Newco Britain?


We continue our series of views from round the rUK and Ireland – with Phil Mac Giolla Bháin writing from Ireland…

Two weeks ago I voted as a citizen of my Republic.

I was asked if I wanted our upper house, the Seanad (Senate), abolished.

I voted in agreement with the government’s proposition (a rare enough event for me I have to say), but mine was the minority opinion and the Seanad stays, although the clamour to reform it remains.

In Donegal we have a recent history of going against what the government wants us to do in these constitutional matters and this time was no different.

It was the 32nd constitutional referendum, but not all of the people of the 32 counties of this country got to vote.

There are Irish citizens across a cartographer’s line that separates this Ulster County from our neighbours in Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh.

There was a time when the Irish constitution made claim to the land and territorial waters of all of the six northern and eastern counties of this island, but Articles 2 & 3 were given up as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

However, as part of the same all-island peace deal, people born in Northern Ireland can, if they so choose, be Irish citizens and, like me, travel on a passport issued by the state where I am resident.

I support the Good Friday Agreement and so I should – I voted for it.

It largely took the gun out of Irish politics and parked the constitutional question for the benefit of all of the people on this island.

The Dissident Republican micro groups remain although they are becoming increasingly difficult to disentangle from organised crime in the poor neighbourhoods that they prey upon.

Likewise in the Loyalist heartlands the current defenders of Ulster are a long road travelled from Carson and Craigavon.

TV viewers are currently enthralled every Sunday night when the crime drama “love/Hate” is screened. Now in its third series from the brilliant pen of Stuart Carolan it is an everyday tale of drug dealing folk in Dublin.

If a similar amorality play was to be set on the Shankill or Rathcoole then it could not avoid casting all of the villains as Loyalist paramilitaries.

The entire political conflict on the island Ireland throughout the 20th century could be viewed as an interlocking series of legitimation crises.

In the negotiations leading up to the signing of the peace deal in 1998, British Direct Ruler Mo Mowlam conceded in bi-laterals with Sinn Féin negotiators that Ireland was not partitioned on the consent principle.

With that point established the Republican delegation was willing to agree to the consent principle for the people of the Six Counties.

Northern Ireland, like Scotland, can leave the United Kingdom if the people so wish it.

The Orange statelet was set up on a sectarian headcount which is why my home in Donegal isn’t in the United Kingdom today.

For the avoidance of doubt I am personally quite content with that geo-political fact.

Quite simply, not all of this ancient Province could be in the NewCo Ulster in 1922 as it contained too many people from the nationalist tradition.

Northern Ireland had to have an in-built unionist majority or it could not fulfil its utility function to the British state, the local bourgeoisie in Belfast and their allies in the Orange working class.

That two-to-one tribal majority has changed over the generations and now the proportion of people from the Catholic tradition is over 45 per cent and, quite frankly, just too big to oppress anymore.

The ‘Equality Agenda’ is now the only show in town and the Orange State is something for the history books, it doesn’t exist anymore.

A Sinn Féin First Minister is, probably, only a matter of time.

The concept of equality appears to terrify the ‘Fleg’ underclass and it will take time, sadly rather a lot of it, to educate them into another way of viewing the world.

However, for now they are trapped in a post-imperial white trash angst about the appalling vista of people called Ciarán and Siobhán getting on in the world.

Similarly, I look at a Scotland that is also different from when I was born in in the late 1950s.

I sense a confidence among people to finally be themselves and not someone else’s trusty sidekick in an imperial adventure.

From my vantage point on the outside edge of the United Kingdom, the state that contains Scotland does look like a bit of a geopolitical mess.

It is difficult to discuss the London state without making reference to what that state did for most of its existence: conquest.

Any analysis of the future geo-political direction of these islands cannot start without an acknowledgement of the internal colonialism that underpinned the United Kingdom at the start of the 19th century.

The British imperial project could not really begin properly until the London state had dominated this entire archipelago.

The Irish Republican tradition mirrors the period of that project.

Irish Republicanism was created as a coherent ideology in the late 18th century.

It took the invective of the old native settler disputes and reformed them through the egalitarian ethos of Rousseau and, it must be conceded, the ruthlessness of Robespierre.

However, one without the other was largely useless.

‘Reasonable natives’ tended to be treated with contempt by the colonial overlords in London or in the big houses in Ireland built on stolen land.

The Fenian tradition was quite clear that until the island of Ireland became a liability rather than an asset, the British would maintain their illegal and immoral stranglehold on the country.

The machinations of the London state wrought the great demographic changes that created the Ireland my father was born into and my mother’s family emigrated from.

It is also the Ireland that I have reared my family in.

The campaign of the New Model Army in 1649-1650 and the ‘management’ of Famine relief in the late 1840s were the two genocides that were inflicted on the people of this island within two centuries.

Queen Victoria may be fondly remembered in Britain, but here she is, to anyone who has any historical memory, “the Famine Queen”.

The organised Scottish ‘Plantation’ of the Northern Province of this island has created a lasting legacy that still impacts upon the entire island.

The same polity created the conditions that saw the north and north-west of Scotland turned into what historian Eric Hobsbawm called “a beautiful desert”.

The Highland Clearances was a crime against humanity in the interests of the agribusiness of the day.

It also removed people from the island of Britain that had been the last to bend the knee to Westminster rule.

We are the closest of neighbours and out of the shared history of conquering and being conquered we can, in this century, edge towards a Scandinavian understanding.

The folk memory of an atrocity is about 90 years – three generations – and here in the Republic there isn’t anyone around that remembers British brutality.

Of course, in Northern Ireland that healing has just only started.

From my vantage point at this juncture, Scotland looks blessed.

The idea of a velvet divorce seems possible if the guid folk of Caledonia simply wish it.

No one has to get hurt and this seems such historical luck for the current residents of Scotland.

I believe that the re-ordering of the totality of relationships within these islands cannot happen if Scotland remains under the aegis of Westminster, but the decision rests with the people of Alba.

Looking in on it as an interested outsider, Scotland and England now seem very different places.

There appears to be a marked difference in the attitudes, for example, towards the National Health Service at both Holyrood and Westminster. There appears to be a very different value base within each political elite. I suspect that the chaps from the Bullingdon club don’t have many sleepless nights about size of the queue at food banks in Glasgow. However, I am fairly certain that hungry people depending on charity in Scotland’s largest city does trouble people at Holyrood and rightly so.

I live beside a state that has “United” in its title yet I am not sure that word is entirely appropriate anymore.

As I look in on this I have to be mindful that despite my physical proximity, my own civic experiences are very different.

In the last 20 years or so the celebrity feudalism of the British looks increasingly strange to me.

I can and do vote in elections where I get to choose my head of state.

The current incumbent, Michael D Higgins, was a member of long standing in my union, the NUJ, and we have mutual friends through that fraternal organisation.

I’m very proud that he is the first citizen of this Republic.

In my regular trips back to my native city I see how foreign the civic ethos of a monarchy is to me.

From my vantage point, the United Kingdom is a multinational state that remains dominated demographically and culturally by the nation (the biggest one, quelle surprise) that did the invading and conquering throughout the late medieval period.

The UK will always be about England and how the other nations cope with their absorption.

The written record of those times spins these conquests and annexations into a mere process of “unification”.

Scotland was absorbed, with the assent of a largely bribed all male elite, in an 18th century Anschluss.

In the same century that independent Scotland was closed down Jean-Jacques Rousseau outlined why sovereignty should reside with the people.

When his books were banned in his native Geneva and his house attacked he sought refuge in Britain with David Hume.

Now, finally, the people of fair Caledonia are being asked what they think about that arrangement whereby their lost their political independence in 1707.

If nothing else, the establishment of popular sovereignty over this matter is genuine human progress.

Indeed it could be argued that it could usher in a new Scottish enlightenment.

The power to remain, in what Tom Nairn famously dubbed “Ukania”, is finally in the hands of the people of Scotland.

Although I would wager that this prospect is not to the liking of the Bullingdon chaps I cannot envisage a scenario where the Westminster elite would refuse the settled will of the Scottish people as they did with Ireland a century ago.

In the lead up to the Great War, the London state was the centre of a vast empire and the first truly trans-global imperium.

Since then, Britain has inexorably slid down the league table of world powers.

However, this needn’t be a disaster.

David Cameron was clearly stung by Vladimir Putin’s recent “small island” jibe and observing the spat from the neighbouring land mass made me consider how better days could be in front of all of the people of Britain.

Although the UK is no longer a major power it can become a better place to live in.

Perhaps reforming the relationships between conquerors and conquered within this archipelago is part of that process.

When the British head of state laid a wreath in the Garden of Remembrance and bowed her head in 2011, she saluted generations of physical force Irish separatists.

I wrote at the time that it felt like closure.

It is no longer a nationalist fantasy that Scotland could be on a journey to full independence and that the British state is slowly disaggregating in a (mercifully) peaceful fashion.

However, as with the six counties of my country that are still under Westminster control, the main problem now is local deference rather than Albion’s Perfidiousness.

Since the creation of the Northern Statelet out of a Loyalist pogrom and threat of “immediate and terrible war” from Lloyd George, Scotland has carried far greater cultural weight in Northern Ireland than vice versa.

As I have written here before, an independent Scotland is viewed as an existential threat to the Loyalist worldview.

There are, of course, more than trace elements remaining in Scotland of that common subculture mainly based around the Orange Order and Ibrox stadium.

These are conjoined islands and we will remain the closest neighbours no matter what democratic decisions are taken in the years to come by the people of the UK.

Scotland and Ireland especially share much and that includes people within our respective countries who want to remain British and ipso facto under the aegis of Westminster.

A neighbour usually has a fair view of you for good or ill and from here the United Kingdom looks to me like a state that is in, well, a state of flux.

The positive part of this narrative is that formal political power appears to be inexorably moving closer, structurally and geographically, to the people.

Rousseau would have approved.

Comments (20)

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  1. habibbarri says:

    Would it be possible for the UK Government to give incentives to the Unionists in Northern Ireland (If Ian Paisley speaks for them, then they don’t consider themselves Irish. “I’m not Irish. I’m British”, said Paisley in an interview.) to migrate to England? Even though many are of Scots ancestry, they would not like to live in independent Scotland. Their allegiance is to the UK, which means that they are included among those who want to, “Keep Scotland British, and keep Britain English”. (I forget who said it.)

    The UK Government planted them in Ireland. Surely it’s incumbent on the present UK Government to take them out of a country in which they do not want to live. The division of Ireland is monstrous. It does not make sense to divide it to please the descendants of people planted there by a foreign invader. It’s important to consider their human rights to live where they choose, and their rights as a community. But their presence in Ireland really does not make sense, when their loyalty is to a power that is foreign, not to them, but to Ireland. They should be offered incentives to leave the land that to them is foreign.

    1. dev says:

      You could have shortened that statement by simply saying ‘why don’t you go home’

  2. Abulhaq says:

    The issue both Scots and Irish must face is the rate of demographic change occurring in England. More ethnically diverse, with a growing population it presents the image of a far more dynamic society than either Scotland or Ireland which appear provincial and static by comparison. The London city state is expanding its global reach and its human stock is being replenished and rejuvenated by largely young immigration. Scotland on the other hand is ageing, reproduction seems out of fashion and future population projections predict a drop in numbers below 5 million. Young Ireland is once again a country of emigration. In neither case is small “beautiful”. Whether the Scots break the stubborn reactionary mould and vote for independence or not the population issue must be placed at the top of the national “to fix” list. With a neighbour as regionally powerful and influential as England, Putin does not live next door to it, we cannot afford to be complacent. Our political response, our cultural persona and our national demeanour need to considerably toughen up. The bottom line is either ethnic survival and renewal or submissive extinction. At this visceral level the Ukanian system has never given quarter, why should we?

  3. Really good thoughtful article. Thank you

  4. Murphman says:

    I am Scottish and feel Scottish, I do not regard myself as British and the principle of an independent Scotland is one that I find very appealing. I have no doubt that an independent Scotland can ‘go it alone’ and prosper financially, but I am still undecided on how I will vote in the 2014 referendum.
    I believe that those ‘looking in’ greatly under estimate the level of anti catholic sectarianism in Scotland. This sectarianism is often viewed as an ‘Old firm’ issue and seen as an ugly manifestation of ‘fit baw’ banter. It is much more than this, although football does serve to highlight many of the sectarian issues that fester within Scotland.
    Up until the 1980s, Scottish society did not recognise sectarianism and religious bigotry as being an issue in Scotland, government and media simply pretended that it didn’t exist. Rangers Football Club openly identified themselves as a protestant club and had a clear and open anti catholic employment policy. This was a fact that was simply accepted in Scotland, it wasn’t deemed as being an issue worthy of debate. If the club or any organisation had a company policy that knowingly discriminated against any other religious or racial group there would have been an outcry, but the discrimination against Catholics was ignored. My point here is not about slating the club, but rather to highlight that Scottish society was happy to accept this.
    When Rangers approached their recent liquidation, First Minister Alex Salmond commented on the importance of what he described as ” a huge institution” and “part of the fabric of Scotland”. He also said that “Rangers must continue for the future of Scottish football and for the fabric of the country”
    The fabric of the country? It is a strange thing for the First Minister to say. Why should this club be of such importance that it’s survival be deemed important for the fabric of the country?
    Some would argue that the it was simply because it was part of the ‘Old Firm’, but Celtic found themselves at the brink of death in 1994 and there was no political or media outcry demanding the survival of the club for the good of the fabric of the nation.
    Rangers were deemed of importance to Scotland in a way that Celtic were not. This can’t be because of their achievements on the park. Domestically both clubs share a reasonably comparable tally of achievements and Celtic hold the honour of being the first Club from these islands to win the European Cup. So what made one part of the fabric of the nation and the other not?
    For me the answer is that the Ibrox club represents the protestant culture of Scotland and Alex Salmond realises that for independence to be achieved, he has to appeal to the protestant culture of Scotland.
    The first minister knows that despite the dropping figures of regular church goers, a huge but formally unacknowledged sectarian vein runs through Scottish society.
    I use the phrase protestant culture rather than protestant faith because I believe that even as the protestant religious beliefs within society diminish the old anti catholic views that were part of their culture remain. When comparing national census statistics with church attendance figures it is clear that huge numbers within Scotland identify themselves as protestant without sharing any protestant religious beliefs. From this comparison, I regard many as using the protestant tag as a way of identifying themselves as not catholic. We have a huge proportion of Scotland identifying themselves as not being something, so rather than sharing an affinity through the protestant faith, they find affinity through an abhorrence of the catholic faith.
    In an independent Scotland the ‘anti catholic’ vote will become increasingly valuable to political parties and under the guise of a ‘secular and tolerant society’, Catholics may find that catholic schools vanish and those that speak out against it labelled bigots for not wanting the ‘bairns tae play together’.
    I love the idea of living as a Scot in an independent Scotland, but what will it be like for a Scottish Catholic living in an independent Scotland.

    1. BillfaeDenny says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful piece Murphman. For a long time I have felt that sectarianism is a product of poverty, both economic and of the mind.
      Independence can make Scotland more prosperous and people will feel more valued in the respect that politicians will be more accountable and attuned to their needs.
      At present 1 in 4 of our bairns live in poverty in a country which is 8th richest in the OECD, this cannot be allowed to continue.
      We have a great opportunity to change things for the better with a Yes vote next year.
      I am an R.C. and share some of your genuine concerns but this may be our only chance to change things for the better. We enough good people in Scotland, I’m willing to take the chance that they will prevail and my grandchildren will look to a future with hope. A No vote will only create despair.

    2. A senior English protestant cleric, whose name I cannot find, reportedly said that the residual religion of the English people was anti-catholicism. He uttered this decades ago but for many Catholics the theme running through the contemporary secularist agenda is an implied distrust or dislike of Catholicism and its works and an attempt to airbrush the Church from the contemporary world. The composer James Mac Millan expounded on the negative cultural ramifications for Scotland of this phenomenon; pre-reformation mostly bad, post-reformation generally good. The recent scandals in the Church have acted as a spring-board for further “dissing” of the Faith, very particularly in the anglosaxon world. The “bright” Prof. Richard Dawkins, more followed than read, has been a vociferous propagandizer for the cause eg ” Pope Benedict, evil old man in a frock” and has also manifested in his comments a remarkable level of ignorance of Catholic, let alone Christian, doctrine for a “learned man”. It appears any comment on religion no matter how ill-informed is ok. This feeds into the mindset referred to by the cleric. It resurrects fears and myths associated with politically scheming Jesuits, the Inquisition, Opus Dei (à la Dan Brown) and, of course, predatory priests and sexually suppressed nuns and a crushing dictatorship of the mind. Colourful and shocking imagery that lingers long after the religious dynamic that created it has faded.
      The historical driver of insular Unionism was Protestant fear of Catholic Europe. It kept the British snug as self-referring culturally superior beings aloof from the revolutions and socio-religious earthquakes rocking the continent. The EU in some worldviews is so subliminally identified with that foreign and originally Catholic “thing”, even though the institution is now quite secular, that Westminster is proposing offering the chance to exit.
      When we vote ay/seadh/yes next September we will be bidding, I hope, a happy good riddance to all that that. The renewed Scotland should embrace all of its history Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Jewish, secular and free-thinking; a cosmopolitan and open society free from debilitating fears, honest and capable of looking itself full in the face without a grimace. I look forward to that new dawn, coincidently in Latin, Alba..

      1. braco says:

        Alasdair Frew-Bell,
        conflating the theological, historical and philosophical roots of Scottish Presbyterian reformation protestantism with English Henry the 8th’s royal need for an heir and greed for church lands, does not really help your argument (not that I am completely sure what it is).

        Your English cleric may well have been correct in his assessment of English protestantism and it’s relationship to Roman Catholicism. I don’t really know. Both are High Church and both seem, to my eyes at least, very closely related with the main difference being who gets to sit at the head of the church as an institution.

        Ann Widdecombe and many other devout folk seem to have found it relatively easy to transfer theological allegiance from Church of England to Roman Catholicism, over something as trivial (to my culturally low church protestant eyes at least) as Female ordination after all (See also Tony Blair).

        I am certainly not a religious person myself, but have an interest in the historical and political ramifications faith had on the political formation of the British Isles during the 17th Century.

        You seem to be making the same mistakes and assumptions that simplified the ‘English’ Civil war into Protestant’s against the King. Which in turn leaves a weak understanding and confused bemusement as to why those fractious protestant Scots started the whole thing off in the first place but then changed sides right at the end, in order it seems to secure defeat. Something unintelligible when seen from an English constitutional and religious point of view.

        In my view all this religious talk, lots ill informed or one sided, simply continues the Protestant/Catholic, Scotland’s shame, divide and conquer rhetoric so beloved of Unionist Politicians and establishment institutions, who have a deep seated vested interest in continuing it’s self fulfilling power.

        I agree wholeheartedly with your final para. Achieving that Scotland, in my view, will be done by looking to the future, appraising how we got here as a Nation certainly yes, but most definitely relentlessly looking forward, creating our shared, fair and equal democratic society.

        History is just that.

      2. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

        To Braco.
        Oh dear, you have not understood. This may well be due to your particular perspective. 😉 The victors are editors of the history text books and the losers often end up as footnotes therein. The ascendancy wrote the history of the Protestant reformation and its aftermath and created in the process a set of quasi-mythic “Scotch” stereotypes regarding education, democracy and the national psyche that still endure in the popular mind. Although, the bit about the “reforms” enabling the humiliating, progressive extinction of our national autonomy is generally glossed over. Without sustained English intervention undermining the polity it is quite possible the reformation, a late developer anyway, would have petered out in Scotland. Its character was certainly less militant than the bloody English version. Internal reforms of the Catholic Kirk, already under way, would have born fruit and we might have been saved the hassle of this infernal referendum to prove “we are a nation”. To paraphrase Henry IV of France, our independence might have been worth a Mass…
        The future, that we have the power to fashion. As a united people we will be victorious, with or without the Scotch myths.

      3. braco says:

        Alasdair Frew-Bell

        ‘and we might have been saved the hassle of this infernal referendum to prove “we are a nation”.

        Who knows what might have been? Had the Dauphin not died, maybe we would be having one to get out from under France. (wink)

        Anyway, as I say ‘we are where we are’, and I for one am very keen to start making some of those heartfelt and deep seated ‘Scotch Myths’ (those of equality, fairness, classlessness, educational value etc..) into modern Scots reality, no matter where they may have come from historically.

        Lets just vote YES! and get on with making this thing work for the benefit of all that live here, and try to stop picking at these divisive scabs left over from all those years of being shackled.

  5. Thank you for this Mr Murphy. While I share your concerns about anti-Roman Catholic bigotry (I’m a catholic, but not Roman Catholic) I see the churches working together more than when I was growing up. Back in those days the “anti” feeling went both ways. One day, when I was 13 years old, I was cycling home from school and a bunch of boys from the Roman Catholic school stopped me, took my bag and opened it. They found a Bible in it, and proceeded to tear it up.

    I was suspicious of Roman Catholics, and did not consider them Christians. Leaving Scotland was a marvelous experience of expansion in my thinking, my feeling, and my friendships. I served as Minister in towns where there were good ecumenical relations. I took some of my Pastoral Theology courses in Roman Catholic Seminaries and attended Wednesday Evening Mass, where the preaching was far more biblical and evangelical than the dead moralism of the preaching in the Presbyterian church where I was student assistant. My son attended a Roman Catholic school, where the ethos and the world view was more in harmony with ours than in the Public schools. I participated in ecumenical services and projects. In one place, I invited a Nun to give talks on prayer in my church – wonderful spiritually nourishing talks. I preached in the Roman Catholic Church. In West Africa, my church had joint services with the Roman Catholic church, and a Brother and I, together, conducted ministry in the local prison.

    So please don’t give up on independence because there is still bigotry in Scotland. The Government has legislated against promotion of “sectarianism” which is a start. I do think that some additional things can be done to promote harmony. I applaud the Roman Catholic Schools, and I believe that the Government out to fund a variety of religious schools, from Protestant to Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist etc. and end the hegemony of a growing Secularist-ism in education. There could be joint activities between Roman Catholic Schools and Public schools, such as joint foot-ball teams (not teams from the different schools playing against each other, which would aggravate the rivalry and animosity), but teams from both schools playing as one team, which would promote mutual appreciation and harmony; joint community service activities such as a joint community garden; joint teams of pupils carrying out services for Senior Citizens and disabled persons.

    I regret that the First Minister said that Rangers is part of the fabric of the nation. It’s rather a rip in the fabric of the nation. Celtic is identified as a Roman Catholic team, and that also is part of the problem. Both teams should be disbanded, and other football clubs ought to make a concerted effort to promote harmony among supporters of differing religious and political views.

    I do think that the churches are making an effort to be part of the solution. I believe that with mutual good-will on the part of the leaders of the different groups, independent Scotland can make great advances towards religious pluralism as public policy, including in education, rather than the growing Secularist-ism.

  6. braco says:

    ‘but what will it be like for a Scottish Catholic living in an independent Scotland.’

    Sounds like number 501 on the ‘special’ betterNO list of unanswered questions to be handed out by Micheal McMahon and WestCentral Scottish Labour. Along with the others like ‘but what will the price of a stamp be for a Scottish Catholic living in an independent Scotland?

    Scotland will be a free and democratic liberal democracy run for the benefit of all it’s citizens.

    In 1994, there was no Scottish Parliament and no elected First Minister of Scotland to make an equivelant speech about the position and cultural value felt for Celtic Football Club by Scottish Society during those events when it was facing financial melt down.

    The lack of such a speech serves as a good example of the lack of a specifically Scottish sociopolitical public voice in the pre devolution, non democratic settlement which Scotland was run under. It was possible to ignore such an important popular and newsworthy event in those days as the Scottish Secretary owed his power to a Westminster appointment, not the popular will of the Scottish electorate (as today).

    You really think that, had the rolls been reversed and it was Celtic facing meltdown last year, that the First Minister of Scotland would not have made a similar speech? It’s simply a function of a working democracy. Something relatively new to Scotland.

    I think you need to start seeing this Constitutional decision facing Scotland a little more widely than through the limited vista of ‘old firm’ harddoneby one upmanship. The idea that Celtic football Club is anything other than Scottish/British Establishment is quite frankly a joke.

    Look at your directors box FFS. Barons, Ex Ministers of the Crown, Lords, Home Secretaries right down to the long term Civic leadership of Glasgow City Council itself. (voted into power regularly by, you know, that wildly bigoted and sectarian city, that poor wee Celtic have to struggle to get a decent refereeing decision from every time they take to the pitch).

    It’s no coincidence that all the Grandees, on both sides of the ‘Old Firm’, are implacably against the formation of that free and independent liberal democracy. Both Elites know exactly where their positions of power and privilege come from. They are reward from the British State for keeping the poor and needy Scottish working classes divided, controlled and at each others throats. That way the real business of ‘politics’ can carry on, just as lucratively as ever, for the status quo and its’ chosen.

    Murphman, are you expecting/hoping to see out your happy retirement as a Baron or a Lord? Are you enjoying a lucrative career as an appointee of an obscure quango along with a two day a month non executive directorship of a British Arms/Tobbacco/Banking Company?

    If not, I would seriously start asking myself who exactly it is that’s been running this political system for the past 300 years, and to who’s advantage? It certainly has not been to mine, or anyone else that I know (Proddy or Tim)!

    1. braco says:

      Oh and Murphman, are you really telling me that all those folk I have met who tell me they are ‘lapsed Catholics’ are simply self identifying as non Protestant, and so ‘identifying themselves as not being something, so rather than sharing an affinity through the [Catholic] faith, they find affinity through an abhorrence of the [Protestant] faith.’

      No, me neither.

      Maybe folk who self identify as cultural ‘Protestants’ just don’t use the word ‘lapsed’ very often? You do acknowledge that such a cultural identity could exist in a country for historic, social political and philosophical reasons, don’t you? Just as an equivalent ‘Catholic’ cultural and philosophical one exists in lets say a southern European country (even though the modern day church going populations may also be in decline).

      Also, ‘In an independent Scotland the ‘anti catholic’ vote will become increasingly valuable to political parties and under the guise of a ‘secular and tolerant society’’

      It already is Murphman, only it’s the manipulation and encouragement to believe there is an ‘anti catholic’ vote, that is being used to try and scare Scotland’s Catholic citisens into voting NO. That is a tactic straight out of the West Central Scotland Labour Party play book. It won’t work.

      I am starting to find it hard, from that post of your’s, not to come to the conclusion that you might very well be one of those believing ‘Barron Murphman of Carfin Grotto’ just might not be too high a target to shoot for after all.

      1. Murphman says:

        Wow Braco, I really seem to have hit a nerve here. However despite the long winded nature of your post (plus your little additional rant) there isn’t really much substance to reply to.
        But for the sake of clarity, I do not hold any royally appointed title, be it in Carfin or otherwise. Nor do I have a lucrative post in a quango, or hold a directorship in arms, tobacco or banking.
        Regrettably my retirement is something that I worry about more than I eagerly anticipate.
        I will acknowledge that the post of First Minister did not exist in 1994, but the media coverage and reporting angle taken vary disproportionally for devolution to be regarded as an influence.
        My opinion is that media such as newspapers are aware of, and report news according to the demographic of their readers. I believe that political parties are equally aware of their voter demographics and create policies in accordance with these.
        I believe that newspapers showed a great difference in the reporting of the potential demise of Celtic and the demise of Rangers and I am of the opinion that there was and continues to be a bias of coverage based on reader demographics.
        The papers know where their bread is buttered and act accordingly.
        I fear that politicians in a future independent Scotland would do similar with political policies.
        I can also understand your view of lapsed Catholics and Catholic culture. I have lapsed at points in my life, but I was always aware of my religion and returned to it.
        I knew my religious beliefs, had a strong religious grounding from childhood and had received the sacraments. My Catholic culture remained strong and was based around faith.
        Laziness and a general teenage apathy for all things not involving attractive girls acted may have prevented me from being a fully practicing Catholic, but I fully understood what religion I was and what that meant.
        From a religious perspective, rather than a political or anti catholic perspective, what is the protestant culture that is shared by so many?
        I fear that an independent Scotland would be based on the wishes of ‘The People’ of Scotland rather than the people of Scotland and the SNP’s tangerine tinged past does little to appease me, Please, rather than giving silly and baseless rants, be so kind as to explain why this would not be the case.


        Sir (Knight of Saint Columba) Murphman of Hamilton


        If you know anyone looking for fags, an ISA or a Trident Submarine, I’m yer man.

      2. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

        To Murphman
        Some of your concerns were the theme of my earlier post. The British state is undoubtedly psychologically, institutionally and spiritually Protestant. Even in its secular manifestations it remains atavistically attached to that founding principle. Catholics often note this, non-Catholics just take it for granted. The two perspectives, cultural as well as religious, have quite specific “takes” on this. Like Jews and antisemitism, the tendency may not be readily apparent to the casual observer but that does not mean it does not exist. Being a traditionalist Catholic I have a fairly thick skin on such matters. Besides, Catholics can give as good as they get even though the current system may not be over concerned. Notice my context is the British state and not specifically Scotland. As a founding member of the UK we have been prey to socio-cultural attitudes arising from the English historical experience. Notably, the language of the Reformation was English not Scots, Catholics in Scotland, although supposedly reduced to a minority, did not suffer the extreme penalties akin to the English recusants or the Smithfield fires. As a nation we offered few martyrs to either cause; in this we were quite “European”. An independent Scotland stripped of the constraints of the British “thing” has the potential to be very different. Generally sustained by external stimuli, sectarianism and the narrow, divisive culture it engenders has no real place here. As a Catholic I will resolutely fight my religious and cultural corner, but I much prefer to do that in a sovereign Scottish state (a secular republic?) than in a dependency of rather uncool Britannia.

  7. braco says:

    one man’s rant is another man’s response. (wink)

    ‘My opinion is that media such as newspapers are aware of, and report news according to the demographic of their readers.’

    That explains the 45% of pro SNP supporting Newspapers and Broadcast Media in Scotland then, doesn’t it. There is no SNP supporting Newspaper in Scotland though, is there? Even after being in Government since 2007. That was exactly the point I was trying to make to you.

    The media, broadcasters and politicians along with almost every other Scottish National Institution, pre devolution, were able to simply peddle whatever line suited them best, as the democratic will of the people was at best advisory and at worst a complete irrelevance.

    My argument is that it has suited the British establishment, which has meant Scottish Establishment in Scotland, to peddle the divide and conquer/rule line. The ability to simply ignore Celtic’s financial meltdown, pre devolution, is a great signifier of Establishment views not Scottish public views. A very important distinction.

    I am not a member of the SNP but I am a very strong supporter of Independence. What I see happening now is the unintended consequence of devolution for all Scottish/British establishment.

    Let me explain. My ‘rant’ as you put it, is about the way the British Labour Party in West Central Scotland has, for decades, happily played Catholic and Protestant traditions and communities off one another for political and personal gain. To the detriment of both communities and Scotland’s political and economic development as a whole.

    Historically the Conservative and Unionist Party was the establishment Protestant/Orange working class party of choice, with the Labour party favoured by Scots Catholic communities and immigrant minorities (sweeping, but you get my drift).

    Both parties benefited electorally from the religious division and were active in cultivating grievances among their own constituencies and between constituencies. This was the political status quo in Scotland up until the mid fifties, when the Tories reached their high water mark and then have declined ever since.

    What happened then is very curious if you are a believer in the ‘Scots Proddies are anti Catholic’ line. The supposedly anti Catholic Protestant Tory supporters, relatively quickly, started supporting the Labour Party. A Labour Party previously perceived as Catholic friendly and with many Catholics high in it’s organisation, leadership and elected MP’s.

    Supported so much so that Labour became, all through my life (up until 2007), perceived as the undisputed Party of Scotland. Isn’t that strange?

    They achieved this by being voted for. Labour hoovered up all those Conservative and Unionist votes and retained all those Catholic socialist republican votes also. Luckily there was always a large enough Tory/orange rump in Scotland for them to point at as a threat in order to keep their Catholic vote corralled nicely, while they continued to gain support among the working class vote previously derided as the orange Tory sectarian vote. It all worked swimmingly.

    Until that is the Tory Rump effectively died in Scotland. Now the Labour Party reacted to the new threat of the SNP in the way they had with the old threat. Tartan Tories! for the working class voter and ‘a return to Scottish sectarian Presbyterian fundamentalism!’ for their Catholic voters. The fact that the Labour Party happily represented and were voted for, by both sides of the supposedly sectarian divide in Scotland seems to have escaped the notice of most people who still shout ‘Scotland’s shame!’.

    Newarthill, Carfin, Motherwell, Airdie, Coatbridge etc etc.. all hot beds of sectarian division. All Labour strong holds for as long as I can remember. Well it aint working any more, and the less it works the more the Sectarian card seems to be being played. That’s what my reference to McMahon was about. And that’s why I reacted to your ‘but what will an Indy Scotland be like for a Catholic’ post. It just seemed to echo the poison Labour have been whispering in the ears of either side of their divided electoral constituencies all my politically aware life.

    So the short answer to your question is that The SNP have no more, and probably a lot less, of an historical Orange tinge to them than any of the other main political parties of Scotland do. Besides, a yes vote is a vote for democracy in Scotland, not a political party.

    If you have got this far Murphman, sorry for the length and thanks for hearing me out.

  8. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    An interesting discourse and one we have to have. Let me say first of all that there is intolerance in every country of the world – in fact many intolerances in most.
    It is sadly part of the human condition.
    But it would be very useful were the Scottish government hold up its hands and admit there there was serious, deep rooted anti Catholic sentiment in Scotland until fairly recently and some of this continues to this day. But it was actually never religious (and it is now tribal). It is the product of anti Irishism which was born during the huge immigration of poor Irish into Scotland from mid nineteenth to early twentieth century and the Irish rebellion during WW1. That they were “Catholic” was in the main incidental
    The roots of the “Catholic” vote’s support for Labour can be traced to the assistance Labour gave to a represssed and under pressure Irish community in Central Scotland in the 1920s. Labour has for years now abused this connection by working to maintain its power over this group by continually reinforcing the difficulties that community faced and suggesting little has changed. I know this because as a Catholic teacher in a Catholic school with a huge extended Catholic family across central Scotland my political activity brought me up against this time after time. (I was asked to stand for the Labour party in council elections because I fitted the bill exactly). It was fairly easy to maintain Catholic suspicion in Scotland all those years. I can still remember ” Catholics need not apply” job adverts in Glasgow in the 1950s and Rangers’ position was an affront to any civilised society that went disgracefully unremarked.

  9. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    For some reason I couldn’t continue what I was writing. So I’ll continue. The Catholics of my fathers generation suffered outrageous intolerance, mainly in silence. Of my generation less so and “bigotry” became more common. But it was a defensive reaction rather than bigotry per se. ( Interestingly I was given a trial for Benburb FC or the “wee Rangers” as they were known This was because my name – David William McEwan Hill – gave no hint of my father’s extended family in Armagh – and many “bandits” among I have no doubt) This generation of Scottish Catholics (and I use the term “Catholic” very widely indeed) will have none of it whatsover which presents a problem which the new laws are trying to contain.
    But nobody should imagine that the recent past has been forgotten by many in that community. Or that anti Catholic sentiment does not still linger on in parts of Scotland. It is however diminishing slowly and steadily and is now most evident in deprived communities in which tribalism gives some sort of meaning to almost sterile lives. And if it lives on in higher circumstance it is hidden because it is generally recognised as unacceptable. Time will sort this but some of our peoples will find other people to dislike because tribalism is built into the human condition.
    What is very imprtant is that those seeking a YES vote recognise that unscrupulous elements in the Better Together campaign will have no reservation whatsover in using this divisive issue as they approach defeat next year

  10. braco says:


    You wrote:

    The [Prime Minister] knows that despite the dropping figures of regular [British Nationalists], a huge but formally unacknowledged [anti Scots/Welsh/Irish] vein runs through [British] society.
    I use the phrase [British] culture rather than [Scottish culture] because I believe that even as the [British] beliefs within society diminish the old [anti Scots/Welsh/Irish] views that were part of their culture remain. When comparing national census statistics with [Westminster voting] figures it is clear that huge numbers within [England] identify themselves as [British] without sharing any [archetypal British] beliefs. From this comparison, I regard many as using the [British] tag as a way of identifying themselves as not [Scottish/Welsh/Irish]. We have a huge proportion of [British] identifying themselves as not being something, so rather than sharing an affinity through the [British identity], they find affinity through an abhorrence of the [Scottish/Welsh/Irish identity].

    An English/ Protestant/ Muslim/ Hindu, white, black, Jew, Arab, Persian etc. etc… could all do the same. You are writing either consciously, or subconsciously, within quite a rigid framework of historically accepted divide, subdue and conquer rules.

    I would say you managed seven and a half of the ten commandments there [as a religious analogy] within that short excerpt of yours (just a rule of thumb).

    If you do want to be a Barron then well done.

    However, if you are sincere in your exploration of Scotland’s current constitutional problem, then I would first look long and hard at that superficially adapted paragraph of yours. Are those really the views you want to project? What kind of responses do you feel those kind of assertions will induce?

    Can you not see the inherent insults? I will finish with a last, but similar, point which I feel underlines our whole discussion.

    You asked, “From a religious perspective, rather than a political or anti catholic perspective, what is the protestant culture that is shared by so many?”

    I am, as I have stated, a non religious person, by chance, from a Protestant culture. As such I find it incredible that you, as a self declared religious man, have until now developed no knowledge or understanding for the (equally heartfelt and devout) religious beliefs held by hundreds of millions of Protestants world wide. (Never mind Scotland)

    I would have thought your position of faith would allow you better understanding and empathy for a fellow Christian’s position of faith, even though held under a slightly different institutional belief structure? At least easier than myself’s, as an avowed non believer. Apparently not.

    I won’t argue theology with you as I don’t believe, (though respect yours). I will say that Protestant culture has been influential philosophically, militarily, theologically, educationally, scientifically etc.. etc. Both religions (all, and none) have their monsters and heroes. Why pretend otherwise? I don’t understand.

    Finally, your question of non religious protestant culture? This could go on as long as Universities study humanity. Let me just hopefully join us together culturally then instead. Martin Luther King (jnr) and John Brown. How have they influenced you and your culture?

    You don’t need to give me two names to try and (pathetically) represent the whole of Catholic cultural influence over ‘Protestant’ society (or any other society for that matter). I already fully accept the fact, and try my best to learn and understand it’ value. And that is, and has been, the point of this whole discussion for me.

    I hope you vote YES. I hope you vote YES to join me and many other cultures, religions, beliefs, races and individuals who live in Scotland today, and value our autonomy enough to make the simple demand of Democracy for our Nation. It’s a cross in a ballot box. No one has died to reach this point for Scottish Independence. Something else, very concrete, to celebrate on the 19th of September 2014.

    Vote YES! (please Murphman?)

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