Imagining Sectarianism, Imagining Scotland

A Twitter-inspired connection put us together with the excellent Reasonably Raging blog (with thanks to Geopoetic Luke Devlin).

We have frequently heard the political slogan, “One Scotland, many cultures”, since it was launched in 2007 to brand Scotland a pluralistic society characterised by tolerance of difference. However, judging by a Scottish government poll which found that more than 85% of Scots want “sectarianism” to be an illegal offence with 89% declaring it “offensive”, most Scots now freely admit that Scotland has a problem with “sectarianism”. Roseanna Cunningham, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, told the BBC that sectarianism threatens the “very fabric of Scotland; we want to be tolerant, respectful, and forward looking”. Roseanna Cunningham’s comments and the first draft of the much-debated “anti-sectarianism bill” reveal how the debate on sectarianism is producing ideas about what type of nation Scotland should be and what it means to be Scottish. When we talk about sectarianism and what it means to be Scottish, we are, in the words of Benedict Anderson, imagining the nation. By limiting who is and isn’t to be thought of as authentically Scottish we produce what it means to be Scottish. Sectarianism is seen as a religious problem and to protect the “very fabric” of Scotland we need legislation to stop people calling each other “insert-religion-here bastards” but not necessarily “insert-ethnicity-or-nationality-here bastards”. This creates the danger that we ignore ethnocentrism whereas we crack down on religious bigotry. Here I seek not to evaluate the extent of sectarianism or to “take sides” but to examine how the term is used and the implications for how people understand Scottish identity.

It is a welcome change for complex issues in which history, nationalism, and religion are entangled in complex webs of self-identification to be on the front of our national newspapers instead of relegated to the sports pages. Complacency has previously allowed those discussing bigotry to reinforce national stereotypes and produce ideas about what it means to be Scottish without being challenged. For example, in 2004 the journalist Stuart Cosgrove criticised Aiden McGeady’s choice to play football for the Republic of Ireland, the country of his grandparents’ birth, instead of Scotland where he was born. Cosgrove claimed McGeady’s choice was representative of international football’s descent to the level of a “Woolworths pick and mix”. How a long history of cross-border flows of people between Scotland and Ireland has affected how people identify themselves in complex ways is dismissed as “pick and mix”. In other words, mongrel-like or not “authentic”. Like many other football journalists, Cosgrove was theorising about what constitutes national identity albeit in a comedic fashion. Cosgrove, like many commentators, employed an uncritical definition of nation as the place of one’s birth to criticise how an 18 year old footballer identified himself. His idea of national identity is exclusionary: you are simply with us (people born in Scotland who call themselves Scottish) or against us (people born in Scotland who call themselves Irish). There can be no middle ground. In a liberal democracy, which seeks to reject sectarianism, this self-identification should be an individual’s decision and the individual’s decision alone. The greatest problem here is not that people have this view of national identity. The problem is that such intolerance of those who identify themselves in a different way is left unchallenged because it is seen as belonging to the realm of football and “banter”. Thousands of people tune in to similar debates on radio stations and in print- this is influence without responsibility. Such football journalists are unwittingly imagining the boundaries of the nation through their writing. They define what it means to be Scottish and frequently exclude those who choose to celebrate what they understand to be their Irish heritage.

Dr John Kelly of the University of Edinburgh argues that the public discourse on sectarianism constructs a unified, non-sectarian identity that purportedly “real” and “authentic” Scots should share in opposition to a set of sectarian ‘Others’. In other words, by excluding certain characteristics, this discourse imagines what it means to be Scottish. In 2006 the now retired pundit, Gerry McNee, dismissed the Fields of Athenry and The Boys of the Old Brigade sung by Celtic fans along with the Sash and Derry’s Walls, often sung by Rangers fans, as “Irish tosh” “we need to get rid of”. In other words, “real” and “authentic” Scots have enclosed national identities without the “sectarian” cross-border influence from Ireland. This is of course ironic. The Sash and Derry’s walls are sung by Rangers supporters and proponents of the British Union in Northern Ireland to celebrate Britishness and how they identify themselves as not being part of Ireland. McNee’s comments were reflective of a widespread simplistic view of complex social issues that “sectarianism” comes from some barbaric outside world which we should contrast our civilised selves against.

Dismissing people’s views as “Irish tosh” because they sing songs to commemorate what they see as their British or Irish heritage narrowly draws the boundaries of acceptable public identification such that people feel their identities are under threat. This imagines Scotland as some enclosed, discrete community yet our history tells us the borders between Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland are very fluid and the trans-border flows of migration are a constant. Being Irish or being British does not make one a bigot but refusing to allow people to understand themselves this way does. As Dr John Kelly noted in his written submission to the Justice Committee on the “anti-sectarianism bill”, celebration of one’s identity is not a social problem unless this involves hatred of other identities. People can disagree over the nationalist political sentiments expressed in The Boys of the Old Brigade or Derry’s Walls but it is difficult find anything in the songs themselves which express hatred of other identities. There are intolerable, racist songs sung in Scottish football grounds which is another issue altogether. However, it would be highly illiberal to criminalise songs because they celebrate identities which are not “authentically” Scottish or because we disagree with their political sentiments.

National identities can be multiple, especially in the United Kingdom. As Benedict Anderson asked “to what nation does the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland refer?”. One can be Scottish and Irish at the same time- the two countries are not sealed off and people travel and have inter-married for a very long time. One can also be Scottish and British at the same time. Many will argue it is impossible to be Irish and British but is this difference really a problem? Difference is not a problem but how it is socially organised can be. If we criminalise or marginalise people not because they hate the Other but because they see themselves as Irish or British we will create resentment and create a much more serious national conflict than we currently witness. Politicians and tourist boards can imagine an enclosed, culturally isolated Scotland but our history has different stories which should be told. If we want Scotland to be a nation of many cultures we have to allow its people celebrate their many origins.

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  1. dougie says:

    bella,

    But what are you saying?

    Is it OK for Partick Thistle supporters to sing:

    ‘f**k the Pope and f**k the Queen, we are the Partick Thistle’

    or to take that relatively trivial but clearly political point and have it re-defined as ‘hate speech’?

    It is clearly oppositional to the mainstream(s) but, I, personally, do not see it as ‘hate speech’. I think it is free speech.

    But the big guns are out for us. If they are not allowed their prejudices, then free speech by others must be suppressed too. For that is what a majority does, isn’t it?

    It is all very well to allow all national identities, as you say.

    It is completely not OK to assume that identities that see themselves as other than nationalist should be caught up in that nonsense.

    I am more than a tad cheesed off that my non-nationalist identity – as a Partick Thistle supporter – has become the subject of a nationalist debate.

    The discussion can be found here:

    http://www.wearethistle.co.uk/forums/index.php?/topic/4441-todays-game/

    Starting around page 3.

  2. What I was trying to say above was that ideas about ‘sectarianism’ are being debated and used in such a way to exclude Irish and Northern Irish influences and mark them off as un-Scottish. This has an impact on how what it means to be Scottish is discussed and can promote ethnocentric nationalist politics. More concretely it may affect who goes to prison for five years under the new legislation without reasonable justification.

    The secondary point is that this exclusion or stigmatisation will exacerbate the problem as people feel their identities are under threat. Graham Spiers’ points to the justice committee that he “does not want to live in a Scotland where people can shout fuck the pope” are all very well but this argument hasn’t been justified with reference to clear principles. It is a nationalist aesthetic. This unjustified aesthetic could ruin people’s lives under the new legislation. “Fuck the pope and fuck the Queen, we are the Partick Thistle” is not hate speech and it does not stir hatred against groups. My own position is that “fuck the pope” shouted by anyone is not hate speech. Many people who shout it are bigots but the act by itself ought not to be legislated against if we believe in the right to criticise religious and political leaders. The case raised on the We are Thistle forum of police being present in the stands at Firhill to combat ‘sectarianism’ is a worrying precedent. It reflects the action that can be taken if politicians and police jump the gun before debating and defining what we mean by sectarianism. You are correct to point out that we by rejecting the Pope or the Queen Thistle fans are not necessarily adopting nationalist politics and may have nothing to do with any of this. My own view is the term sectarian is used to delegitimise certain groups political claims. It assumes there is a higher group or identity category of which they are sects. That is certainly not how Irish and British nationalists or indeed the types of ‘old firm’ fans that the legislation targets understand themselves.

    Partick Thistle fans thrive on Othering of the ‘old firm’! They are entitled to do so but reading that forum one comment jumped out at me: “The old firm will continue to sing their songs and will continue to go unpunished by the SFA/SPL”. Now this poster may have particular songs in mind which are bigoted. However, I see these comments all the time and they are often reflective of the type of nationalist discourses I’m talking about emerging; those which define all Celtic and Rangers as ‘sectarian’ and often on the grounds that they celebrate un-Scottish identities. During the Scottish Cup final, BBC commentator Pat Nevin, decried Celtic fans singing ‘sectarian’ songs when they were singing the Boys of the Old Brigade, the Irish nationalist song. This has led to a huge backlash against him on Celtic forums as people’s identities harden and they claim they have to sing the song to protect their identity from a threat. I want to guard against lazily labelling anything that doesn’t fit within the boundaries of one’s view of Scottishness as ‘beyond the pale’.

    1. Tocasaid says:

      During the Scottish Cup final, BBC commentator Pat Nevin, decried Celtic fans singing ‘sectarian’ songs when they were singing the Boys of the Old Brigade, the Irish nationalist song. This has led to a huge backlash against him on Celtic forums

      Hmmm! So Celtic = Irish = Catholic = oppressed.

      I know many Celtic fans – average ‘proddie’ Scots from both working and middle-class backgrounds – from places such as Stirling, Perth and Inverness who are not Glaswegian, Irish, Catholic or any more oppressed than the rest of us. Yet, they have adopted this victim-mentality and deride Scots as ‘sectarian’ and ‘bigoted’. At best its a charade, at worst its every bit as anti-Scottish as David Starkey or Jeremy Clarkson.

      Why the fuck should Scots, for thats what 90% of Celtic fans are I bet, ‘celebrate’ their roots at the expense of being Scottish and progressive. If I can live, work and play without singing songs about my Irish ‘roots’ why can’t they? How come my partner and friends from Spain, Germany, France and other nations can live and love here without constantly ‘celebrating’ their roots? I include in that number folk who lived under Stasi rule in the DDR and under Franco’s Spain, just incase they don’t garner enough ‘victim’ points from Wee Mac the oppressed Celtic fan in Perth.

      Fuck our roots. Lets move forward.

      1. “Celtic = Irish = Catholic = oppressed”- No, I didn’t argue that and I don’t think that at all. Why would you think that?

        “Why the fuck should Scots…”. The article does not address what people should do but it does address what people should be allowed to do. Tolerance (eg not legislating against it) of things we disagree with is pivotal if we have any commitment to liberty. This ought to include tolerance of the the diverse and imaginative ways people understand their ‘roots’. A degree of tolerance is one of the things that a place like Scotland has over other places with less tolerant governments that outlaw religion or promote language policies designed to obliterate indigenous languages.

        You say fuck roots. Well on the level of how I choose to live my life, there are times I would definitely go along with that. I would also say fuck pop music, it’s shallow and it’s rubbish but it doesn’t mean I want it banned or expect people to stop listening to it because I said so.

        “If I can live, work and play without singing songs about my Irish ‘roots’ why can’t they?”. Why do they have to understand themselves in the way you do? Why does this difference even bother you?

  3. Ray Bell says:

    I have to put up with this keich nearly every Saturday night as a couple of bigots march along near my place singing their poisonous songs. What can I do? I need at least two witnesses. Since their songs mention William of Orange and the IRA, I can assume that nearly all of them are sectarian. I’ve even seen small children rounding here singing that rubbish – and I don’t even live in West Central Scotland either! (No, they’re not Hearts fans either, AFAIK)

    Re Partick Thistle. Old Firm fans do their own bit of stereotyping when it comes to Partick Thistle. I’ve heard folk saying “it’s the toffs’ team” and the like. No it’s not – it’s the Highland team. Partick used to be the Highland quarter in Glasgow, and they weren’t all middle class. Maybe some middle class people go to Partick Thistle games because they’re sick of the idiocy at Old Firm games. I don’t know.

    ‘“Fuck the pope and fuck the Queen, we are the Partick Thistle” is not hate speech and it does not stir hatred against groups. My own position is that “fuck the pope” shouted by anyone is not hate speech. “‘

    In my view, F the P is, because it’s not directed at Benedict (some of these folk probably don’t even know there’s a new pope), it’s directed at RC people in general.

  4. Luke Devlin says:

    @Ray Bell:
    “Since their songs mention William of Orange and the IRA, I can assume that nearly all of them are sectarian.”

    This is exactly the sort of assumption that we need to question. The conflation of Irish physical force republicanism and historical Orangism with sectarianism is a mistake. This territory represents a variety of complex functions which need to be unpacked, with simple sectarianism being only one of them. The address of Sinn Fein’s ard fheis by Presbyterian minister David Latimer this week is one sign among many that we need a better analysis.

    People (probably drunkenly) marching and singing outside your house is a public order offence first and foremost.

  5. Davy Marzella says:

    I agree that one of the difficulties of addressing the issue of “sectarianism” in Scotland is agreeing on a definition. ( this is something I wrote before )
    Two common definitions are –
    * Religious bigotry.
    * Anti-Irish “racism”[1] / prejudice
    But is it exclusively one or the other – or maybe a combination of both ?

    There has been much trans-migration over the centuries between Scotland and Ireland. The original “Scots” migrated to Scotland from Ireland (Scotia).

    The historical roots of anti-catholicism can be traced back to the 16 century Protestant Reformation which overthrew the corrupt catholic hierarchy in most of Scotland , which then contributed to the image of Scotland as a “protestant country”. The Orange Order, founded to support British protestant rule in Ireland , is one of the protagonists of sectarianism in present day Scotland, is constitutionally anti-catholic and perceives itself to be a religious organisation.

    The 17th century plantation of Ulster by many Scottish Presbyterians – instigated by Scottish king James VI – also added to religious division in the colonial settlement of Ireland , which continues to have implications today.[2]

    Religion also played a part in Scottish history, eg. the Jacobites, who supported the catholic Stewarts claim to the throne – and protestant Covenanters . After the Reformation , Catholics were perceived by many as the “enemy within” and Protestantism was one of the founding pillars of the British state with the Act of Union in 1707 ; the British monarchy is prohibited from marrying Catholics to this day.

    Many of the Irish – mostly , but not exclusively Catholic – who fled to Scotland in the mid 19th century to escape hunger and destitution would have encountered that already existing religious and cultural prejudice , alongside the more general xenophobic/racist attitudes that immigrants can encounter.[3]

    Pockets of Catholicism had remained in parts of gaelic speaking Highlands and Islands of Scotland after the Reformation.

    Scottish catholic Highlanders and Islanders forced from similar rural, Gaelic speaking, impoverished backgrounds as the Irish would have, presumably, encountered similar experiences on their move to the industrially developing Central Belt.

    How much would that have differed for protestant Irish & Highlander migrants to the Central Belt, at that time and for subsequent generations in the ensuing development of sectarian tensions ?

    Could religion and culture have been a more significant factor regarding integration than geographic place of origin ?

    From that time into the first half of the 20th century – the terms Irish & Catholic became almost synonymous in parts of central Scotland – despite not all those of Irish descent in Scotland being Catholic – and not all Catholics being of Irish descent.

    Did the state funding of Catholic schools, from 1918 ( introduced because of prejudice and discrimination against Catholics at that time ) , contribute to a reinforcement of religion as being a defining social characteristic in central Scotland ?

    Catholic schools are now cited by some as a contributory cause of sectarianism – whereas they were created originally as a response to sectarianism.

    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” Scotland . [4]

    That could be a more accurate definition of “sectarianism” – ie. as a form of north British/protestant chauvinism or supremacy [5] – regardless of who are the objects of that chauvinism . In the particular case of the Scottish Central Belt, the majority of those would be Catholic and/or of Irish origin [6]

    These are some of the historical roots of sectarianism in Scotland , which are seen by some as having been imported from Ireland , when historically it could be said that it was originally exported from Scotland to Ireland. There could also be implications for the
    ( near? ) future as these sentiments could be exploited further by reactionary opponents of the prospects of a re-united Irish republic and an independent Scottish republic .

    [1] The origins and definitions of the terms “race” and “racism”are also relevant here –
    eg. Do “races” exist ? If they do , which is doubtful , do those of Irish descent in Scotland constitute a different “race” ?

    [2] Irish Republicans rightly reject definitions of the conflict in the 6 counties as being of a religious nature.
    But, there is also a religious ( and in part , a Scottish ) dimension to the history there.
    See, for example, article on history of “Ulster Scots” , Frontline 14 &15
    http://www.redflag.org.uk/frontline/14/14ulsterscots.html
    http://www.redflag.org.uk/frontline/15/15ulsterscots.html
    …and also The Irish Tragedy: Scotland’s disgrace by John MacLean
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/maclean/index.htm

    [3] Scotland , Sectarianism and the Irish Diaspora by Danny McGowan
    Frontline 4
    http://www.redflag.org.uk/frontline/four/04sectar.html

    [4] “The Stranger who is targeted by xenophobia is necessarily close, and the closer he is, the more he is hated and rejected. This proximity should not be only and essentially understood as spatial proximity: the Stranger hated by the xenophobe is not only a neighbour, often living next to him, but also a Stranger who is as un-foreign as possible, so to speak, a Stranger who differentiates himself as little as possible, through his social and cultural features, from the group of belonging and/or of reference of the xenophobe.”
    From – “The path of xenophobia: from heterophobia to ressentiment” by Alain Bihr
    http://www.psf-en.com/spip.php?article7
    ( Internalised phobias could also be added to this – where people feel a need to distance themselves from any aspects of their own actual or perceived identity that they may be uncomfortable with.)
    …………and a couple of verses from a 19C. folk song……………

    Ma name’s Duncan Campbell fae the shire o Argyll
    A’ve traivellt this country for mony’s the mile
    A’ve traivellt thro Irelan, Scotlan an aa
    An the name A go under’s bauld Erin-go-Bragh………

    Well, A am not a Pat tho in Irelan A’ve been
    Nor am A a Paddy tho Irelan A’ve seen
    But were A a Paddy, that’s nothin at aa
    For thair’s mony’s a bauld hero in Erin-go-Bragh………..

    Sae come aa ye young people, whairever ye’re from
    A don’t give a damn tae whit place ye belang
    A come fae Argyll in the Heilans sae braw
    Bit A ne’er took it ill bein caad Erin-go-Bragh.
    As sung by Dick Gaughan –

    [5] Which could maybe also be characterised as “fenian-phobia”- having become inclusive of Irish , Catholic , Gael , republican , rebel. 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.

    [6] Just as the ideological origins of the phobias of other forms of prejudice/discrimination could be focussed on more ; as opposed to mainly focussing on the “targets”of those prejudices/discriminations – ie. on the “discriminators” ( individually, collectively and institutionally ) , as opposed to the “discriminated”.
    eg. the general issue of sexism could be addressed more as an issue of men’s advantages , rather than focussing mainly on women’s dis-advantages.
    That’s not to deny the right of those who experience prejudice/discrimination to organise autonomously to oppose that prejudice/discrimination – but to shift the main focus from the social/cultural/political “identity” of the marginalised ( which can then re-inforce a perception of “them” as being the “problem” ) to the usually un-challenged “identity” of those who collude ( sometimes inadvertently ) with manifestations of chauvinism and/or supremacy.

  6. George Mackin says:

    Being Irish or being British does not make one a bigot but refusing to allow people to understand themselves this way does.

    David, neatly sums up the debate in that very sentence.

    Notions of Scottish Identity are to be enforced upon us and any deviant behaviour is to be criminalised out of existence. What next – five years for eating a bag o chips in public?

    How can you police what is in peoples heads after a few drinks on the way home. Let’s air our all our smelly little orthodoxies, out in the public. Are we to criminalise all football fans to make us feel good about ourselves? The gift to see others as we wish to see them and see ourselves as smelling of roses .

    In this case the problem always lies with others, never ourselves.

    What is PC Murdoch to make of this when he enforces the law?

    The Aiden McGeady incident is very interesting for me- it is a fault line, as is the Neil Lennon saga as to how we perceive this issue.

    I have seen friends fall out over this issue – it is close to home – a raw and a deeply emotive issue. There is not a lot of middle ground, here. Perhaps it will need another generation before we are fully up for this debate. Perhaps if we had a fulsome debate with no bounds we might not like what we find. If Ulster is a mirror of Scotland, how distorted is the image we see of ourselves?

    I remember the Stuart Cosgrove making light banter over the throwing of tatties on the pitch and asking people to phone in and ask what other vegetables would people throw on the pitch. Hoot, hoot, I think not . Football and serious debate about politics do not mix, like oil and water. Best not comment. Tune out and drop out the discussion.

    We can certainly can not put this issue in bucket and have a common understanding it’s true weight is or indeed what size of bucket it is needed, then how do we legislate for it?

    The very fact we can debate this( however clumsy and ill informed the debate may be) is sign it is not the problem it once was.

  7. dougie says:

    Davy Marzella

    Err…

    I don’t recognise my scottishness in any of that.

    I really do want us to be free of our big brother England, but I do not want us to be claimed by some sort of big sister with ‘ideological phobias’ such as you suggest.

    I think most scots are a bit better than you let on….

  8. Davy Marzella says:

    Dougie
    My post was not intended as any general comment on Scottishness or most Scots , but trying to address the particular problem in parts of Scotland that goes by the name of “sectarianism”.

    Having said that , I think many of us can be influenced by prejudices , many of which we might not be sure of their origin………..but some social phobias ( heterophobia being a fear/anxiety of any “other” ) can be exploited by the “powers-that-be” to divide-and-rule.

    One wee personal example…….I was brought up a catholic ( no choice of mine ) in Lanarkshire with a catholic father and protestant mother. The first time I was called a fenian bastard , I asked my mother what a fenian was………she told me it was some kind of disease.

  9. Tocasaid says:

    Not a good article. The bit about Stuart Cosgrove was baffling. Are you arguing that Cosgrove is sectarian or racist? Is McGeady Scottish, Irish, Catholic or even Protestant – am thinking of Dublin comedian Andrew Maxwell here as well as others I know who are ‘Church of Ireland’ raised Irish. Maybe McGeady is the racist? After all, I am almost as Irish as he is and yet i’m proud to be Scottish. Why isn’t he? I can even speak some Irish though its Scottish that I speak to my kids.

    The fact is – there is very little sectarianism in modern Scotland. In the 1930s – it was definitely that. One sect – Presbyterian – against the ‘incoming’ Catholics. But, how many of today’s mostly football inspired bigots know the first thing about Presbyterianism? And, why is there no sectarian hatred of the many Polish immigrants who are arguably keeping the Catholic form of Christianity afloat here while native Scots Catholics – of either Scots or Irish family – give it up? There is some anti-Polish racism – but that’s down to the ‘taking our jobs’ argument and not the ‘religion of the AntiChrist’ bullshit. There may be some anti-Irish racism but again, how can you tell if someone is from the 6 Counties or the Republic? Are they RCC, CoI or Presbyterian?

    What of our own Highlands and Island that have been Catholic since… whenever? How much sectarianism is heard of/ recorded in South Uist or Benbecula where Catholics and Presbyterians go to the same school but different churches? Does how different is Gaelic-speaking Catholic MacLean from South Uist to one from North Uist??!

    There are problems, sure. But they are either of tribal football hatred or off casual racism. Hell, even native Gaelic Scots get a hard time though fortunately we’re not beaten in school anymore.

    Suas le iomdachd. Saor Alba agus na dùthchannan Ceilteach.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. What a strange article and an even stranger series of frankly incoherent comments.

    2. I argue Cosgrove is intolerant of how different people with different backgrounds understand themselves. He insists that in this case, Aiden McGeady, ought to see himself not according to where his family were born but where he himself was born. There is a world of difference between saying ‘I define my nationality according to where I was born’ and ‘everyone should define their nationality according to where they were born’. The former is a personal commitment, the latter demands everyone sees it that way and for me is incompatible with a commitment to liberty.

      I think most people agree that Scottish society has changed hugely since the 1930s. You also raise issues such as Catholicism in the Highlands which are very interesting. I argue that debates on ‘sectarianism’ have been used to exclude elements of Irishness (BOTOB) and Northern Irishness or Britishness (the Sash) as un-Scottish. There will be debates on this for some time and I’m very unlikely to provide remotely definitive answers but my point was often that nationalism and not religion is at the heart of what we call ‘sectarianism’ in Scotland. This is perhaps why Catholics from the north of Scotland and the waves of Irish migration have very different social experiences. On this subject I very much recommend the lecture by Tom Devine- ‘the menace of the Irish race to our Scottish nationality’ (http://frontrow.bc.edu/program/devine/).

      1. Davy Marzella says:

        Thanks for Tom Devine link , David .
        You wrote : ” This is perhaps why Catholics from the north of Scotland and the waves of Irish migration have very different social experiences. ”

        Is there any research into the experiences of Catholic Highland migrants to Central Belt ?
        Would it be fair to presume that in the developing sectarian scenario , at least some could have been sort of “assimilated” into a more generic Catholic identity ?

        Similarly , for Irish Protestant migrants – where their nation of origin might have been subsumed by a more generic Protestant identity ?

        If it is mainly nationalism at the heart of “sectarianism”…… then I think the roots might lie more in the ideologies associated with British imperial nationalism.

  10. Tocasaid says:

    Cosgrove has every right to question McGeady’s choice of ‘nation’. I believe that Cosgrove and others have also questioned why English or other-born players are chosen for Scotland. As to McGeady… this is someone whose grandparents – all of them or just one or two? – left Ireland nigh on a century ago. Were one of these grandparents Icelandic, then I’d equally question his choice of ‘nation’. However, whereas Magnus Magnasson’s offspring may be proud to be Scots, McGeady obviously isn’t. Why is it that certain people on both sides of the Old Firm divide – for, aye, this has more to do with football and tribalism than religion or even a sound appreciation of ‘roots’ or ‘nationality’ – are so proud to be anything but Scottish? Racism? Inverse racism? Or just ignorance?

    I’ve met ‘Asian’ Scots and know a guy of African parentage who refer to themselves as ‘Scots’. If someone whose parents were from Ethiopia but was brought up in an Edinburgh scheme can call himself Scots, why can’t someone whose immediate family are Scottish? And this, despite the many shared links between Alba and Eirinn.

    As to roots… aye, ‘fuck them’ if start becoming a cause for bother. As a passionate Gaelic speaker, I believe that we must move forward and use the language in a modern context. The fact that some of my great-grandparents spoke (Irish) Gaelic doesn’t have much to do with it. This is also why i’d prefer listening to new challenging Gaelic music such as Oi Polloi or Na Gathan instead of auld men at the Mod singing the songs of dead bards.

    The fact is, the anti-Scottish attitudes of a small minority of Scots of Irish descent contribute to the problem we have, chiefly, in the mid-west of Scotland. If Highland Scots of any religion and none can put the repression, clearance and famine of their grand/great-grandparents to one side, why can’t some Glaswegians?

    1. Another way I can put it is why do they have to?

      Loving the Oi Polloi reference by the way!

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