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Open Community in the New Scotland?

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Angela Haggerty
on the need for diversity and openness in the Yes campaign as a reflection of the wider aspiration for a diverse and multicultural Scotland.

Whenever I bring up the question of the Irish community in an independent Scotland, I hit a nerve among a section of Yes campaigners.

There is a ‘nothing to see here’ dismisiveness that leaves a lot to be desired, especially when voters are making one of the biggest decisions of their lives within the democratic process. I don’t often venture into the Twitter debate on independence because I find it unproductive. People often either agree staunchly with one another or they spend their time sniping at those who see things a different way. It’s not productive, it’s not educational and on an issue like this it’s just not for me.

If I’m to have the debate at all I mostly have it in person; at work, down the pub, with friends, wherever it comes up. I’ve yet to meet any hostility in those interactions.

What has struck me about so many of those conversations in Scotland, however, is the strength of feeling in much of the Irish community from voters who fear the cultural landscape in an independent Scotland, who fear they may be left vulnerable within a minority that has faced decades of hostility and discrimination.

I’ve seen men and women – usually older voters who remember the days of blatant discrimination all too well – show genuine fear when discussing their concerns about living in an independent Scotland. Those fears may be misguided – things have changed by a long way since the days of ‘No Irish need apply’ in Scotland – but they are as real as the words on this screen for those who are considering their options. When the referendum vote is narrowing and every vote counts, those votes count too.

Having recently brought the issue up almost absent mindedly on Twitter I was met with an incredulous reaction from some quarters and told it’s simply paranoia, just the Catholics stirring up hatred and religious identity deserves no place in the independence debate anyway. I was taken aback, to say the least. Indeed, prominent Yes voice Natalie McGarry (@NatalieMcGarry) became so animated that she tweeted advice to others that it’s best not to engage with those of a ‘religious persuasion’. She went as far as to describe the issue of religion in the independence debate as ‘disgusting’.

Yet, figures out only days ago showed that Catholics were again in the last year the most targeted group in religious crime figures. Catholicism was the religion targeted in 63 per cent of charges in 2013/14, a particularly significant number when the size of the Catholic minority in Scotland is taken into consideration. Protestantism accounted for 29 per cent of charges, Islam eight per cent and Judaism two per cent.

Within those anti-Catholic figures also lies a hate that has been a poison in Scottish society since the mid-19th century – anti-Irish racism. Almost all of the derogatory terms for Catholics that are part of the urban Scottish lexicon are strongly connected to Irishness; fenian, taig, tarrier.

I personally have been targeted by race/religious hate. Earlier this year a 41-year-old man was sentenced to six months in prison for targeting me in a case that was covered by national broadcaster Channel 4 News. Indeed, had it not been for the work of the London-based news outlet Police Scotland would have missed the evidence. Alex Thomson and his colleagues at Channel 4 News were not squeamish about tackling David Limond and the hatreds that culturally authorised him to target me. For David Limond, I was simply ‘taig of the day’.

My recent relocation to London for my job has felt like a weight lifting from my shoulders. I no longer use a fake name for fear of being attacked because I’m ‘on the wrong side’. My work as an editor on Phil Mac Giolla Bháin’s book Downfall, about the financial collapse of Rangers, identified me as a worthy target of relentless racial and religious hate and it had a real effect on the way I lived my life in Scotland.

My case is one of only a number of incidents in recent years that have fuelled fears for some in the Catholic minority. The experiences of former Celtic manager Neil Lennon were high profile and utterly shameful. His time in Scotland was plagued with abuse, threats, physical assaults and attempts on his life. He was despised by his haters because of his Irish Catholic background.

In another incident last year, British soldiers took part in a sectarian sing-song in front of 50,000 people at Ibrox stadium. Neither Police Scotland, the Scottish authorities nor the Ministry of Defence took action despite national media coverage of the incident and video footage. One soldier was pictured holding a scarf alongside Rangers fans which demanded: ‘Keep Ulster Protestant’.

The notion that a Yes vote for independence will result in a cultural utopia where bigots and racists no longer exist is incredibly dangerous. The bigots and racists already exist. They will continue to exist in an independent Scotland, and they could end up with some power. No scenario can be ruled out. Only months ago independence campaigners gleefully promoted the ‘no UKIP in Scotland’ line, except the voters disagreed and UKIP gained its first MEP.

It is not inconceivable by any stretch of the imagination that these issues are influential for voters who belong to a minority that remains consistently the most targeted ethno/religious group in Scotland. The failure of Scottish society to fully recognise and respect the Irishness of many people born there is a key part of that residual anxiety about Holyrood with full state power. The Holyrood-approved marketing slogan is: ‘One Scotland, many cultures.’ Really?

Yes campaigners should be grabbing this debate and taking it on. Instead, raising the issue is often met with a hostile response on social channels. If voters are to be persuaded that they have a safe and welcome place in an independent Scotland, they should not be closed down when they bring up their concerns. Every vote counts.

This is the time for people in Scotland to ask what kind of country they really want to live in. We all have a place in this debate, and we should make sure we take it.

Comments (95)

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  1. gonzalo1 says:

    I work in a catholic school, Angela, I am a teacher and have worked in similar schools all over Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and West Dunbartonshire and I have seen very, very little of both racism and sectarianism. I have spoken to many teachers who will testify the exact same thing.
    To claim that it is a huge problem is a bit tricky because you have to provide the evidence and there is very little.
    What there is a problem is in many denominational schools where non-catholics are openly discriminated against due to them being secular, or worse still in the eyes of the school, lapsed. Catholic teachers often get promoted in schools right up to HT but you will never, ever find a protestant/secular/muslim/jewish teacher get anywhere near that position and that is both scandalous and discriminatory.
    So your claims of discrimination against catholics is absolutely absurd; in fact many will find it laughable. In many cases and in many places the opposite is the case.

    1. On the contrary, I said the days of discrimination are largely over and these concerns mainly affect older voters who still recall direct discrimination, and not younger voters who’ve grown up in different times.
      However, crime figures show Catholicism remains the most targeted in religious crime. That stat alone for me is evidence that we’d all do well to have a conversation about concerns people have.

      1. Stan Reeves says:

        Angela, I have worked with refugees, and migrants for 15 years. One of the most frequently asked questions of folk trying to make sense of the culture is. “Why are your young men so angry and get drunk all the time.” There are a lot of angry people in Scotland and they direct it at anyone they identify as different or a threat. Some times it is the Irish for sure. I was brought up in South Lanarkshire so lots of first hand knowledge. If it wasn’t you it will be someone else. The key question is “Where does this anger come from?” It sure wasn’t the Irish or the migrants that put it there. Poverty,ignorance,disrespect and lack of autonomy breeds bigotry. An independent Scotland has an opportunity to address some of these things, but only if we take them seriously.

  2. gonzalo1 says:

    In denominational schools only catholic teachers can get (highly-paid) positions in management in the school. West Dunbartonshire is particularly bad as many of promoted staff in the non-denominational sector are practising catholics. Some might say a classic case of having your cake and eating it.

  3. ” I have seen very, very little of both racism and sectarianism” except “only catholic teachers can get (highly-paid) positions in management”

    If you are for real I’ll eat my metaphorical hat.

    1. Come on James poor Gonzalo is a catholic school teacher……..aye right.

      1. gonzalo1 says:

        Naw, I teach in Catholic schools and get on well with the very mixed population of teachers and pupils. I have to enlighten you as to what the situation is in the school system nowadays. Many non-denominational teachers contribute greatly to the affairs of the school including various aspects of religious observation. They are greatly appreciated, but not enough to achieve promotion beyond that of Principal Teacher.
        Many pupils are Polish or from the Baltic states or from various African countries. They often do well, especially the Poles (and Slovaks) as, maybe, they have something to prove. The bulk of those pupils are Catholic and, it could be argued in these days of increased secularisation, keep the faith going against the secular tide. Catholic rituals are followed but few pupils pay any notice, to making the sign of the cross, for example.
        In Glasgow there are one or two catholic schools where a large proportion of the school population is actually Muslim, as are one or two non-denominational schools. I’m thinking of west/south-west side of Glasgow. In other words, it is changed days indeed.
        The days of catholic/protestant antagonism have largely gone though, in the schools at least. I have taught some fanatical catholic Celtic fans in non-denominational schools who have been largely accepted by their contemporaries. There are also a sizeable number of dyed-in-the-wool Rangers fans in denominational schools. Everything is mixed up nowadays and relations between the various groups are largely harmonious.

  4. Samjoh50 says:

    I am of an age where I can speak, with experience, of anti-Catholic/Irish discrimination. I was late to the cause of YES because, like you, I was wary of the fact that the percentage of bigots would, necessarily, increase where the population base changes from 63 million to 5 million. However, I have been greatly impressed by the new activists who have engaged in the debate, and I am quietly confident that, should Scotland vote for independence, a new political ethos will evolve. I firmly believe that, in the new Scotland, greater progress will be made in tackling all forms of discrimination.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Thank you for your comment. We have to have faith in the new forms, and its interesting that its the pro independence forces that are putting forward enshrined rights, exploring a written constitution and being open to these changes. We need to embrace diversity and be open to all cultures and creeds and recognise that the old divide and conquer tactics will fail when we are confronting real power and embracing sovereignty. If minorities are convinced that the old British State offers them a more secure future then that an extraordinary scenerio …

  5. Robert Graham says:

    i agree with gonzalo1 No more faith schools they promote religious intolerance thats where it starts division of small children and so it continues into adulthood keep education and religion separate as in the USA if you want a tolerant fair society try that for starters just a thought

    1. Unwittinglymine says:

      I went to a faith school and I wasn’t taught any form of intolerance towards any other faith, I was taught to respect others beliefs and taught about their faith in order that I would not be intolerant. I also received a fantastic education which I shared with many non catholic children whose parents specifically selected that school for the education of their children.

  6. rkb66 says:

    Whilst I am sure that there is still a minority of bigots in Scotland, and within that neanderthals who haven’t yet learned to use their words; it is less clear why this is an issue when it comes to making a yes/no decision on independence. What assumptions are being made in this article?
    This is not an issue for me, most of my ancestors have been crossing the Irish sea in both directions for centuries. However, if it is an issue – questions that could be asked are this?
    How does being part of UK, where Bishops from Church of England have special political privileges, make for a more egalitarian society?
    What other laws and dictates are we currently living under that we will never have an opportunity to challenge as a minority region?
    What opportunities are there in being part of a country that achieves change through peaceful, democratic debate?
    There is no one putting forward utopia as suggested on this issue or many others. Indeed the launch of the consultation for Scotland’s Constitution is to be welcomed and points exactly to that last useful question- what kind of country do we want to live in?
    However, the outcomes of the consultation will only be achieved by independence. This is an opportunity to contribute positively to the framework that Scots of all creeds, colours and races will live within. There are many who would like to see a purely secular constitution free from mention of religion. There are many who would like a declaration that proclaims we are a Christian country. I, personally, prefer secular with freedom worship or not as one chooses.
    For the avoidance of any confusion – definition of a Scot is anyone who lives in Scotland or registered to vote in Scotland but are serving overseas. How people choose to sub-divide themselves under that all encompassing term is entirely up to them. The first question is – Should Scotland be an independent country?

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      It’s a really good question in terms of our constitution – this came up in the talk from the Icelandic experience where they succesfully (correct if I’m wrong) disestablished their church.

    2. Keep the faith and pray for Indy and cross your thumps in a St. Andrew’s Cross so Jesus knows it’s a Scottish prayer lets get Indy first then we can deal with tolerance and diversity and educating people with narrow minds it’s not party politics for now if the yes vote start mentioning faith it would lead to more faith division as a builder a can understand the yes camp swerving the topic it’s a big issue and a sensitive 1 at that a good way of looking at it we don’t want it celtic v sevco at the ballot box the snp are scared to admit and hide stats to on we all know it’s there but we have came to far with the yes campaign to start wanting to creat division we all know there is a certian part of our society that hate we can change this once the Indy is in the bag via it being a political issue once we vote for new smps it’s nice of Angela to highlight this and don’t forget Alex said rfc were the fabric of our nation and the criminalisation of sing the roll of honer there is a big debate here and there is the issue of integrity a hope you’s found my comment welcome and further the debate with it am of to bed now as am up at 5

      1. rkb66 says:

        You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

        – Harper Lee –

  7. ferncake says:

    One of my fears as a Yes voter is that organised religion will demand some sort of status and more worryingly influence in an independent Scotland. There will no better template for an inclusive and tolerant society than to marginalise those strident, dogmatic voices which for long and weary have exerted a baleful influence in their pursuit of power and control.

    Dispiritingly I can confirm Gonzalo’s comments regarding teaching appointments in West Dunbartonshire, where an unholy alliance of the RC Church representatives, the local Labour Party and a partisan local print media still adhere to the discredited and discriminatory practices of yesteryear.

    1. yerkitbreeks says:

      Absolutely – already we are seeing the first signs of a jockeying for position in an iScotland from bits of institutional Scotland, and churches and faiths will be no exception.

  8. lastchancetoshine says:

    This is an interesting problem. You are suggesting that (part of) the Irish Catholic community fear increased sectarian discrimination whilst it is the sector of society most likely to discriminate that are also the most fervent supporters of the union.

    I would have thought this was a pretty strong argument for persuadng Irish Catholics to be supporting a yes vote.

    1. Those supporters of the union won’t disappear from Scotland in the event of a Yes vote. Gerry Braiden of the Herald has done some work on the Orange Order trying to mobilise at a grass roots level, community councils and such, to prepare for trying to gain more power in an independent Scotland. They disagree with indy, but they’re preparing nonetheless. If anything, unwanted independence in groups like those may give them a fresh purpose, one they don’t have when they feel their place within the union isn’t threatened. It’s an understandable concern for people of Irish Catholic background who know they’re in a minority.

      1. rkb66 says:

        FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real – who are ‘they’? Numbers, locations, etc. should be investigated thoroughly before making assertions as above. It cannot be assumed that a few people in Glasgow are representative of the Orange Order in Scotland; nor cannot it be assumed that all members of the Order are unionist and/or no voters. What is theOrange Order place in the union? Or is the order no more than an archaic relic with little to no relevance across Scotland, let alone E & W?
        What is the ‘purpose’ alluded to here? And why, Angela, do you think there is fear that sectarianism will grow rather than continue to be challenged towards extinction?

      2. Fear is a powerful thing, powerful enough to influence voters whether it’s rational or not, which is my point. You ask good questions, which is what I was hoping people would do after reading. I hope Yes will take such questions on a bit more prominently.

  9. Big Jock says:

    It can be summed up quite neatly for Catholics planning to vote no.Vote no to maintain the Union flag,the reason for Orange orders existence.To stop any chance of a referendum on removing the protestant monarchy.To maintain the no Catholics rule in the constitutional condition of the royal family.To keep and replace the unholy evil nuclear weapons.To maintain the wee Presbyterian Tory voters who run our nation from London.To keep your beloved British passport.Vote no and you are voting to say you are happy being described as a Brit.I am a catholic.I have only come across half a dozen nasty bigots in my life .The common denominator being they were all union jack waiving Brits not Scots.I differentiate between a Scot and Brit.It stops me feeling ashamed as I know real Scots are a different nation to Brits.I get really angry at Irish Scots with republican sympathies not seeing the irony in voting to maintain the British state.Its just plain dimwitted and utter stupidity.George Galloway and Jim Murphy are empire boys who are fighting tooth and nail to hold the empire together.There are some Catholics or Irish Scots you just can’t get through to.How can you have a reasoned debate with the logic of Galloway.Freedom for everyone except Scots as they don’t deserve it.I say leave the stupid people and concentrate on people with the brains and wit to think outside their prejudice.

    1. This timmy says yes fly the fleg lol

    2. yerkitbreeks says:

      Well said, Big Man.

  10. Gerry says:

    As an Irish national who has lived and worked in Glasgow for the last 18 years the only time i witness sectarianism is in and around football…The only examples you could give were also football related…99% of the people in Glasgow mix well and have no issues..You are clearly making mountains out of molehills..Being Irish has never been an issue for me in Glasgow….I find Glasgow a very welcoming city and i love it here.

    1. My best friend’s Canadian partner (now wife) moved to Scotland about three years ago. She has been abused a number of times in the street and on buses because of her ‘Irish accent’. Different people have different experiences. Important to take all into account.

  11. http://paddyontherailway12.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/dogs-and-stables.html?m=1

    This article is well interesting and focuses on the parody no types a thought it would show stats and a true insight I. To the mind of the no vote

  12. Big Jock says:

    Aye Jk wants to portray yes voters as anti English.We are anti ruling class establishment.That includes her and her only defence is to claim we are all nasty intollerent cybernats.While she is completely intollerent of Scots who want to run the country she lives in from that country.Which part of that does she find offensive.Its the old story the establishment fight like dogs to preserve their wealth and keep the peasants poor and powerless.Hang your head in shame JK.

  13. Hugh Wallace says:

    An interesting article and an issue that Scotland needs to tackle for sure. But I would add that this sort of sectarianism is primarily a problem of the Central Belt, and the West Central Belt at that, and is not a huge issue anywhere else in Scotland. I moved to Aberdeen from Glasgow 12 years ago (and prior to that lived in several places in the Highlands) and people up here simply do not understand or have to face these problems.

    You mention the percentage of hate crimes suffered by Catholics compared to every other religious group. While one incident is one to many as far as I am concerned, can you shed light on the actual number of such events? 63% of 100 incidents is a minor issue and is creating a mountain out of a molehill; 63% of 10,000 is somewhat more of an issue.

  14. Hi, the report is here if you want to have a closer look at the figures http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2014/06/1659/4

    One good thing is that the charges are falling, but year on year Catholicism remains the most targeted religion and given its minority size it’s very disproportionate. I think it’s relevant as a reference point on how the cultural/racial/religious aspects break down within the crime figures.

    Things have vastly improved over the decades. In some ways the figures are encouraging in the sense that the crimes are recorded – it’s when society is failing to prosecute abuse of minorities there is a much bigger hill to struggle up. That said, Scotland doesn’t do enough to clarify when abuse is really more about Irish ethnicity than religion. We are talking about religion because the two things are connected, but I’m going to take a punt that the targets in these figures are Irish Catholics, not Italian Catholics or other ethnicities. It’s the Irish that are the problem in parts of Scotland, they just happen to be Catholics. That has not been recognised properly and Irish Catholics are under no illusions about that. They’ve been called enough names to know what the problem is.

    After posting this blog I was contacted by a man who told me about a vicious attack on his brother by a group (all members of one family) who ‘left him for dead’, as he put it. The man’s brother was told he should leave town the next day and take his Irish flag with him. This happened only a few years ago. Such incidents might pass wider society by, but in smaller communities a lack of justice informs their view of authority and the wider environment.

    Even in the Neil Lennon case when he was attacked on live television, his attacker was acquitted of assault (despite admitting it) because of a legal technicality. When Lennon was sent bombs believed to be viable in the post, the charges against his would-be killers was dropped from attempted murder to assault. You can’t blame people from the Irish Catholic community from wondering how seriously this stuff is being taken.

    1. Hugh Wallace says:

      So what those figures show is that about 600 racially aggravated incidents (which result in criminal charges) occur each year of which roughly a third result in a conviction. Roughly a third of the incidents took place in Glasgow, roughly a third of the victims are police officers and roughly a third involve football matches, the latter two being high pressure factors that result in some of the most unreasonable behaviour from people who would otherwise typically be better behaved. I am a former police officer so you’ll forgive me for suggesting that some of these charges brought were a result of a disgruntled member of the public lashing out at a figure of authority rather than an orchestrated demonstration of anti-Irish or anti-Catholic behaviour. I would even suggest, as a former police officer, that a detainee calling me a ‘Tim bastard’ would definitely have resulted in him being charged even though I am neither a Tim nor a bastard so I could hardly be considered a genuine victim of anti-Catholic abuse though the law would recognise me as such. In other words, these statistics mean very little, other than to suggest that at a official level there is not much of a problem.

      I am of the opinion that any single incident of racial, religious or nationalistic intolerance is one too many but extrapolating approximately 325 anti-Irish/Catholic incidents a year throughout the whole of Scotland (population 5 million) to indicate a widespread problem is, I feel, stretching things a little too far.

      Can I suggest, as someone who was born in Glasgow and lived there for a decade during my 20s, that the author needs to realise that Glasgow (and immediate surrounds) is NOT Scotland and that there are a whole range of issues that effect that city that are not an issue elsewhere in the country and that there are countless other issues that effect those of us who don’t live there.

  15. manandboy says:

    http://www.theirishvoice.com/comment.html

    This is compulsory reading for anyone interested in the role of ethnic Irish traditional Labour voters in the Referendum.

  16. douglas clark says:

    So, Angela,

    Where do you stand?

    I know quite a few Catholics that are voting yes.

    Are they doing that because they think they will be increasingly discriminated against?

    Probably not.

    Or do they think, as I do that this is a complete nonsense of a description of a modern Scotland?

    I know a couple of Muslims that have said they are voting yes too. Is that also because they expect increased discrimination?

    Probably not.

    This entire article is based on victimisation that may once have been true, the ‘no Blacks, no Irish’ signs on some doors, but it has Sweet Fanny Adams to do with where we are now.

    Two of my hero’s in this world are Mo Farrah, who appears to be black, Muslim and English. My other is Georgie Best who appears to be white, Catholic and played for United. Not one of the terms I applied to them – black, white; Muslim, Catholic nor even English / Northern Irish means a damn thing to me.

    They are people I admire(d).

    Most people in this world are not so easily fitted into the sort of looking glass that you wish upon us.

    It’s OK.

    Civic Scotland, and that includes most of us, have hearts of gold and a complete dislike of prejudice. Else they are in the tiny minority that voted for UKIP. They tend to be noisy, but they also tend to point guns at their feet.

    Best wishes.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Douglas are you completely unaware of Angela’s experience? Your naivete is touching but it seems completely missplaced.

    2. A minor, probably insignificant, point Douglas. George Best was Protestant.

    3. gonzalo1 says:

      George Best was very much an Ulster Protestant.

  17. douglas clark says:

    Give us chapter and verse on the case on the ‘left for dead’ case please. Without clarity, no-one can comment.

    The ‘bullets in the post’ that Neill lennon experienced is probably not down to even cybernats but more, err.., shaddowy figures.

    No-one said it would be perfect Angela!

  18. @ rabthecab yes it’s mick hope ur well mate

  19. A very messy issue. I don’t believe the decision to try and avoid this issue is one borne from a desire to ignore the problem.. more from the divisiveness. It can and will cause in-fighting in the Yes movement at the exact time we need to be most united.

    Idealism is great but it killed the left in England and we should learn from that, whatever our political colour. By attempting to right every wrong too early, you end up ignoring the bigger issue immediately at hand, and lose the support of people before you’ve officially gained it.

    Speaking as an atheist and a raised Rangers fan, Sectarianism makes me sick to my stomach and frankly, some elements of the Rangers fan base make me exceptionally uncomfortable, so please don’t think I’m underplaying the problem, but lets get into the position where we are able to decide our own affairs before we decide what we should be doing with those powers. We can easily lose this debate if we fracture and start fighting it like a General election. It’s bigger than that.

  20. ian foulds says:

    Lots of interesting points on a subject I am loath to enter discussion upon – due to the fact that it is the biggest cause of trouble in the wWorld and it might be argued (by some) thatthey all need an overhaul.

    For a start – is there any possibility of the New Scotland recognising religions and (non-extreme) worship but that it be contained outwith education of our children and educational establishments?

  21. grumpydubai says:

    sorry about spelling errorss – back to school, methinks!

  22. Clootie says:

    Many of those who held key roles in the Irish Independence movement of the early 20th. Century were Protestant. Fairness and justice being their main driver.

    I am from a staunch Northern Ireland Protestant family and turned my back on that artificial division when I was a very young boy.

    Religion/Race/nationality etc are used to divide communities in order to keep the elite in command. The independent Scotland I envisage, and will work for, will have no place for such old abuses.

    I am very confident that those working for a YES vote will demand an inclusive and fair society.

    The union depends on keeping the old barriers in place – it enables them to keep control and to stop the majority getting organised.

    It was London who once again created the situation bringing in large numbers of Protestant families, mostly from Scotland, and giving them the best land in the North of Ireland.( I recommend Trinity by Leon Uris as a background novel)

    The Irish have had a history that makes them cautious of power change – but so have the poor of both nations. The Irish and the Scots helped build America (not my favourite example of a nation!).

    I’m confident if the Irish decedents in Scotland could ask their fathers and grandfathers to chose, they would not vote for London rule.

  23. kujawak says:

    I’ve engaged with a lot of people on twitter in the independence debate and of all the fears people have expressed I reckon the religious discrimination aspect is the most difficult to have an answer for. It’s all possibly one of the more common issues I’ve seen arise. There is a history of it in this country, and while that’s obviously happened as part of the union and has improved in recent years, there is still a sizeable portion of the electorate who experienced that discrimination first hand.

    The worry for them is that for all the progress that has been made – of which there has been a great deal – independence may open the door to acquiring power to those who would seek to reverse that. Whether that’s actually the case or not doesn’t matter – if people believe it is possible then it can affect how they will vote. I think we can all agree that an independent Scotland would have a massively changed political landscape, and while that may be a good thing in many ways I have no doubt it will open up a few more unsavoury avenues too. Such is the nature of change – everyone can see it as a chance to push their own agenda.

    This is what needs addressed by the Yes campaign. Keeping religion out of the independence debate is all good in theory – and I would even tend to agree to a certain extent as I want to see a non-secular independent Scotland that accepts all belief systems – but many of the people that will vote in the referendum are religious.

    Rightly or wrongly, the question here for many will be “how will independence affect me?” – I’d suggest “affect us” is the right question, but that’s a debate for another time. People will consider many aspects of that, including financial aspects and religious aspects. We’ve seen the battlegrounds drawn on finances, we’re bombarded with figures from both sides. “Ach it will all be fine, don’t worry about it” would not an acceptable answer when trying to wipe out the need for food banks, so why is it acceptable just to allay the fears of a group of people who were once met with difficulties finding a job purely because of their name?

    We all want to live in that fairer society, we just need to make sure we convince as many people as possible that voting for independence will do that and we won’t lose some of it along the way. Failing to do that by ignoring certain aspects that you consider a non-issue, in my opinion, is folly. They might be a non-issue to you, but they’re certainly not a non-issue to others.

  24. Iain says:

    Ah, it’s interesting. I understand that there are challenges faced by people in Scotland on account of the intolerance and prejudice of others, but I can’t reconcile that with the independence debate – unless someone can explain why or how these challenges would be exacerbated or salved in the event of a Yes vote.

    The deeply unpopular legislation relating to offensive behaviour at football games, for example, has been introduced within the Union and those who oppose it are not – so far as I can see – going to be in a significantly different position after the referendum, regardless of which way the vote goes.

    So I support discussion of the society we want for Scotland, I oppose discrimination in all its forms and I still am not sure how or why this issue would push anyone towards voting a particular way in September.

  25. If you’ve been reading my article or the comments below it (and that Irish Voice piece, good insight) then you should have a fair indication by now of why people relate these issues to independence.

    Also, the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act was introduced by the Scottish Government and passed by the Scottish Parliament. There was no input from Westminster. I’d guess if I credited every good move under devolution to Westminster because it happened within the union people would find it misleading, and the same can be said for trying to equate unpopular Scottish legislation to a problem with the union.

    1. Iain says:

      Ah, I’m not trying to equate unpopular Scottish legislation with the Union, I’m simply trying to understand what it is you think will change in the event of independence, specifically in respect of the concerns you note in your article here.

  26. I have no idea. Nobody does. We’re all trying to predict what life will be like in an independent Scotland, I’m just outlining some of the concerns I hear within my own community.

    1. Iain says:

      OK, thanks. I appreciate your response.

  27. John says:

    Although there are still examples of anti-catholic and anti-Irish behaviours the vast majority of catholic Irish immigrants face no problems whatsoever. What happened to Angela was unacceptable in modern Scotland. Will such behaviour be on the increase in an independent Scotland? I don’t believe so. Will it be on the increase if Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom? I don’t believe that either. Should it play a bigger part in the independence debate? Yes, it should. All issues should be discussed openly without fear of prejudice. Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are too many bigots in both sides. And I’m talking about the Yes and No camps here, not the usual Celtic/Rangers or Catholic/Protestant divide. These bigots are turning undecideds off participation. In fact, it will be no surprise in the turnout for the referendum is not as high as many in the Yes camp would like.

  28. ayrshire74 says:

    I firmly believe there is more anti english “racism” existing in Scotland than anti irish catholic racism. Tell me this though how can the average knucklehead differentiate between a catholic and an Irish Catholic in the street? I feel this creation of ethnicity is somewhat divisive

    1. Clootie says:

      You are of course entitled to your opinion. However I have seen no evidence of anti- English “racism”. I am aware of a strong anti Westminster stance.

      I work offshore with people from Newcastle, Manchester, Middlesbrough and we discuss the referendum often without any animosity.

      I have been working with the YES campaign from the start and a large number of my group are English (living in Scotland ). We also have other nationalities ( by birth) who now consider themselves Scottish.

      I have encountered unionists attempting to push/ claim this division.

      1. Clootie says:

        If you are from Ayrshire then I find your claim even stranger having lived there for 18 years. (70’s/80’s). I observed first hand recruitment in large plants and factories that still maintained the divisions of Belfast level bias as regards the employment of Catholics.

        However be it religion, colour, physical handicap, sex, age or any other difference – it is wrong.

  29. ayrshire74 says:

    btw i am not saying there isnt a problem here

  30. ‘Creation of ethnicity’? The discrimination Irish Catholics – more connected to their ethnicity than religion – in Scotland in previous decades is well documented. Irish Catholics were singled out, separated from Scottish Catholics in Kirk reports, and described as an alien race. Race was the problem, not religion.
    See Tom Devine’s comments here http://www.irishpost.co.uk/news/irish-scotlands-struggle-recognition-debated-coatbridge

    1. I think one of the most important quotes in Professor Devine’s piece is –

      ‘Average Catholics are “more comfortable with the way modern Scotland is going”.’

      In other words, yes, there was many examples of discrimination in the past, but, as the song goes, ‘in the past they must remain’.

      Isolated incidents such as Mr Limond’s behaviour towards Angela are definitely not the norm, nor the experiences of the vast majority of Catholics, Irish or otherwise.

  31. Donna says:

    Utter rubbish. It’s not just Catholicism that is going to be under threat in a newly independent Scotland, it will be all religions. Scotland will be a leading light in secularism, and I and many others are very much for this. In fact, it is one of my main reasons for voting Yes.

    We’ve had enough of the trouble and bother caused by religion in this country, so it’s time all you buffoons who believe in magical sky fairies were ignored.

    The reason Natalie McGarry doesn’t want to debate, is because believers are dangerous. You say anything negative about their faith they immediately start yelling ‘discrimination’.

    1. Magicial fairies in the sky what a thing to say you’ll rot in the bad fire with views like that

  32. Gerry says:

    I took the time to research your previous articles…You “Clearly” have an agenda…..Fact is Glasgow is a wonderful city where me and my fellow Irish have no Issue…., You would like to paint a picture where we are are persecuted for being Irish..Your article is 50 years to late!!!..Your trying to create problems where they don’t exist..One has to worry about your agenda here…

  33. orco says:

    My mother and all my grandpatrents were Irish. Of course they were discriminated against. My mother had many tales to tell. She came to Glasgow as a young woman in 1936 and worked there for the next 8 years until she moved to West Lothian when she married my Dad. I had lots of cousins still in Glasgow as I was growing up and I can confirm that it is a very different culture there.

    I wish religion was not mentioned in the context of the referendum. I am 68 years old and I have not experienced any kind of discrimination as an adult. I have many Catholic and non Catholic friends.

    Angela you are making the mistake of equating Glasgow with the rest of Scotland. There is no problem outside of that city and the main reason for any problems there is the existence of Celtic and Rangers. Too many followers of these two teams find it difficult to leave the past behind.

    I will welcome independence in Scotland and one wish would be for religion to be kept in churches, mosques and synagogues where it belongs. It has no place in politics.

  34. Adam says:

    Interesting article. I agree the government and society have not really formally recognised or engaged with the Irish community as much as they should have.

    However I would suggest that from these statistics and the overall hate crime statistics that other minorities have more to worry about than the Irish Catholic community. For example Islam represents 8% of hate crime from 1.4% of the population and 10% of race hate crime is committed against African minorities that make around 1% of the population. I know these are statistics that can be looked at in a variety of ways but to me they are equally worrying.

    Would be interesting to hear your take on this.

  35. Greg says:

    Angela,

    I am a Scottish Catholic of Irish decent living in the west coast of Scotland, much like yourself.

    I went to a catholic school which had an orange lodge located across the road from it, I can remember receiving abuse from one or two of it’s regulars but that was it, most of the others that attended it may not have liked having a catholic school next door but they got on with things. I left school 13 years ago and never since then has anyone treated me or any of my acquaintances in any sort of negative fashion based on my religion or heritage with the exception of at or around football matches.

    Let’s not muddy the waters here. There are not bands of angry men roaming the streets of Scotland abusing and assaulting Irish Catholics! Most crimes against Irish Catholics in Scotland happen at or are related to football. Neil Lennon would most likely not have been persecuted in any way were he a manager of an office in Glasgow. The fact is that he was hated by bigots and idiots because he was the Celtic manager. You most certainly would not have been abused by Limmond if you had not been associated with an agenda driven book revelling in the fall of Rangers FC.

    Unfortunately in west of Scotland society we have a real problem where idiots on both sides who peddle their own antiquated brand of hatred. This prevails around Rangers and Celtic where religious divides of 50 years ago are constantly dredged up and thrown in each others faces. I hate this about my country and my teams support.

    I often read both your own blogs and Phil Mac Giolla Bháin’s. You both are looking for a problem where one simply doesn’t exist. In a way you are no better than the clowns singing the ‘billy boys’ from the terraces at Ibrox, heads stuck in the past looking for a reason to persecute or be persecuted.

    The problem Scotland faces going forward is how to remove the radical religious element from football not ‘Anti-Irish Racism’, a term which makes me cringe every time I hear it, a term created by people such as yourself to play the victim card. Please don’t and please don’t presume to represent Irish Catholics in Scotland. You don’t.

    1. ayrshire74 says:

      tremendous reply Greg

    2. gonzalo1 says:

      Wallowing in victim status is a good expression here, as well as the words ‘agenda driven’. An excellent reply, sir, which just about sums up the whole issue.

  36. ellie says:

    As an Irish Catholic I fear the R.C church has more to worry about of it’s own making than anything Scottish Independence could throw at it. I agree with Gerry’s comments and question your agenda.

  37. alle55 says:

    The German religion, the Italian religion, Later! Focus in the referendum. Get free first.

  38. Angela Haggerty quite clearly has an agenda here. Like her collaborator, Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, she lives outwith Scotland, but comments on internal Scottish issues, in particular, like PMGB, repeatedly playing the poor put-upon Catholic card.

    It would be stupid and pointless to say the Irish Roman Catholic community in West-Central Scotland has not suffered many years of nogptry, often laced with violence, since their arrival in Scotland past the Famine.

    However, things are slowly, too-slowly for some, improving. There is not the same level of intolerance of Catholics in Scotland today as there was when I was growing-up. But still, a tiny minority within Scotland’s Irish Catholic community continue to play the religious victim card.

    I have seen Catholics suffer anti- Catholic, indeed anti-Irish Catholic bigotry, but, I, as a Scottish Protestant, have suffered the same bigotry at the hands of Scots-Irish Catholics. In football, the likes of PMGB, with his obsession with events concerning Rangers FC, attempt to heap the blame for religious bigotry in football upon that club, ignoring or playing-down the fact that the bigotry of a section of the Rangers support is mirrored across the city at Parkhead.

    MS Haggerty, like PMGB now comments on their pet subject from outwith Scotland – maybe her words would carry more weight if delivered from inside, rather than outside the tent.

    I have a Roman Catholic friend, an Old Aloysian and a teacher, who suffered religious bigotry within his profession. He applied for a promoted post at a Roman Catholic school, but didn’t get it, although he was the best-qualified candidate. He was “black-balled” by the Roman Catholic Church. His crime – he had married a Protestant and his children were being educated at the local non-denominational school.

    Sorry Angela, religious bigotry goes two ways in Scotland. But, we can hope a Yes vote will end this.

    1. To clarify for readers: I moved to London four whole weeks ago for work. Part of my decision for making the move was the appeal of getting away from the bigotry and racism I’d experienced in Glasgow.

      1. Me Angela am down Surrey way it’s a swept under the carpet situ every time am a manual work and have experienced the issue countless times manual people tell u to your face RC bastard while academic 1s are silent about it hope you have a great career in London your reputation in Scotland will stand you in good stead so it’s a big hail hail and keep fighting the good fight it’s been a interesting article and it’s been great reading the comments it’s wide spread in Scotland not just central belt or celtic rangers thing there mask slipped a long time ago bets no sporting advantage and so on huhumm

      2. ferncake says:

        When I was a young man, and that wasn’t yesterday, it always fascinated me how a few of those in my social circle could easily become involved in trouble in contrast to the majority who could go about their business, argue or debate their point and generally rub along with no great harm to themselves or anyone else.

        Suffice to say that I quickly put distance between myself and these idiots, as did most of my mates. A lifetime of living, working, socialising, debating and drinking on Clydeside has allowed me to develop an antenna for avoiding people and situations which spell trouble. However, those with prejudices to feed, whether real or imagined, simply cannot afford to do that, as their raison d’etre evaporates, and those who continually seek out problems will find them more easily than most.

        When you stir shit don’t be surprised if some of it sticks to you.

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          So just to clarify, Angela being named as ‘Taig of the Day’ on an online radio show was her fault?

    2. rabthecab says:

      “she lives outwith Scotland, but comments on internal Scottish issues, in particular, like PMGB, repeatedly playing the poor put-upon Catholic card.”

      Were you in the shower before, during & after the Limond trial then? Even Bobby Ewing never took that long.

    3. gonzalo1 says:

      Another excellent posting, Socrates.

  39. John says:

    Angela, Thanks for your article which I very much enjoyed reading, not having what it takes I’ve been waiting for someone like you to raise the issue openly. Now, having read each and every reply, as a catholic of Irish descent, I feel very much better about voting yes. During my working life I suffered sectarian discrimination on too many occasions. That there is a marked decrease is now evident and I very much hope the trend will continue after independence. Am I right in thinking you recently relocated to a new job in London and that your home is still in Scotland?

  40. declan samuels says:

    If gonzalo is really a catholic school teacher I”ll eat my phone.

  41. Gerry says:

    Is this anti Rangers racism?? http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/disabled-celtic-fan-jailed-battering-3729519 …No..its just another example of how a few bad apples ruin it for the rest…Stop going out of your way to feel offended Angela and get on with your life.

  42. The ‘she has an agenda’, ‘she’s just offended’ and ‘she’s playing the victim’ comments are vindicating the dismissiveness I talked about in the article.

    1. kate says:

      i agree . they are defensive and angry, like people that are in denial. the relationship of the lowlanders to highlands and gaelic is another area of denial. lowland scots virtually ignored the highlands until about 20 years ago, when gaelic was re discovered in the lowlands during nationalism’s latest incarnation. gaels were repressed in scotland as barbarians both before the union & after after the ’45, when language, race & religious prejudice came together, as it did against the irish. tartan became an imperial trophy dress appropriated from a defeated gaelic culture throughout the nineteenth & twentieth centuries, the mark of a british imperialism which had the full participation of the scots. the scottish imperialist relation to northern ireland is significant. if your response is that these kind of longstanding prejudices and colonial histories are all in the past so just shut up, that is speaking the universal language of colonialism. do you want a new scotland with a history that is a whitewash?

  43. Jay Dee says:

    Ms Haggerty should beware of using those crime statistics in an uncritical way. Apart from anything else, they could be used to suggest that Catholics, who make up just 16% of the population are committing the 29% of the offences that were anti-Protestant.

    However, the figures should be viewed far more critically than that. It should be noted that the religious affiliation of any victims is not actually recorded, only the nature of the abuse. Moreover, more than half the victims are police officers or others working with the public, whose religious background the offender wouldn’t actually know. A typical situation is a drunk getting arrested and abusing the police officer concerned.

    Also, there are several times more racially-aggravated offences than religiously-aggravated ones. If the figures really show that Scotland has a terrible problem with sectarianism then the country must be absolutely awash with racist offences. Do we think that’s so?

    In fact, Scotland today is a place where overwhelmingly folk of various religious affiliations or none get along fine and opportunities are open to everyone.

  44. jim says:

    Angela being Irish is a nationality not a race, put a welsh,English and scotsman in the same room with an Irish man all of same hight bulid and colour of hair and no one speaks, how would you know who is from where ?

    Why is there no state funded Protestant school in glasgow with only highly paid Protestant teachers in the posts?

    why do you feel the need to have fully state funded Roman catholic schools where non Roman catholic tax paying teachers can reach the higher posts within these schools

    why did the Roman cathoiic church in Glasgow feel the need to try and remove all non Rc staff from rc state funded schools.

    majority of my friends all through life have been Rc, my other half is Rc season ticket holder main stand at parkhead, my family is from both sides of Ireland and and over the years of drinking and partying with Irish people and friends, i have not once heard any shout that they were a victim.that seems to only happen on planet Angela.

    wonder how many councilors and mp/msp are RC, how many Lord provosts have been non Rc over the last thirty years.

    a lot of what you say will never add up in the real world where everyone i work with drink and come from different backgrounds..

    last point, i never reported when i was attacked after a Rangers celtic game, nothing todo with religion or nationality, just a few celtic minded bigots.

    stop playing the Irish victim card, like the lad that cried wolf, eventually noone listened.

    1. jim says:

      should read “tax paying teachers cant reach the higher posts within these schools”

      1. Jim your a bigot mentioning kids schools who mentioned schools that’s not the topic we pay our taxes and add to society via merit we like our kids to pray and learn about RC values it works well both for Scotland and our kids there is lots of people of different races and faiths teach in RC schools your comment is weak

    2. The labour council timmy there schools heard it all before jim the stats don’t lie minority reporter huhumm

      1. jim says:

        spelling, enough said!!!

      2. Archie says:

        Bampot, does your keyboard not have a full stop button? I am knackered reading your posts.

      3. Hi jim sorry a didn’t get back to you sooner just catching up on replies to various sites a blog on what a silly response spelling mistakes enough said cat must have well and truly cough your tougue there am a builder a manager spelling and grammar is not big on my list of achievements but it has never held me back in life am famous for typo errors and proud of it . Reponces like yours are sad and prove you feel superior cause you can set out a comment well it’s content that’s king in cyberspace not well spell ramblings of a nut nut

      4. jim says:

        typos are not spelling mistakes, people being discriminated against dose make them the bigot, agreeing with the discrimination makes you the bigot and also those that are doing the discriminating. Hopefully your boss see’s people for what they have to offer and not the way you think they should be.

      5. rabthecab says:

        Jim, Archie intellectual snobbery should have no place in the debate. Yes, Bam’s somewhat Joycean prose might leave you short of breath, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an opinion, and as much right as the rest of us to comment.

        PS Jim “dose make them…”? Hello pot, meet Mr Kettle.

  45. bellacaledonia says:

    To ‘Big Pete Crenshaw’ – feel free to write for us or leave proper comments, but offensive ones won’t be published.

  46. DG says:

    I find this anti-independence attitude irritating enough that i actually have to comment. The current issues with Catholicism in Scotland all stem from a footballing rivalry. To say otherwise at this stage is silly. whenever you have two teams identify with binary sides of any divide, the other side will be demonized. Sporting rivalries can bring out the worst in people. Sadly, the only thing that will get rid of the sectarianism and racism that still exists in glasgow and Scotland in general is to get rid of both teams. As a Celtic fan I hate that this is how it is, but it is. Accept the hate that goes with it or not. Any worry of some sort of institutionalized anti-Catholicism in this day and age is nonsense, and so people are right to roll their eyes at it and treat the subject as a distraction from what really matters. Down with the union. Up Scottish independence. That’s all that matters.

  47. ayrshire74 says:

    I find it curious Angela ( who I do admire greatly) states about issues affecting her community? Is this in itself not divisive, all jock tamsons bairns and all that. I could probably categorise myself as an anglo irish scots catholic, but i dont I am Scottish.

  48. That’s your choice, it’s everyone’s choice to define themselves as whatever feels right for them. Nobody should face discrimination, hate or ridicule because of their identity or ethno/religious background. In Scotland history shows that has not been the case.

  49. Duncan Ritchie says:

    First things first, I detest anybody who discriminates against anyone based on gender, sexuality, race, religion or age. I have always, and will always, treat people for who they are and not what they are.

    Angela, your blog is misleading. The report that you mention in your blog gives figures on crimes against Roman Catholics, nowhere does it segregate it in to Irish Catholics.

    In paragraph 7 of your blog you mention figures recently released, figures from this report http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2014/06/1659/4 please tell me where Irish Catholics or community are mentioned? Whereas in paragraphs 1, 4 and 5 you talk about Irish community. From this you may be misleading your readers in to thinking the report is about the Irish Community as opposed to the Roman Catholic community.

    I find it somewhat ironic that the stats you have used are generated, in part, by the very bill you want removed from Scotland the OB bill.

    3.2 These trends may have been influenced in the last two years by the separate use of charges under section 1 of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012.

    In a recent tweet you stated that Catholics were targeted 63% of the time in religious attacks, you didn’t differentiate between Roman Catholic and Irish Catholic, you left it as Catholics. There are two further pieces of important information that you omitted while quoting that statistic, a) the religious persuasion of the perpetrator was unknown and b) the religious persuasion of the victim was unknown.

    Now I don’t know about you, but if you put 5 random people in a room I couldn’t tell their religion or their nationality I may be able to tell their race but that’s all so I can’t see how those 63% could have been targeted.

    I’m a great believer in statistics, I use them on a daily basis, and I think it’s important to look at the key statistics in the report.

    1. In 2013/14 there were 587 religiously aggravated charges made in the whole of Scotland, which as a % of the population is 0.01% (population based on 2011 census of 5.25m)

    2. 63% of that figure equates to 367 charges of anti-Roman Catholic abuse or 0.007% of the population. As far as I’m concerned one crime is too many, but I also do not agree with people stoking fires that are not there.

    3. All religious crimes are down from 2012/13 by 15% and that should be highlighted and commended.

    4. Looking at where the offences took place, 73% of the crimes took place in Central/West Scotland, and the two peak areas were Glasgow 35% and North Lanark 11%. These figures show that it’s a regional problem not a national one.

    5. 48% of the victims were police officers, and you didn’t see fit to highlight that.

    6. 64% of the offences took place while the perpetrator was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

    While it is distressing for anyone one to be the abused in any way I don’t see Scotland as a hotbed of sectarianism or racism. I work throughout the Scotland on a daily basis and have done so for the last 15 years and only once has religion/football been brought in to the equation and that was in Glasgow where I was accused of being a “hun”. I have worked with and have friends who are Irish and the last thing I would ask is what religion they are, again to reiterate what I stated earlier, I look at people for who they are not what they are.

    Finally, last week in a tweet you insinuated that I was a bully and a troll, of which I am neither. I was only asking you to clarify points made in your tweets that were misleading and you didn’t like being questioned. I wrongly stated that you had lied in a tweet where in actual fact it was more misleading, for which I apologise, but I would never try to shut anybody up, as I believe in freedom of speech and everyone has the right to an opinion.

    1. Paul Moody says:

      excellent post. Cheers for pointing out that stats exist to be interpreted/twisted to suit any agenda. Perhaps Angela would be better served staying in London which is apparently a discrimination-free utopia, than live in this hotbed of sectarianism which apparently independence will exacerbate.

      1. Duncan Ritchie says:

        one of the other disappointing aspects with this blog is that when anyone points out errors/inaccuracies in it and is trys to engage in a debate with the writer, the writer of the piece ignores you. If i am wrong with what i said please let me know where i am wrong. If I am correct then own up to your errors. As i tell my sons all of the time, be aware of your strengths in life but more importantly be more aware of your weakness’s

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