch nationalism from Nessie hats to The White Heather Club. And plenty of other sources of national pride for the strange people who didn’t live in Glasgow could be easily pooh-poohed; Graham Bell didn’t invent the telephone, Baird the television or Watt the steam engine – no matter how many tea towels said differently. And as for the rest of Scottish history, we got precious little of it at school (none in secondary) but that was no great loss – we knew what it would be full of anyway; ‘Oh no, here come the English again. Time for another doing.’

And yet …

If Scotland and all things Scottish could so easily be dismissed, why did we not do that? I mean, why did we not just wave a breezy hand, smile indulgently and move onto more important matters any time Scotland was mentioned? Because, as I’ve shown, we didn’t.

My theory is that Scotland … no, more than that – an affection for Scotland, was our guilty secret. While so much of late 20th century Scottishness offended those carefully nurtured Irish, socialist, republican sensitivities mentioned above, it was never enough to completely poison our view of the place. And that was at least in part because, well, we had to belong to somewhere. Didn’t we?

I’ve met plenty of people who can’t understand that question. But, like the rich wondering what all the fuss is about money, they tend to be people for whom the whole business of national identity is a settled, non-issue. Whether or not they actually like being French, Venezuelan or American (and they always like being American) was irrelevant; that’s what they were. Even the English, of course, have always – until recently, at least – been far more content with their dual national ID.

We Glaswegian Taigs had much that defined our community. There was certainly a football team to rally round. But did we have a country, that national identity? Despite the slightly desperate posturings of Big Charlie and many thousands of other Celtic supporters, we were and are not Irish. My dad wasn’t Irish, nor was his dad, nor his dad. I have to go back to my great, great grandfather before I come across any pure-bred Irish stock. (By the way, his name was originally Kindelon and we suspect he changed it to throw the police off his scent before he got on the boat, so that stock might not be so pure after all.)

Many of us holidayed in The Republic, as we called it, but we obviously didn’t live there and long before it gained EU membership and the Celtic Tiger economy took off, we probably didn’t want to either. It was a rural, Gaelic-speaking place full of poor people with horses. So, if not Irish, then what?

Well, some of my contemporaries opted for what it said on their passports – British. After all, it fitted in nicely with the whole grown up ‘nationalism is parochial nonsense’ position. They could be British because the British never made much of a fuss about it. Breast beating and flag-waving patriotism was not their style. They asserted their identity in quiet, civilised ways involving minority sports and drinking tea at designated times of the day. In fact, opting for Britain was almost like opting out of the whole national identity argument all together. Not only was it safe, it was a de facto reality anyway so let’s all just shut up and get on with our lives.

But, if these self-professed Tim Brits were honest, they embraced Britannia with little enthusiasm. Quite apart from the obvious penchant Rangers fans have for wearing Queen and country on their sleeves, there was also the issue of a growing assertiveness to at least some aspects of English Britishness. Between rioting football fans being banned from Europe, everything Thatcher said from the moment she got up in the morning, and the worrying conflation of the Union Jack with the British National Party and thuggish xenophobia, it was clearly no longer all Betjeman and bicycling south of the Border. And that was long before Blair, Brown and Cameron discovered the suspect merits of wrapping themselves in the flag.

And so, for some of us at least, we were left with Scotland. We still had little in common with Aberdonians (whom we couldn’t understand anyway), or rugby-playing vets from the Borders, but, increasingly, we seemed to have damn all in common with the English. It was Scotland, we knew, or nothing.

In other words, we might have pretended otherwise but we did care. That was why we writhed in embarrassment at Take the High Road or Isla St Clair on The Generation Game. But also why went into the video box on Points of View to complain about Blue Peter presenters talking about ‘up there in Scotland’ or lazy English bias in sports commentary. We had no truck with the Nats but it was a Tory government so our socialist loyalties meant we could march against the Poll Tax and even, as I did, subscribe to Radical Scotland magazine and join the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly alongside many Labour Party stalwarts.

But was that it? A closet Scottishness permitted only in so far as it allowed us to bash the usual suspects – Huns, Tories, monarchists and toffs? No, I think it was more than that.

Many of us, I firmly believe, actually liked a great deal about Scotland the country – not just the idea. For all the tartanalia and unattractive Presbyterianism, there is no denying a certain liberal/democratic tradition in public affairs in Scotland that easily chimes with all that right-on, lefty socialism we Glaswegians like to affect. Equally, for those few of us who knew anything about Scottish history beyond a long list of heroic failures, there was the Scottish Enlightenment, the ideas behind all that impenetrable Scots in Burns’s poetry, and a general egalitarian, ‘wee man takes no shit from nobody’ theme to Scotland’s story down through the centuries.

Meanwhile, the country itself was not such a bad place to live in. Glasgow was being cleaned up and gorgeous Victorian buildings were emerging from under the grime of 100 years of heavy industry. International festivals and swanky waterfront developments slowly had us thinking less of ‘No Mean City’ and more of some kind of genuine European-class destination. Moreover, aside from Hearts and Hibs fans singing about our tenements and unfamiliarity with soap, the rest of Scotland seemed to take pride in that transformation too.

Then there is Scotland’s scenery. Yes, I know, a deeply unfashionable topic among Scotland’s modern generation of social democratic nationalists – ‘For God’s sake don’t get all blood and soil on us!’ And I won’t. But while I am more than happy to argue for independence because Scotland is no worse than any other country and deserves the same chance to make its own way in the world, I cannot see that this must proscribe any appreciation of those assets we have that are genuinely world beating.

There are a shockingly high number of Glaswegians (and, I will allow, probably Edinburgh folk too) who have little or no first hand experience of Scotland’s landscapes. Perhaps they didn’t own a car and the train or bus just seemed like too much trouble to go somewhere they’d been told was cold, wet and infested with midges. Perhaps they spent all their money on package holidays to the Spanish sun. Or perhaps they were just put off with all that romantic poetry rammed down their throats in school and TV footage of Kenneth McKellar singing ‘These Are My Mountains’ on some moor where it looks like he’s lost the rest of the wedding party.

But to deny the pride many of us take in views the aesthetic equal of anywhere in the world is to unnecessarily limit our sense of Scottishness.

And Scottishness, that identification with the country, I would argue is an aspect of the national debate we supporters of independence ignore or worse, disown, at our peril.

My own nascent sense of Scottishness was planted in childhood by such things as school hill walking trips in the Highlands (with plastic Gola football boots and a haversack weighed down with tomato soup and Dairylea ‘pieces’ enough for a month) and being introduced to the wonderfully naff historical novels of Nigel Tranter by my old man.

And I have to wonder, had that not been there, whether my later political choices would have been the same.

Indeed, it is testimony to the power of this nationalism – the power many fear – that even in such a hostile environment as the east end of Glasgow in the 1970s and 80s, even in the face of overwhelming peer pressure felt in family, school, university and casual employment, my sense of Scottishness not only took root, but grew. So much so that by my late teens I had the courage to ‘come out’ as a nationalist, albeit one festooned with as many radical socialist badges as I could find.

At one level, to celebrate, or at least acknowledge, one’s Scottishness is to do no more than mark your starting point. The argument often used against those utilitarian or stripped back political supporters of independence is that a more equal society, a healthier economy or a fairer political system are indeed desirable – but why just desire them for Scotland? There are practical as well as moral answers to those questions. But there is also the simple one of: ‘Because I recognise this place, this Scotland, as my country.’

It goes without saying that this sense of Scottishness is not an exclusive one – it depends on no creed or culture, nor genetic mix, to exist and thrive. If you come from here and even if you didn’t, if you pay your taxes or take your benefits, if you make your friends and choose to live your life in this particular corner of the planet then Scotland – the land and its story – can seep into your bones. You will have that sense of belonging that billions in other countries around the world have: a national identity.

Then, I believe, you will be all the more inclined to wonder just why the hell you shouldn’t have what they also have – the right to run the place as you see fit.



Categories: Commentary, Identity

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75 replies

  1. Nicely put.

    I was at that Scotland v Ireland game at Hampden.
    After some celtic angst, I slipped into the Scotland end. Sectarian abuse rained down on Packie Bonner and thus stunted my 16 year old tartan army enthusiasm.

    I recognise all of the symptoms listed above.

    I think most Glasgwegians see their country as Glasgow, rather than Scotland. The odd thing poltically is Glasgow City Council is now synonymous with Glasgow Tims Being Too Complacent. So there’s an opportunity.

    But the Independence campaign still needs to take into account that Alex Salmond is still viewed with deep suspicion by the savvy glasgow Tims. The Golf Club / Blazer Wearing Alex smugging away in front of that gash picture of Crying-Boy-With-Scotland-Flag just reeks of tartan cringeyness. Who wants more of that ? ( I mean, did you hear the mans Desert Island Disc choices ? )

    The Independence as Chance For Radical change is the way to harness the Hooped vote. Which is tricky, because Independence needs to woo folk from Ibrox too ( “everything will be fine, of course your queen can still visit” )

    But, longer term, I like the idea of Celtic fans appropriating Scottish-ness. The Tommy Burns Supper is a funny example of this – not the golf club mason fest, but subverting and reinventing a Scottish tradition. Instead of despising the SFA, the BBC and the like, West of Scotland Tims must engage and get stuck in. This is our country. The Famine is Over, but we’ve got a nice house in the West End, so we’re not going anywhere.

    • And nicely put yourself.
      Another way of putting it to these folk is you’re not going anywhere , this is your country, you surely want to be involved in making the decisions about its and yours future or you can choose to be powerless and let the useless Labour party pull your …………

    • Sounds like more of the ‘cringe’ to me. Re Salmond and his ‘Golf Club / Blazer Wearing Alex smugging away in front of that gash picture of Crying-Boy-With-Scotland-Flag just reeks of tartan cringeyness.’ Look to yourself. Can you honestly tell me that what you describe above is any different to what passes for political image making around the world. I don’t like it either and want to change it but too many ‘savvy Glasgow Tims’ that I know have been more than happy to sit back and allow the real smug, nepotistic, corrupt and bigoted political Council and Governmental structures of Glasgow and the West of Scotland to go unchallenged. These may well have always been corrupt holes but when the walls were eventually stormed and ‘Catholic’ politicians took the reigns of power I see only the continuation of the same corrupt practices and divvying up of the proceeds among the chosen. (Do I really have to list the personalities?) For better or for worse, both sides of this outdated sectarian divide are now and have been for all my life (and longer) ‘The Establishment’. Equally to blame for the state we find Scotland in and now so obviously crapping themselves at the very real prospect of being replaced. Was it irony when you worried about being able to get both the Tim and the Hun vote in the same box? Again, all my life they have had absolutely no problems there. ‘Savvy’ Glasgow Tim votes Labour. ‘Savvy’ Glasgow Hun votes Labour All Brits together while somehow professing completely opposite loyalties and moaning to any Scot who will listen. ‘Savvy’ is not the word I would use. This mind set is dwindling yet it’s only the people who still feel this way that can’t see it. Independence is far from dependent on people with this mind set and does not need to pander to them in any way. There just really isn’t enough of them.

      • OK Braco, I am far from condoning Glasgow Council ( see above – synonymous with Glasgow Tim Complacency ) and agree that in fact, part of the diagnostic is to examine the easy roles we fall into. This piece is about identity politics and trying to understand what ‘grates’ ( for yourself, clearly the word ‘savvy’ ) and where the opportunities are.

        And if you think it’s not important – I wish you were right – but the role football and Irish identity plays in West Scotland is still pretty huge.

        And I’m right about the crying boy pic.

    • As a Scottish person I resent any set of football supporters ‘appropriating Scottish-ness’ for their own point scoring over rivals. A Scotland free of this sort of thinking, perhaps set free by independence, could only be a better place. Any idea of a Scottish identity based on excluding other groups is not one for me. Nor should any group be able to lay sole claim to what it is to be Scottish. Why not be a Celtic fan and Scottish? Why not be a Rangers fan and Scottish? Why not throw off the historical shackles the author of the original article clearly felt himself constrained by?

  2. !!!!
    Brilliant.
    Made me want to greet, it’s just so spot-on true.

  3. Great article! You really have captured the feelings of many people in Scotland. There is a growing sense of belonging and pride in this country, as we emerge from the cringe that held us back for so long.

  4. Nice to read about your conversion. Sadly any neutral attending a Celtic v Rangers football match would still find tens of thousands of ‘Tims’ and ‘Huns’ who have much more in common than you suggest- the sort of self loathing demonstrated last week by McMahon and Davidson!

  5. Could you make sure the SNP leadership get this. We win or lose the referendum in what is termed West Central Scotland and not all my fellow tims have reached the place that Chris Cairns in is now.
    I’ve been banging on on this issue for years to folk that don’t understand what I’m talking about.
    We have a large nationalist community in Glasgow that for understandable historic reasons is nervous about voting nationalist and our enemeies know very well how to keep them nervous.
    This vote will be critical
    I know the SNP is understandably loathe to dip its toe into this issue as it is potentially an explosive one but as a nation we have to sometime hold our hands up to the endemic anti Irishism and anti Catholicism which disfigured life in central Scotland until fairly recent times. Communities have long memories. And it is time we faced down Union Jack bigots who are not going to vote for us anyway

  6. Reblogged this on Independence for Scotland, The only way forward and commented:
    another view, from another perspective, and touchingly honest!

  7. Excellent! nothing more to say!

  8. As a first generation Scot of Irish descent a lot of this piece rings true. I personally have never felt Irish, although I take a great interest in the history and politics of the present of my father’s country. Equally I have never felt British, never will, and although not a socialist politically as a member of the human race I have always despised Thatcherism. So identity wise its Scotland for me and politically, I have always wondered why anyone would trust a system were power resides in effectively a foreign country I.e. England. Would you trust a stranger to run your private affairs, even if that stranger promised to look after your affairs as well as his own? Would anyone be that naive? Scotland has faced a veritable wall of propaganda brainwashing the cringe into it’s citizens for generations. I only hope we can discover our true selves, a real sense of our true worth and not pass that cringe on to our children, they deserve to make their way in the world as equals in body, mind and spirit. Vote YES to Independence!

    • “Scotland has faced a veritable wall of propaganda brainwashing the cringe into it’s citizens for generations.”

      Yes. I see this all the time in the media – it IS brainwashing, and it’s down to bigotry and fear.

  9. Excellent – thoughtful, well written piece

  10. I had a colleague who supported the unification of Ireland (what he called Irish independence) and yet had never set foot in Ireland. He spoke of the “Brits” as an occupying force but would never think of voting for Scotland to be independent. I asked him: “Why do you support independence for a country you’ve never been to but not for the country you live in? You are shoring up the state that is oppressing the people you say you want to set free.” I think a lot of people could do with asking themselves that question.

  11. Hmm interesting! I always like reading about other people’s thoughts about their identity. My mother’s side of the family is Irish, and proud of it, but my aunt is quite staunchly nationalist and my mum is quite unionist. But then they grew up in Edinburgh, not Glasgow. From my own personal experience, it seems that people who live in Scotland and don’t feel Scottish are ashamed of Scotland – perhaps seeing it as parochial and trivial and twee – which is often how the country is portrayed by foreign and Scottish media. And so they want to distance themselves from the caricatures and stereotypes. And I think everyone goes through a journey about how they feel about who they are in connect with where they live.

  12. I enjoyed that article too, another part of Scotland’s story. Mind you at least STV
    and the BBC knew where Glasgow was, they got vertigo with their preconceived notions going East or North.

    Ps: glad the food parcels got through:)

  13. A lot of people from similar backgrounds to myself are reluctant to vote for Scottish Independence due to the bigotry they have encountered from their ‘fellow Scots’ but, for me that means supporting the British state via voting for the status quo and I’m not prepared to do that. The British are past masters at divide and rule tactics and have largely ignored the sectarian issue due mainly I feel to its divisive effects. It’s difficult for a small country in Scotland’s position to form a unifying identity if a considerable proportion of the country are arguing about Ireland, religion or subscribe to an identity other than Scottish due to these influences. My dad’s generation usually say to me a vote for independence is a vote to be ruled by the Mason’s, a fair proportion of whom have an Orange background(I think) but, I hope and pray things have moved on from there.

    • Can you explain the idea of ‘a vote for independence is a vote to be ruled by the Mason’s’?

      • It stems from the belief of many Scots of Irish Catholic descent that the Masonic Lodge has a hidden hand and influence over many of the more important institutions in Scottish society and that this influence is sectarian in nature. I’m talking about the Police, Courts(the whole legal system in fact) business groups and political parties, so on and so forth. My father’s generation had a great belief in this idea and with no substantive proof to give you they would simply recount the experiences of their lives as evidence. Bear in mind that of the three men who started the Orange Order two were Masons and that a lot of the ritualism is very similar, apparently! My own maternal grandfather was both an Orangeman and a Mason and so were most of his Rangers supporting friends. They had some very strong opinions regarding the makeup of Scottish society, opinions that would cause a riot if shared in ‘mixed’ company. A lot of Catholics I know, believe this influence to still be a significant part of Scottish society albeit less open and harder to abuse with the modern international economy reducing the harm the ‘what school did you go to’ brigade can do to people. As an ex civil servant myself I know they exist these Orange/Masons they are simply not getting it all their own way now, not they way there fathers did anyway but, they are not a force for good in our society and they are anti-independence that’s for sure. Anyway it’s hard to quantify the real effects but, the belief in these effects is there and maybe that’s all that counts.

    • ‘The British are past masters at divide and rule tactics and have largely ignored the sectarian issue due mainly I feel to its divisive effects.’ Are you kidding? They have ignored nothing, they invented it and have stoked it up as best they can ever since. Matheson reaching out recently to the orange order for support prior to the local elections for example. You seem to quote ‘divide and rule’ as a tactic without considering it’s meaning in the Scottish/UK west coast context. To who’s advantage has it been? Follow the money and you will see who is at the bottom of it and who still benefits from it. A wee clue, it’s not a free independent and democratic Scotland. Get off your knees, stop moaning and vote yes!

      • Sorry Hingmae, I got a wee bit over passionate there. It’s just that this stuff really winds me up. Outside of Rangers/Celtic acquaintances I genuinely do not here this stuff. Most people I speak to see only the corrupt self serving greed of the political old guard and will vote in the referendum appropriately. This ‘Scotland’s shame’ rubbish (coined by British Labour by the way) will have little or nothing to do with it thank God! Apologies once again (weesmileything)

      • Apology accepted but, I think you should go and read all my posts and you will see the one that says Vote yes to Independence at the bottom of it. AND yes it is occasionally stoked up by British Unionist I have no doubt about that, I was merely suggesting that pretending for the most part that sectarianism doesn’t exist has benefited the British state to a degree by allowing the divisions to fester and grow through the generations thereby preventing any unifying identity from taking hold i.e. A Scottish identity in our case.

  14. I really enjoyed reading this piece, so much of it chimes with my own thoughts, summed up neatly by ‘Because I’m Scottish’. I suspect that I’m older than most of you here, (my three score and ten are behind me), and had to tolerate much stereotypical jibes and taunting over the years. So much so that when I returned from my travels to finally settle in the land of my birth, I found ‘The Cringe’ overwhelming, and distanced myself from general ‘Scottishness’. I even found ‘The Doric’ difficult to recall, and to stomach, but that has largely been overcome thanks to ‘Scotland the What?’ and by marrying a ‘quine’. Because of the lack of Scottish history at school, I decided to read up on it, but invariably was left with the feeling that we have always been our own worst enemy. So, despite always feeling that Scotland should be a true country in its own right, and voting ‘Yes’ in ’79 and ’97, I really didn’t think that we’d ever have the chance, nor was I convinced that we were capable. Until now. I still have strong reservations because I continue to feel angry, disgusted and shamed by the antics of West of Scotland politicians and football ‘supporters’, and we really must get rid of that funereal dirge called ‘Flower of Scotland’ immediately after independence. (Scotland rugby will never be a success until we do). Although I used to watch the Corries live on stage, and enjoyed their performances, I still detected a touch of ‘The Cringe’. But -

    This is our moment,
    The one chance we get,
    In each of our lifetimes,
    To place ‘The Big Bet.’

  15. I have never heard as much tripe in all my life, So the author cares little for Scotland and cares more for the ROI and wants people to vote for independence, mainly based on his anti British racism.

    He also thinks John Greig was a centre half ????? and then attempts to compare the international caps of 2 different type players. Davie Cooper only got 22 caps too, Christian Daily got 67. (None whilst a Rangers player) If you are going to compare Scotland caps I suggest you look at who kept Murdoch out of the team, Players like Baxter and Bremner, Law and numerous others, so your point is flawed.

    I have to say I find this article ludicrous and racist and also sectarian.

    I shall say a prayer for your twisted and warped sad little soul.

  16. Angus Bruce

    You appear to have completely missed the point of the article. Perhaps you actually don’t get it, but I suspect you do.

    • No need for that Angus is there. I think the author is honestly bearing his soul and how his viewpoint came to be as it is now and part of the way he treads across the identity minefield of Glasgow football.
      I suppose it’s good to see he’s at least stirred you to write, albeit in an all too brief form. Perhaps you could extend your analysis for further debate rather than just trash and personally attack the author?

  17. Aye very good Kevin,

    It saddens me that you think someone expressing racism and intolerant bigotry and sectarianism is ok because they are “bearing his soul”

    What he does do is show everyone the identity crisis regularly projected by The Celtic Support, Why would any Proud Scotsman sing the anthem and wave the flag of a foreign country ? it does not happen anywhere in the world.

    As for claiming that Rangers fans booed the Queen, Jesus wept.

    His use of sectarian terms to describe Protestants is also disgusting to say the least.

    There is a massive sectarian and racist problem at Celtic Park, recent episodes concerning Aaron Laing and Michael Convery have shown that.

    The content of the article is also unfactual and littered with falsehood, John Greig was never a centre half, He was an attacking midfielder and also played full back. He scored 120 goals for Rangers in all competitions and was an ambassador for Rangers football club and spent his entire career at the club.

    Sadly Chris Cairns views on John Greig are based on sectarianism and bigotry. Although he is right about Bobby Murdoch who was once of the greatest ever players to grace Scottish football.

    It is sad that such a vile piece of work should be used on a site that claims to support Scottish Idependance.

    I get the gist of this site now and I will now leave it to the mindless sectarian bigots with identity problems who pollute it.

    Alba go bragh

    • Angus,

      I don’t see what’s to be gained at pointing the finger at someone’s terms in their own stories. I’m not a conscience cop, as for the football references I just don’t get them, they mean absolutely nothing to me.

      Identity though its a very complex sensitive thing, if that’s how it was for Chris and that was his journey then that’s how it was. Bella Caledonia I doubt would condone confrontational or abusive terms out of
      Context and gratuitous sectarian/racial slurs.
      Used in context they have useful explanatory value.

      Nothing really to be gained from blanket judgments on the site. It feels like a broad church to me, still at least we agree on the alba gu bragh

      • Kevin, I think this spat between Angus and Dave and the author Chris Cairns actually makes my point. Each of these people have come to the conclusion that a Yes vote is the correct option for the best future of Scotland. Yet, when attempting to explain their journey to this decision wrapped in the outdated and frankly immaterial self indulgences of Glasgow Tim and Glasgow Hun football identity politics the pre existing consensus evaporates! Both these sectarian factions have to understand that they are not talking to themselves alone here and when they wallow in their ‘own stories’ they are simply pushing the replay button on the divide and conquer programme much to the joy of the current rotten establishment. We all have our ‘own stories’ but unless they are going to help a Yes vote in 2014 I wish people would just shut the fuck up with them or maybe publish them on their own specialist Tim/Hun sites where they are sure to be read by those Celtic/Rangers minded (and maybe do some good?). ‘Our brill player didn’t get picked because he’s Celtic/Rangers Boohoo’ is not what I come to Bella for.

      • We do want an open debate, but at some point, if people are just abusive that becomes impossible. I would be great if people could remain restrained enough for differences to be shared from all communities / perspectives?

    • “Why would any Proud Scotsman sing the anthem and wave the flag of a foreign country ?”

      er…That’s What Chris Is Articulating. That like many of us, that we are not naturally puffing out chests out and proclaiming ourselves to be Proud Scotsmen.

      Hence why the argument for independence needs to be political and nuanced, to welcome all cultures, to celebrate the different stories and heritage of how we all arrived in this great wee part of the world.

      • Hi celtiicsleftwing, I hope we can agree that a Glasgow Hun who has, for his own varied and complex reasons, reached the conclusion that a Yes vote is definitely the correct move for Scotland’s future is not necessarily the best person to convert the undecided among your Celtic friends. Especially if he insists on swaything his ‘story’ in his Rangers/unionist identity and personal history. Is it really so difficult for you to make the leap to see that the undecided among the friends of this imaginary Rangers Yes voter might not be persuaded by yours or Mr Cairns ‘story’. In fact it might ‘grate’ and be counter productive, making that Yes vote harder to achieve and so aid the corrupt status quo. Is that worth getting to voice for the umpteenth time how tough and unfair it is to be a Catholic/Protestant in the sectarian hell hole that is the west coast of Scotland and how our players never get picked by them and ……..
        And yes you are right about that crying boy pic! My question to you though is, do you only see crap like that in Scotland? No crap like that everywhere else? This to me is ‘the cringe’. If you are hoping that a yes vote will remove bad taste and art from the world (especially of politics) then I am afraid you are to be painfully disappointed.

    • We are open to people expressing their personal journeys and experiences from all faiths and none *.

      We’ve invited pro-independence Rangers fans to submit stories and articles before and repeat the invitation.

      This can’t be reduced to football.

      * this includes Partick Thistle

  18. The Protestant people of Scotland will never vote for independence.

    Scotland, England, Wales and our beloved Northern Ireland, together we are beautiful.

    3 cheers for the red, white and blue.

    Rule Britannia

    God Save Our Protestant Queen.

    • John, you’ve got the wrong room again. Are you looking for Ulster against Sodomy? I think that’s two rooms down but on a Tuesday.

    • Bloody eejit, I and all of my family are protestant, & everyone of us DOES support Independence because we are Scottish first and have an invested interest in the future for our kids & theirs. Religion should not come into what would be best for ones own country. I enjoyed the article, smiled at a few bits & cringed at others, I am not Glaswegian none of my family are, however some are Celtic supporters through & through, while others (Brothers in the same family) are Rangers supporters through & through. It has never caused trouble among them, so why the hell should it be such a big issue when it comes to where you vote YES or not. Surely it can’t be that it will be the football supporters that will define the outcome of this referendum.
      If so, that is bloody sad as well as bad…

    • we english want out of this god awful union…the only trouble is we know you’ll be bribed by the anti english scots twat cameron to say no.with the promise of more english taxpayers money.dont know why he would…you aint got the bottle to vote for it…if you want independence….get us english a vote on it..ENGLAND FOREVER BRITAIN NEVER…..

  19. Interesting article, and glad to welcome you into the light.
    Pity about all this later sectarian drivel.
    Perhaps as an independent nation we will learn to develop together and put away our Saturday differences during the working week.

  20. lest anyone imagine that I have any truck with sectarian drivel or suffer from it in any way I was actually pointing out the existence of it and how hard it is worked by our enemies. I think a couple of contributions here rather underline the point.

  21. Thoroughly entertaining and oh so awfy familiar even though I was brought up in Kirkconnel, what with the fitba aspect of tim or hun seems now to be a wee glasgow. If I dont vote YES for independence I will feel.as if I have given up on my own roots of personal independence. Apart from.that my hatred of tories is enduring and associated with westminster.

  22. Always hated fitba – like most women of my generation (67yrs). Can’t think why but then again brother, cousins and uncles all supported Thistle :) Well at least they had a sense of humour.

  23. Jings, Crivens! Here’s me thinkin Murray Grigor had deconstructed Scotch Myths 30 years ago! But I guess I’m just showin my age. Every generation has to make the discovery.

  24. Very good and sincere post from Chris Cairns. Not sure why one or two have accused him of being “sectarian”. Maybe we need a definition of “sectarianism” ? Here’s one here -

    http://www.2ndcouncilhouse.co.uk/blog/2012/12/17/the-roots-of-sectarianism-in-scotland/

  25. These conversations are always a potential minefield, and not pleasant to follow let alone be part of, but doesn’t it make sense to do the whole ‘truth & reconciliation’ routine sooner rather than later?

    • I think you will find that NOBODY within the old guard of politicians, protestant or catholic, that have run Scotland and currently run West Central Scotland would countenance such an idea. Truth and reconciliation for what exactly, that the Scots have been lied to and stolen from by their elected betters with the connivance of the countries legal and media institutions for hundreds of years? You can’t be meaning some sort of officialisation of victim status for one half of the corrupt political establishment that has and is currently perpetrating these outrages can you? Truth and reconciliation……. are you kidding? What questions would you have Barron Reid of Cardowan answer or Barron Martin of Springburn or plain old simple ex leader of Glasgow City Council Steven Purcell formerly of Drumchapel and Anniesland? I don’t really have to go on naming more names do I? The way is forward and out of this morass of self serving bloodsuckers that now infests and probably always has infested ‘The peoples Party’ whatever their supposed denomination. Lets just be done with it and Vote Yes! to get started building the kind of Scotland we all seem to say we want.

  26. No, Braco, I’m not ‘kidding’.
    I’m not advocating the establishment of some quango to orchestrate public confessions – my suggestion is that individuals come to terms with what’s past, face the reality of their own behaviour and attitudes, and deal with them now – not in ten or twenty years time. That seems to be what the author has done in this piece – some don’t like it, and that’s fair enough. If they can’t or won’t contribute to civil discussion on the matter, no-one can force them. They get left behind, feeling angry and hard-done-to, and have no-one to blame but themselves – it’s not hard to imagine that some of the characters you referred to will soon find that their ‘public service’ is no longer required.
    No-one wants a Yes vote more than me – no ifs or buts about it – and I’m not the only one who wants that Yes to be as solid as possible, with no loose-ends or ‘unfinished business’ left to be exploited by malcontents.

    • Ian, I do not doubt you or anyone else’s desire on here (perhaps leaving out John Knox) for a Free Independent and Democratic Scotland come 2014 from which we can all start to build the institutions essential to solving the chronic problems of deprivation and lack of ambition to be found embedded in modern day Scotland’s society. In my view come 2014 (and pray god a Yes vote) we will have nothing but unfinished business to tackle. Independence for Scotland is not the end, it’s the beginning and it will be the beginning whether you voted Yes or No. As with the devolution vote since 97, the folk who voted ‘No’ have in the most part come to accept that their fears were unfounded and now wholeheartedly agree that the correct decision was taken by the electorate. This is a process that some can only go through in hindsight and I feel strongly that this process must be allowed to take place quietly and over time without hectoring the individual No voters for an admission of idiocy or guilt. (is this what you had in mind for personal Truth and reconciliation?) As I say I believe we will win in similar style to the devo vote and after 10 years of Independence I don’t think we will find many claiming that they were correct to have voted ‘No’. If any admit voting No at all! This is not to say we don’t have a real struggle on our hands at the moment but if we all work hard and stay focused, UNIFIED and positive I am very optimistic.

  27. Braco,
    This is the kind of exchange I’m talking about – we’re not in disagreement here. (BTW, I think ‘John Knox’ was just doing a wee bit of stirring earlier – easily ignored.) We’re discussing the most obvious fault-line that anyone wishing to cause trouble will target – put yourself in the shoes of one whose job it is to cause fear and division in Scotland. Where would you start?
    The recent ‘flag-protests’ in Scotland have, thankfully, been pathetic, but that doesn’t mean such groups can’t be hijacked by professionals who know how to manipulate useful idiots. As and when they do appear (and do you honestly believe they won’t?) we have to be, to use your words, ‘focused, unified and positive’ – we’ll be more effective on all counts if we come to terms with the real fears and gripes that many potential Yes-voters still harbour. Central to that is having a mature discussion about sectarianism and the dreadful effects it’s had on our communities. Despite the best efforts of groups like ‘Nil by Mouth’, that discussion has never happened, and it never will unless diehard bigots take a long hard look at themselves – the ‘truth and reconciliation’ I’m on about doesn’t mean much unless it’s coming from them.

  28. Actually I suspect there’s nobody more needing such a process than John Knox. I know this is unlikely. I think Ian’s right though- how do we move from here to there so that the process is the event? If you look at Alastair McIntosh’s recent piece for example he was talking about the independence movement as a form of ‘seeking community’, an interesting idea in itself. It’s also worth thinking about as Irish politics evolves and societies become less religious and more secular whether these issues will fade away?

  29. I don’t think it has anything to dowith religion anymore. It’s entrenched tribalism. You actually have to try to do politics in Glasgow/Lanarkshire to fully understand this issue. And it helps if you are or have family connection in the Scots/Iirish community in West Central Scotland to hear the whispers. For a good half century and more the Labour Party and the Tories played the sectarian card across that area mouth to mouth, in the pubs, round the doors – never in public pronouncement. That comminity talks about this issue in the same way – among themselves.
    It is dying away – but is taking an unholy time to do so – because it is the political interest of unionists to keep it alive.
    It is not primarily anything to do with football. That is merely where it finds its most obvious expression

    • I think that I have to disagree with you about the football. I think the football is now the only openly societally acceptable rallying point for the out of date bigotry/entrenched tribalism that you talk of. I am from Motherwell and I can tell you that things and people are not the same as they were even 15 years ago. In 1985 on my first holiday away with my pals we went camping on Ayr race course. This happened to coincide with the West of Scotland Orange March. Ayr was brought to a stand still and the band circuit was a couple of miles around Ayr and then back into the park. As the Last bands were leaving the park the first bands were entering it. It was BIG. Fast forward to around 94 and the me and my dad were drawn to the door of my parents house in Hamilton by the sound of Marching Bands. We looked on in amusement as a rag tag of no more than 4 or 5 bands with their stragglers around them passed by. We later found to our astonishment that this had been that years West of Scotland Walk. Had my father not been there to see it, he freely admits that he would not have believed it. This event and many others like it WERE the yearly reaffirmation glue the type of tribalism that we are talking about in this thread. That glue disappeared long ago leaving only the Old Firm as the residual outlet for these preoccupations. The papers love to talk of it, the Unionists love the whole ‘Scotland’s shame’ angle and it helps the ‘Scotland’s a divided nation’ schtic but outwith the CelticRangers all brits together mob I really don’t see it making a difference to the referendum result. After all It was of no use to the Unionists at the last election and that was a natural stage for the manipulation of tribalism. This is YES or No.
      Chin up, I feel confident! weesmiley

      • I wish I could completely agree. As I said it is diminishing but far from finished – but the sentiment I talk of is not publicly displayed. I can onlty talk of one side of this with any conviction (as a catholic teacher in a catholic school in Hamilton in years past) with a huge extended family and wide range of friends in the community I know that the quiet suspicion remains deeply embedded and unscrupulous elements in the Labour party makes sure it plays it all the time. Ask Michael McMahon why he suggests the SNP is “anti Irish”, ask John Reid why he rails about Scottish referees being “anti Celtic”. These are just two of the coded messages being put about. They are having less and less of an effect certainly and a younger section of that community are paying little attention but only a fool would fail to note the numerical domination of the Labour Party in West Central Scotland by people with Irish names.
        While the Labour Party’s reliance on that community is less than it once was it had to be recognised that the Labour Party is collapsing on the ground in all these areas and if that essentially nationalist community walks away from it to us Labour is stone dead.

        Which is why the Union Jack bigots rallying to the union cause is very good news for us

  30. I don’t want to rehash the, is it football, religion or tribalism debate.(It’s a bit of all three, I think) What it is however, is a mighty bid divisive card that has been used for generations by a certain kind of politician, you know who I mean. Someone posted a link on twitter to a group called the Scottish Loyalist Front, yesterday I think. It was not only anti Scottish, anti-Independence, anti- Catholic and anti anything approaching sanity, it was terrifying. I hope, if true and not some stunt by the Twitterati, that people of all backgrounds will find this group to be terrifying. They are exactly what someone on here called ‘useful idiots’ but, whipped up into a frenzy who knows what they will do and what effect they might have on the Scottish electorate. They are exactly what Scotland doesn’t need as the sane among us try to express how we, each by our own paths, have came to the conclusion that Independence is the only way forward.

  31. Dave, I think our society is so close to agreement on this that I wonder how this discussion wasn’t put to bed years and years ago. I think Labour’s cynical manipulation of the sectarian histories of our part of Scotland has been becoming more and more apparent with every year that passes revealing a still dead Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. It was this party after all that was the traditional resting place of all those orange/Rangers votes back in the day. When Labour was the alternative to that particular Establishment and was able to rely on the Catholic vote. But that Unionist strand has been in decline since the 50′s (ever faster and steeper in the last couple of decades) and as I have said before, both denominations ended up happily voting Labour for decades. The fact that, as you say, there is a predomination of Irish named West Central Scotland Labour MP’s and MSP’s in the Labour ranks proves to me that the so called bigot proddy vote doesn’t seem to mind being represented by these characters either. I think that the section of society that has traditionally been at the receiving end of that historic bigotry is quite naturally going to be the most wary and slowest to respond to a better changed circumstance and I think that is slowly happening. I must stress though that this is a Party loyalty issue and not transferable to the Independence question. Many many Labour voters will be voting Yes. The Labour Party leadership are kidding themselves if they think they can hold some kind of Unionist line with the Catholic vote. I just do not believe there is such a thing in Scotland as a religeous vote anymore (Proddy or Catholic, thank god). My view from the beginning of this discussion has been that articles like the one here though interesting are in the end divisive as they talk to only their own community and tend to alienate the other. This between people who have both come to the same conclusion. What is the point? Why not just meet at the agreement and move on together with the real work of winning and building a Scotland that is fit for all it’s citizens. Vote Yes!

    • Braco-
      ‘What is the point?’
      Good question.
      What is the point of this site, and WoS and NNS and all the other projects which are largely staffed by volunteers? If you and I and all the other commenters who contribute to these places didn’t do so, they wouldn’t exist and we’d be stuck with the same pishy MSM we all grew up with.
      We can disagree as much as we like, or simply bolster one another’s views on this, that or whatever else, but the important thing, as Stephen Hawking said in that advert, is that ‘we keep talking’. Even if we’re talking pish half the time and arguing over random rubbish, I’d rather be part of that than accept packaged propaganda in easily-assimilable chunks from the likes of ‘BBC Scotland’.

      We’re talking Braco. If it wasn’t for this site, this thread, and the article heading this, it’s unlikely we’d ever know anything about one another’s views, even if we lived up the same close.

      You can call it kismet, destiny, whatever you like, but there’s a reason why a particular statement, even if awkwardly expressed, leads to such-and-such a question; the interest of some other stranger is piqued; new readings of the original statement and questions arise; personal beefs are aired for the first time in a non-judgemental forum…etc etc.

      And so it goes on. Surely that’s closer to the ‘democratic’ ideal than anything we’ve ever seen in domestic Scottish politics? (And why, by-the-by, do so few politicians ever dare show face in these fora?)

      I recognise the urgency and frustration in your last post – if we could just have the effing thing done and dusted tomorrow, we could get on with it!
      Aye! Aye! A million times, aye!

      But it’s not going to happen tomorrow.

      In the six-hundred or whatever days are left, we have to keep talking, analysing the propaganda, help each other out, and more – we have to join whatever political outfit happens to suit us best, and get active, in people’s faces with leaflets, smiles, flags, songs, jokes and all the facts they need by way of reassurance.

      Yes, we will meet at the point of ‘agreement’, but the mainstream media in this country will never ever issue handy directions – we have to do it, help others towards it, and that will only happen if we strengthen this ‘virtual’ conversation, accepting all the unpleasantries and awkwardness that such discussions entail. Because, let’s face it man, the ‘real’ world – or our own wee part of it at any rate – doesn’t seem able, ready, or willing to even start dealing with this stuff.
      Slainte.

      • Ian, thank you for a beautifully written post. I agree wholeheartedly with you, but more as a philosophy and way to live a life. This is not necessarily the same as the best way to win a political campaign for national self determination with a definite day of judgment fast approaching. Bella and WOS and all the other fabulous intelligent internet political Kryptonite are absolutely as important as you imply and I am grateful daily to the people behind them for their hard work and the inspiration and opportunity they create for the likes of ourselves to come to terms and organise our thoughts for the fight. But for me it is for the FIGHT. I do not want to lose, demoralise or even deflate one person who has already chosen Yes, for whatever reason. This thread has already possibly lost one Yes voting reader to Bella or at the very least demoralised him, and to what purpose? I knew you were an intelligent thoughtful Yes voter before this discussion and I still think that. We are still both going to vote yes and so are all the other Scots/Irish who have posted worrying about their community not voting Yes. The answer is to educate and convert. The establishment know that this subject is so toxic that they just need to throw it into the debate like a grenade. The grenade only goes off if WE pull the pin and start picking at all the old scabs that have, for the most part, almost healed (sorry to mix my metaphors so badly :). I am very lucky in that I only have a few wee scabs to pick at and sometimes I quite enjoy it, but I am very conscious that others (of both sides) have scars from life changing injustices and have performed super human acts of hope and faith to have been able to turn their backs on the easy route of hate and bitterness so encouraged by the West Central Belt Establishments, even now, at the fag end of their existence.Those superhuman acts are not aided by raking up the old injustices ‘to talk them through’. While the individual involved may have come to an uneasy truce with the situation, both you and I know that the real problem is in the lighting of that fire in the hearts of the family, friends and community of that erstwhile ‘victim’. And so the whole thing starts up again. This is the inter generational trick being pulled. In my view the healing of this crap will happen only through the passing of time coupled with the working together of the likes of us in the creation of a new, fairer, democratic and accountable modern Scotland. I really like that quote about ‘The Process BEING the healer’. Vote Yes!

  32. Braco,
    You’ve certainly given me plenty to think about, and I’ll be more wary about using phrases like ‘truth & reconciliation’. I agree with everything you’re saying, so perhaps the ‘point of agreement’ for now is that picking scabs can be enjoyable, but it’s not without risk. No doubt ‘events’ will haul the debate off into uncharted territory for all of us, and discussions like this at least help us prepare for what’s ahead.

  33. Aye, thanks, and you too – it’ll be a belter if a certain Mr Murray does a wee job tomorrow morning. For some, that’ll tip the balance, we’ll have another few Yesses notched-up – they all count!

  34. Ignore the gravatar (not sure how to switch the thing off!) – I am the cove who wrote Celtic Connections.
    I’ve left this thread alone long enough (I hope) for a certain troll to get tired of deliberately misrepresenting other people’s words for his own ends. But I would like to comment on the – largely sane, measured and balanced – debate that has ensued if I may.
    First of all, I was rather taken aback by the number of people who considered the piece something of a soul-baring exercise, a cathartic admission of living a life in the sectarian dark before emerging into the light of Scottish, er, enlightenment. I would direct these folk to the dates in question. I stepped off the well trodden path laid out for me by dint of place of birth and religion a long long time ago when I still considered myself no more than a lad. I assure you, I suffer from no sense of dislocation nowadays – especially since much of my family have since had the same ‘conversion to Scotland’ if I can call it that.
    My use of colourful language in describing the environment in which I grew up was precisely to show the depth and intensity of those cultural affiliations. As someone posted earlier, a very similar account of a parallel upbringing in the city could easily be written and littered with references to Fenians, filth and scum – such are just some of the lovely epithets accorded to Celtic supporters. To object to their use in this context is to:
    a) be precious, and:
    b) deliberately and spectacularly miss the point.
    I may have seen the light but tens of thousands are still allowing their support of one side or the other of the Old Firm divide (and it is that now – not what church they go to) infect their politics and how they view Scotland.
    As for complaints of institutionalised sectarianism in the selection of councillors, city officials, even policemen and other key members of society – I have heard those from both sides of the religio-footballing divide. My own father ended up in the shipyards in the 1940s despite a school record easily good enough to get a white collar job. He went for 18 interviews that got as far as the question, “What school did you go to?” before he gave up.
    On the other hand, there is no question that for a generation at least there has been a preponderance of councillors, MPs and officials from the Irish Catholic community – so much so that Protestants have felt excluded in their own city. It is in the context of such reality that the recent self-serving nonsense from Peter Kearney on behalf of the Catholic Church in Scotland is all the more risible.
    My point – my only point – is that unless and until such preoccupations are trumped by a sense of Scottishness, until the tribal obsessions of large swathes of the West of Scotland (and I’ve heard them articulated by the professional classes as well as from the Green Brigade at Parkhead) are seen by these people to be not only pitiful but deleterious to any attempt at bettering their lives and those of the rest of Scotland, then this small country will continue to limp along, handicapped by a sizeable minority determined to do nothing but hamper its efforts to reach a fair, free and independent future.

    • Great piece, Freddie.
      And what has to be said as well is that a lot of it is not accessible to reason. It is a state of mind and that is much harder to deal with.
      I met with two fairly normal young men today who will not be voting YES because of the restrictions of the flying of the Union flag in Belfast. I have no idea how I can reason with that one

    • Well said, it is that sense of an inclusive Scottishness that we desperately need. Sectarianism’s myths and realities have kept us from achieving that for too long.

    • I generally agree with almost all of what you have written , except that in the context of “sectarianism” you seem to be proposing an attitude of – “one side’s as bad as the other” eg. Protestant/Catholic , Rangers/Celtic , Irish Republicanism/British Loyalism ( supporters of both traditions in Scotland ) , both being equally responsible.

      Similar to many discussions on “sectarianism” , there is usually a lack of agreed definition of what it is exactly. Until some kind of agreement can be reached on that , it makes it all the more difficult to address. The link I posted previously was an attempt to propose some kind of definition based on its historical development. A couple of extracts -

      Divisions developed between rural Highland and urban Lowland Scotland ; with notions of progress being associated with industrialisation, empire , anglicanisation , and Protestantism – and those of Highland , Irish , Gaelic and Catholic origin being perceived as “backward” and a potential internal threat to the image of a “modern” Scottish establishment , collaborating in the spoils of the British Empire.

      Which could maybe also be characterised as “fenian-phobia” – the fear/anxiety of the ruling classes to the perceived threat to their authority posed by any combination of Irish , Catholic , Gael , republican , rebel. It would also filter down to “divide and rule” amongst the working class. Fenian being a common term , usually with derogatory intention , for any Catholic ; in contrast to its original meaning stemming from the Fenian movement opposing British rule in Ireland.

      http://www.2ndcouncilhouse.co.uk/blog/2012/12/17/the-roots-of-sectarianism-in-scotland/

      • As ypi point out there is considerable historical provenance to much of this, little of which is understood today. Both the Church of Scotland and the embryo Scottish National Party had very far from clean hands in this and I do believe we should hold our hands up to this.
        O/T Andy Nicol in Today’s Sun does us a great piece. Hope he continues in this vein

  35. Ultimately you’re right it’s being Scottish that counts. The utlitariarism is just transitory. Aristotale had the same idea 2,500 years ago

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