The Unexceptional Face of Scottish Sectarianism

The latest debate about “sectarianism” in Scotland only came to light because a man had spent so long out of Scotland that he’d forgotten that this was routine, everyday, normalised. Most managers, most fans, most broadcasters have become so inured to this state of affairs it has become just background noise.

The reality is that sectarian and racist abuse in Scotland is structured, institutionalised and commercialised through football and associated organisations and the abuse Steve Clarke faced is unexceptional and experienced week in week out.

This tells us something about the state of inertia and conservatism in Scottish society, in a country where about half the population are determined for constitutional change, and about half are determined to stay wedded to a Union.

And let’s be in no doubt, whilst there are nationalists of all hues and persuasions on a spectrum from republican to soft Yes pragmatist, there are also unionists ranging from true-blue loyalists to centrists nestling in unquestioning British conformity. But the persistent malignant form of sectarianism and anti-Irish racism can only exist in the context of British nationalism. Without it, it has no voice and no home. That’s an uncomfortable historical fact.

The responses to Steve Clarke’s appeal after his sides defeat at Ibrox were the routine and reflex of victim blaming and the construct of false equivalence.

Cat Boyd wrote: “Reading this morning that catholic schools are somehow to blame for ‘sectarianism’ and not the shameful legacy of anti-Irish racism and anti-catholic bigotry that has plagued Scotland for many years. Who knew.”

And Irvine Welsh noticed that “Everybody should go to the same type of school” is the liberal Trojan horse of sectarianism – though its proponents rarely advocate this for social class. (Though I believe that everybody should).”

These lazy myths are trotted out every time, but the advocates of school reform are curiously silent in-between.

Equivalence – the idea of “both sides are just as bad ” is bandied about but bares no scrutiny.

In fact what is neglected is the stark evidence that of the 7000+ religiously aggravated hate crimes 55-60% have been anti-catholic in nature. This is despite this community being only 16% of the population.


There is no equivalent to the Orange Walks to the scale of loyalist intimidation or to the threats against journalists that has been witnessed in recent years. This is not to say there isn’t racism bigotry and sectarianism in all communities and amongst virtually all football clubs, there clearly is.

As the writer and Co-Founder of the Rangers Standard Alasdair McKillop told us:

“Sectarianism seems to me to be a freewheeling form of intolerance, now devoid of any economic or political implications it had in the past. It speaks to a failure of common decency as much as anything. Occasionally it is more serious than that. So far as I can tell, the public debate seems not to have advanced a great deal in terms of sophistication, quality or, most importantly, honesty. It is characterised by inconsistency and the worst sort of tribal bad faith. The only valid starting point is to acknowledge no one has clean hands.”

But the equivocation and refusal to look at transparent evidence is part of the problem that goes through a media filter that can’t cope with addressing the source of the issue face-on and insists – as it does on other matters – in weighing everything up in a misguided search for a mythical balance.

If we have victim-blaming and false equivalence we also have a lot of hand-wringing and worried quizzical faces as if the answer was not well-known and well proven, as if nowhere else in the world had these problems and if nothing could ever be done.

The answer, as everyone knows, is Strict Liability, the system that works throughout Europe.

Dave Scott from Nil by Mouth explains:

‘Strict liability’ is UEFA’s standard for fan behaviour and can see sanctions imposed, such as fines, points deductions or closing sections of a ground where offensive behaviour or crowd disorder has taken place. It has been used to great effect in European matches and over the last decade this has included fines for Scottish teams in European competition. In possibly the most serious sanction imposed under the principles, CSKA Moscow, having seen fans charged with racist behavior on three separate occasions during 2014, were forced to play three Champions League games behind closed doors and were banned from selling tickets for away fixtures.”

“No one is advocating that, in Scotland, we should simply leap into a round of ground closures but Strict Liability provides a clear framework for reporting and dealing with instances of disorder and offensive fan behavior including sectarianism and racism. Something you’ll struggle to find in the nearly two-hundred-page SFA rulebook.”

He concludes: “Strict Liability would not replace the law of the land; nor will it be a ‘magic bullet’ to solve all the problems. What it will do is provide a positive direction of travel for the game in terms of tackling anti-social behaviour and a framework to support or punish clubs as required.”

But if the solutions are staring us in the face, why aren’t we implementing them? Timidity and a complete lack of political will or direction is the answer.

In June 2013 Scottish clubs voted overwhelmingly against implementing UEFA’s ‘Strict Liability’ principles without any real public debate or, any fan involvement in the decision-making process.

The clubs don’t want it because it would force them to put their own (big) house in order.

We have clubs that are more powerful than our governing institutions and a media reliant on them for paper sales, and a government unable to act with any authority or strategy. That is a structural deficit.

Despite the death of the Old Firm we are required to maintain a fantasy that it still exists, and maintaining fantasies is something us Scots are experts in.

Rangers statement following Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke’s comments about sectarian abuse at Ibrox: “Rangers wishes to make it clear unacceptable behaviour will not be tolerated at Ibrox. Everything will be done to eradicate this kind of behaviour.”

Nobody really believes this.

We’ve heard it for decades. It’s a drone of denial that has echoed down the years.

As the football writer Andrew Smith wrote this week: “Scottish football clubs and authorities have it in their power to rid the game of sectarianism, they simply choose not to do so.”

The Sports Minister must act with some authority, some ambition, some independence and impose Strict Liability.

Scotland can either stay stuck, broken, disfigured by bigotry, or it can begin to mend itself and change and grow. Unlike so many areas of our lives this is entirely within our own powers right now.

Comments (71)

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  1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Have you checked with James Kelly et al, if ‘Strict Liability’ would be acceptable but there again they don’t believe any problem exists!!!

    1. Me Bungo Pony says:

      James Kelly would ask his mates what they think and then claim the people of Scotland had spoken.

  2. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Of course, sectarianism is wrong and causes a great deal of distress, up to and including murder and, as a society, the people of Scotland need to examine their attitudes towards it – and it is present not only in football stadia nor is is associated only with football. Although I am not a Roman Catholic, the view which Ms Cat Boyd has expressed is one which I have held for many years.

    However, I think we have to take a longer historic view and try to put this into some kind of context. For as long as I can remember – and I am over 70 – the kinds of reactions which you have quoted have been routinely trotted out with little attempt (other than the now rescinded ‘Offensive Behaviour at Football Grounds Act’) to make significant changes. Undoubtedly, sectarianism is far less obvious and far less evident in Scotland than it was in the 1950s and 60s. To make such an assertion usually brings forth spluttering indignation from those who dub it things like ‘Scotland’s Secret Shame’ (there was nothing ‘secret’ about it, Lord McConnell). A couple of years ago, Professor Tom Devine published an article in the (then) Sunday Herald, using the statistical techniques he has employed to great effect in his wider historical research. In the article, he demonstrated that it was a much smaller aspect of Scottish life than it had been and was continuing to decline.

    Undoubtedly, football in Scotland needs to be much more determined to deal with this, and, I think that we also need to break the ‘they are all the same’ trope. Undoubtedly there are amongst some groups of Celtic supporters some pretty nasty people, but Celtic has never been institutionally sectarian as Rangers were for about 70 years from 1910, and probably still is but in a more covert way. Hearts, Airdrie, Motherwell, for example have fairly long-standing sectarian fans.

    The treatment of Mr Neil Lennon over a number of years has been appalling and the tone of the media has often been ‘he brings much of it on himself’ – classic victim blaming. While the treatment this week of Mr Steve Clark was appalling, I think it is stretching things a bit to claim that he had forgotten what it was like.. He has been managing in Scotland for several years, he has, over the years, visited family in Ayrshire, and, only the previous week, one of his players, Mr Kris Boyd, was subjected to abuse and, indeed, struck by a coin.

    Schools have done a great deal over many years to deal with the issue and that is to be commended. They have established firm policies and practices over many years, which not only record the number of incidents but also set out ways of dealing with incidents as well as the topic being part of social education programmes. I was involved in schools football over several decades and there were few problems when non-denominational schools played Roman Catholic ones – teachers, referees and parents took prompt action if this was manifested. They took the same approach when pupils were abused because of their ethnicity.

    At Partick Thistle, in the stands, for several years now, if any people have engaged in racist, sectarian or homophobic abuse, a large section of the crowd has drowned them out and expressed disapproval.

    Let us use the unfortunate incidents with Messrs Boyd and Clarke to embark on a meaningful campaign.

    1. Me Bungo Pony says:

      There is no sectarianism at Motherwell. Catholics and Protestants both support and play for the team and always have.

      1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

        It is some time since I had an association with Lanarkshire (c 1993) and I knew several ‘Well supporters, who often called the club ‘The Wee Rangers’. Some of the had family who were members of the Orange Lodge

        If, since the club was taken into community ownership, this has changed, then I welcome it wholeheartedly. I am happy to be corrected on such a matter.

        1. Me Bungo Pony says:

          I cant speak for what a few people think or say when they are away from the ground or what is in their hearts when they are in it. That is their own personal thoughts. But ‘Well fans do NOT sing sectarian songs and never have. They have never openly shown any bias against any players due to their “religious” background. So it is incorrect to say there has ever been a sectarian side to the club. They are a club that has always suffered due to the sectarian side to the Old Firm with many fans that would normally have supported the local team deciding to support the “Catholic” or “Protestant” one instead.

          ‘Well-fans, and the fans of other “non-aligned” clubs, have often been referred to as “Wee Tims” by the Rangers support and “Wee H*ns” by the Celtic support. Old Firm fans cannot conceive of a club that does not align itself along the lines of the Old Firm so invent a bias to suit themselves. Some individuals in the targeted support may try to retaliate by taking on the mantle of that bias but, as you described about Thistle, it is soon put down by the overwhelming majority of the support who want no truck with sectarianism , having their club tarnished by it or re-enforcing the invented beliefs of whichever Old Firm rabble happen to be in town.

          1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

            I stand corrected. I was, probably, basing my opinion on the attitude of, literally, one or two Motherwell supporters whom I knew quite well.

  3. Jo says:

    I think it is typical of the SFA to whine that they can’t do anything and force the whole thing on to government.

    They are lying. There’s plenty they can do.

    I think the media plays its part too in stirring it up. Constantly.

    The players often don’t help either, and they’re at both Celtic and Rangers, through their behaviour on the pitch. They know the rules yet frequently flout them. The SFA need to remind clubs to warn their players that breaching rules will be punished.

    Yesterday I listened to Kris Boyd referring to the sectarianism in Scotland as all, “part of the price of playing for Celtic or Rangers”. How do you deal with idiots like that? He also added that he’s used to it, that it’s, “water off a duck’s back” and he’s, “made a good living from it”. As an ex Rangers player, now at Kilmarnock, was he subtly telling his own manager, Steve Clark, to get over the abuse he received at Ibrox last week? That it’s just the way it is up here?

    Elsewhere, we had the football commentator Chick Young and an ex Rangers player apparently blaming “Catholic schools” for the existence of sectarianism. Personally, I think Young should be sacked for the remark. He was working when he made it. He was spouting his own sectarian views and stirring it up. Sportsound should dump him. If he’d said Jewish Faith Schools create anti-Semitism his feet wouldn’t have touched the ground!

    Sectarianism is taught in the home, not in Scottish schools. Which is why so many of us emerge from the Scottish education system free of the stain of sectarianism while others swim in the stuff …..because they learn it at home!

    Where I disagree with the article is, I hold both sides responsible for the sectarianism. It’s at both Celtic Park and at Ibrox. That’s a fact. Pretending otherwise doesn’t help.

    1. Josef Ó Luain says:

      Hi Jo, an example of green-on-blue sectarianism would be welcome.

      1. Jo says:

        I suggest you open your eyes and your ears.

        1. Chris Connolly says:

          If the coin thrown at Kris Boyd by a Celtic follower last week wasn’t a sectarian attack then what else was it? The behaviour I saw on television from some of Celtic’s supporters was dreadful. I felt sorry for the people of Kilmarnock at their town being invaded by such bullies, and glad that Celtic’s captain was sent off for his moronic antics after scoring the winning goal, as if the richest club in Scotland defeating Killie’s comparative paupers was an amazing achievement!

          Both the Auld Firm are a disgrace to Scotland. I’d like to see them both thrown out of the League (Rangers should never have been allowed back when then the original club went bust), their players distributed to other clubs and their grounds turned into allotments so they could produce fresh vegetables instead of hatred and hooliganism. Use as much manure as you like; both Ibrox and Celtic Park would still smell better if peas replaced the pea-brains that have been congregating there for the past 130 years.

      2. Swiss Toni says:

        Celtic supporters glorifying the Provisional IRA would be an obvious example.

        1. That might be something you really dont like – but its not sectarianism – “Sectarianism is a form of bigotry, discrimination, or hatred arising from attaching relations of inferiority and superiority to differences between subdivisions within a group.”

          Celtic supporters glorifying the IRA may be something you don’t like but its political not religious in its nature.

          1. Andy S says:

            Your own prejudices are showing. PIRA carried out nakedly sectarian attacks on Protestants – the burning to death of Yvonne Dunlop, La Mons, Kingsmill, Enniskillen, repeat attacks in border areas, Shankhill Road, Bayardo bar to mention a few.

          2. Alastair McIver says:

            You cannot seriously believe that the Celtic FC/ IRA connection is not sectaian.

          3. seonaidh says:

            Sectarianism does include the pro-IRA songs sung by some Celtic fans.

            This from Wiki:
            Sectarianism is a form of bigotry, discrimination, or hatred arising from attaching relations of inferiority and superiority to differences between subdivisions within a group. Common examples are denominations of a religion, ethnic identity, class, or region for citizens of a state and factions of a political movement.

            This from Nil by Mouth:
            Although sectarianism is rooted in religion it is often linked to cultural, historical and political differences. It is frequently argued that in recent years this type of intolerance of others has little link with history or association with religion itself.

            From the Cambridge Dictionary:
            caused by or feeling very strong support for the religious or political group that you are a member of, in a way that can cause problems with other groups

            Anti-Irish racism and hatred towards Catholics or other religions in society at large is part of the problem. In football, both sides ramp up the hatred with their ownh brand of sectarianism. It is offensive and hateful. We should condemn both.

    2. The SFA didnt whine they cant do anything (though they dont do anything).

      I have to agree with you about Chic Young and your anti-semitism point is well made.

      When you say “both sides” are responsible I do say that “This is not to say there isn’t racism bigotry and sectarianism in all communities and amongst virtually all football clubs, there clearly is.”

      But you have to address the issue of equivalence with seriousness and address the facts. There is simply no equivalence as I lay out.

    3. Derek c says:

      When I read how do you deal with idiots like that I thought you meant cat Boyd and not kris..let’s deal with cat I got torn to shreds on question time Boyd first..if she believes the world is less than 8000 years old and creationism should be taught in schools..and children that play with each other from0-5 should then be separated whilst living in the same street and in the 21st century any faith schools should exist in an increasingly secular society she should be in the old drunkard Christopher Hitchens so eloquently put it(you tube Hitchens faith schools )cultural suicide..cultural suicide(he said it twice for good measure) but I digress..not only should there be no faith schools and the blatant division it evidently creates..the church and state should be separated as well (bloody baked bean as head of state wtf?)it’s the only way for a progressive Scotland people like to for kris Boyd he gets alleged (I wouldn’t call it )sectarian abuse about on a par with mr Clarke’s .. and skelped with a coin and he’s the idiot??now the Ed thinks orange b is a bit naughty.. I’m not convinced..who decides what’s right ?it will be the type of person you wouldn’t want deciding that..trouble is the numskulls that follows both clubs puts a lot in the coffers of each team.. hence the reluctance to stamp it out..and the strict liability every club in Scotland voted against..

    4. Jack collatin says:

      I am reluctant to dip into this hoary old tiresome chestnut, but, if Chic Young explains Celtic supporters ‘sectarian chants as the product of segregated schooling, how does he explain the thousands up to their knees in Fenian Blood who attended non denominational schools?
      Celtic and Rangers makemillions out of hatred and divide.
      Strict Liability is the only way to drive this garbage from Scottish Society.

  4. Jamsie says:

    Your partiality shines through Mr Ed in more ways than one I might add.
    For the sake of accuracy you could and should have said that less than half support breaking away from the union and a majority favour remaining.
    Pesky facts eh?
    They always get in the way.
    As Jo says sectarianism is a two way street and neither side should be claiming the moral high ground.
    And support for terrorist murderers who often killed their own should not be confused as having been fighting for freedom.
    There are still numerous Irish Catholic families whose loved ones were murdered by these “freedom fighters” and they have never been allowed to even grieve properly and bury their own.
    Instead contemptuous evil b……..ds like Adams and McGuinness stood by and allowed their puppets to inflict such atrocities on their own people.
    And I haven’t even started about the hundreds of innocent people killed in bombings.
    At a certain football ground in Glasgow their fans associate the club history with such atrocity and actively celebrate it.
    There is no place for this in any society which calls itself civilised.
    Neither culture has anything to be proud about but there is something odious about so called calling out by people tarred with the sickening sectarian brush which is mired in hypocrisy and a singular failure to see that cause and effect can be hidden behind by both camps.
    People in glass houses etc!

    1. Darby O'Gill says:

      The current polls show a roughly 50%/50% split between YES and NO at the moment. The article did say ‘about half…’

    2. I never claimed to be partial, and in the face of relentless bigotry I’m glad not to be.

      The polls hover at about 50/50 Jamsie – but it doesn’t really make much difference to the argument I’m putting forward.

      I get that you don’t like the song sheet at Parkhead but the point you seem to be missing is that alot of this might be politics you disagree with but its not “sectarian” its just something you find objectionable and disagree with, that’s not the same thing at all.

      You haven’t really taken on board the whole point about false equivalence at all, have you?

      1. Jamsie says:

        Mr Ed
        You ably demonstrate your partiality.
        How do you explain the sectarian utterances using words like hun, the klan, orange b……ds, Masonic b…….ds etc etc?
        Are these not sectarian thus part of sectarianism?
        Now who is it who utters these descriptions against Protestants?
        Are these not sectarian?
        How can you possibly characterise these as political?

        1. Jamsie says:

          And as for false equivalence can you explain why the whole idea of sectarianism or racism against Irish Catholics does not fall into this category?
          I have always been amused by the whim that it is only Irish Catholics who are supposedly subjected to racism and sectarianism.
          Why not all Roman Catholics?
          Or do people tarred with the sickening sectarian brush only suffer abuse because of their Irishness.
          You really couldn’t make this up.
          Both sides are as bad as each other.
          Any normal person who displayed any sense of objectivity would understand that.

        2. Yes there is anti-Protestant sectarianism and someone calling someone a Dirty Orange Bastard would be guilty of it, no doubt.

          But there is a distinction. Someone advocating a United Ireland or being a republican can do so as an atheist or an agnostic with absolutely no interest in religion.

          You are confusing *politics you disagree with* – with sectarianism.

          The point about equivalence is not to argue that there is NO sectarianism from each side but to argue that they are not comparable in scale.

          Which they clearly irrefutably are not.

          There is simply no organisation comparable to the Orange Order that exists in Scotland to promote anti-protestant bigotry. It simply does not exist.

          I do cite the relevant govt research in case you missed this:

          This is an evidence based argument.

          1. Jamsie says:

            Mr Ed
            I do like a good report!
            You clearly have not read this which you claim to quote.
            And I understand very well the concept of false equivalence and logical fallacy.
            Interestingly most often proffered by journalists to try to make a point.
            Do let’s look at the concept based on what the report actually says.
            Would it be reasonable for example having read the report to consider that your one sided approach was based on an entirely misconstrued portrayal of the information contained in the report?
            For example approx 32% of the population were found to have committed approx 50% of the hate based offences against Catholics.
            And 16% of the population were found to have committed 32% of the hate based offences against Protestants.
            Taken by ratio what does this tell you?
            Now tell me about false equivalence again!
            Is it not the case that false equivalence requires that there is actually no basis for comparison?
            Your article was partial and one sided to the extent that it totally ignored religious or sectarian abuse preferring to call this political.
            Of course it is not and the lame suggestion that I and others are confusing political expression with sectarian abuse is laughable.

      2. Derek c says:

        There’s only about a paltry 50,000 left in the orange order .. and that will diminish as the years go by to a poxy few ..that’s roughly how many season ticket holders there is at Celtic park..about the equivalent..50thousand on each side spouting sectarianism..

  5. Richard Easson says:

    As a youngster going to East End Park I seem to remember Rangers played in blue and white. When did the red appear and the waving of Union Jacks and singing of God Save The Queen instead of The Sash. But then again the Queen is the defender of the Protestant Faith (i.e. Protesting against Catholicism), so I suppose it comes from the top really.

  6. Darby O'Gill says:

    A simple solution: if all the so-called decent supporters who provide cover for the bigots simply stay away for a few weeks, the loss of income would force the clubs to take action. They would also save themselves quite a bit of money and could still watch the highlights on Sportscene.

  7. florian albert says:

    ‘of the 7000+ religiously aggravated hate crimes, 55-60 per cent have been anti-catholic in nature.’ Despite Catholics being ‘only 16 per cent of the population.’

    On this, Professor Tom Devine was quoted – Sunday Times 1 April 2018; ‘the overwhelming majority (of ‘sectarian’ hate crimes) are of drunken young men shouting abuse at public figures such as police, bus drivers and bar staff, of whose religious persuasion they are entirely unaware’. ‘The data is being used in a naive and simplistic way.’

    Professor Tom Devine also said – The Herald 5 April 12017; ‘The sectarian beast is in its death throes and is the least of Scotland’s modern social problems.’

    1. Jamsie says:

      Ah statistics!
      The data set never lies does it?
      But that means 16% or less of the population are committing 45-50% of the aggravated hate crimes unless there are a load of Asians being convicted.
      Not sure if this fits with Mr Ed’s arguments but hey ho!

      1. Jamsie says:

        Or 40 to 45% even.
        Typing on a phone is not a good idea!

        1. Kieran says:

          If 55 to 60% of religiously aggravated hate crimes are anti-Catholic in nature then it just means 40 to 45% are against people other than Catholics. From the information given one can’t come to any conclusions on who committed any of these crimes either(and I mean that for both those percentages). It would be helpful if the number of anti-Protestant hate crimes was available in the article as this would give the reader a clearer picture.

          1. Jamsie says:

            The report is actually quite detailed.

  8. Statswoman says:

    Classic case of Prosecutor’ fallacy. Let me explain simply for you:

    If there are twice as many Protestants as Catholics. And 50% of all religious attacks are against Catholics and the rest are against Protestants. Then by definition a Catholic person is twice as likely to carry out a Sectarian attack than a Protestant person.

    The only logical inference you can draw from your statistic is that on average a Catholic person is more likely to commit a religious hate act than a Protestant one.

    Yours sincerely,

    PhD Statistics

    1. Andramac says:

      Dear oh dear, I’d hand back my PhD if I were you.
      If 50% of attacks are on Catholics then it doesn’t automatically follow that the other 50% are directed at Protestants.
      Have you forgotten that there are other faiths practised in Scotland?
      Obviously you have.

      1. James Curran says:

        Statswoman may not have acknowledged that sectarianism extends to those outwith the Catholic/Protestant context, but her point is well made.
        The most helpful approach to those statistics is surely to examine the motivation of the perpetrators rather than the identity of the victims.

    2. Derek c says:

      Another stat.. Catholics make up 15.9 of the population..and have hovered around the 25 percent mark this century in the prison population ..closer to 30 percent after the millennium… if it’s not at school their learning which the advocates of faith schools insist sectarianism isn’t then where are the large catholic convicts learning crime??it follows it must be at home…it can’t be with Protestants as they don’t fraternise with them..?the Ed loves a stat ..and bands them around willy nilly as if that wins the his bizzare assumption that there’s no old firm cos Celtic have double the turnover of their rivals..each club has always had the upper hand financially over the other one at some point…likewise on the could say the old firm died in the 90s then when rangers were dominant on and off the pitch..and for twice the income Celtic were 2nd best in last old firm game?? Go rangers in league no Brendan Rodgers here or sponsorship..or top tier of park head open .. me thinks the Ed’s got a bee in his bonnet cos his wet dream of an independent Scotland ultimately comes down to whatever way rangers fans decide to vote..more facts as they make up over 50 percent of Scottish voters…and that must stick in the craw

  9. the clincher says:

    Alistair McDonald; to claim that Rangers is ‘institutionally racist’ is to ignore the fact that the present manager is a catholic and Graeme Souness was married to one. There have been countless catholic players at the club and long before 1980.

    1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      Undoubtedly, the ‘Sounness era’, brought an end to the overt sectarianism practised by Rangers, principally with regard to the recruitment of players who were Roman Catholics. In the period between c 1910, when Mr John Ure Primrose was Chairman until Mr Sounness, became manager, I know of no players who were Roman Catholics. While it is possible that some players during the period were Roman Catholic, the number was very few and, usually, were moved out pretty quickly. Indeed, a number of players whose spouses were Roman Catholic were withdrawn from the staff.

      Remember Mr Jock Stein’s joke that if offered two players of identical ability, he would choose to sign the Protestant one, because he knew that Rangers would not sign the other!

      I was unaware that Mr Stephen Gerrard was a Roman Catholic, and that is as it should be. I was not claiming that Rangers have not changed, but, there is a substantial number (not a majority) who still adhere to the ‘Protestant Club’ ethos. And, sadly, ‘The Sash’, ‘The Billy Boys’ and ‘No Surrender’ are still heard from sections in the stands.

  10. Josef Ó Luain says:

    The quality and content of the debate regarding the question of “equivalence of responsibility” thus far leaves much to be desired. To simply argue that “one side’s as bad as the other” just doesn’t cut-it anymore; likewise the convenient conflation of politics and religion.

    An obvious problem here is the fact that most Scots have never been, and hopefully never will be, subjected to discrimination on sectarian grounds. Discrimination on sectarian grounds, remains as an abstract proposition for the majority of Scots.

    1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      Josef O’Luain,

      You make an excellent point with regard to the ‘equivalence of responsibility’. Indeed, on ‘Off the Ball’ last Saturday, this very issue was discussed. This is not something that almost every other Football programme on the media tackles.

      When condemning some appalling behaviour by one group of fans, almost invariably, I have received the response, “Ah but, THEY did xxxx.” as if this exonerates bad conduct.

    2. Jamsie says:

      Not sure your about your statement on discrimination.
      If people suffer sectarian abuse I think that is different from bring discriminated against unless you want to keep turning the click back and reliving old events which have longer ago been consigned to history.
      The division will always exist when each side fails to understand the damage they do to each other through blind hatred.
      The hatred exists on both sides and neither’s feeble excuses for continuing to hold grievance holds any credibility.

  11. Proud45% says:

    I don’t understand the context of the ‘death of the old firm comment’ the ‘old firm’ still meet in the league fixtures and cup possibly also,

    1. The old Rangers club died.

      Rangers, a football club in Scotland, entered financial difficulties during the late 2000s. The club, trading as The Rangers Football Club plc, entered administration in February 2012. It owed substantial amounts to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who subsequently refused to allow Rangers to exit administration via a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA). The Rangers Football Club plc entered liquidation on 31 October 2012.

      The refusal of the CVA forced the administrators to sell the business and assets of Rangers to a new company, operated by Charles Green. The other member clubs of the Scottish Premier League refused to allow the new company to adopt the league membership of the old company. Green then successfully applied for membership of the Scottish Football League. After obtaining the old company’s Scottish Football Association (SFA) membership, Rangers (now trading as The Rangers Football Club Ltd) entered the Third Division (the fourth tier of the Scottish football league system) in time for the 2012–13 season.

      If you take the minority view that its all the same and nothing happened, and for the point of avoiding extreme tedium we could do just that its still the case that the idea of two equal competing rivals is a nonsense.

      Here the Scotsman indicates Rangers have a market value of- 40.68m whilst Celtic have a market value of £82.31:

      Read more at:

      I’m not a Celtic supporter but its plain facts that the idea a of a thriving rivalry of two giants supporting Scottish football is just a fantasy.

      That’s all I meant. Sorry I should have been clearer…

      1. Proud45 says:

        ok, I have no idea about stuff like that, I only watch and I am involved in community football, one to note working with kids off all faiths backgrounds there doesn’t seem to be any issues with the younger generations, (13-17 age group) hopefully this bodes well for the future, also I do think that the bigotry is a two way street, and the Celtic fans are as responsible as the Rangers ones, the rivalry should be consigned to history and we can all support our provincial clubs ,

      2. Richard Easson says:

        I wondered about the GERS figures, so now I know.

      3. Derek Thomson says:

        Wondered how long it would take before this pish was spouted. Also, one thing that seems to be being missed – the chanting and coin throwing has increased considerably since the OFBA was abolished. That was mainly due to lobbying by Celtic fans (yes, James Kelly, I’m blaming you in large part) – from a republican who is desperate for Scottish independence – (and I hesitate to say this as it was said by a fraudulent crook but it’s true nevertheless) – Rangers then, Rangers now, Rangers forever!

        1. Derek Thomson says:

          Meant the OBFA, obviously.

          1. Derek Thomson says:

            You know fine well what pish Mike. “Your club died”, etc. – all those tired old tropes. Surprised you didn’t bring in Sevco.

          2. Right. Try experiencing the word beyond your bitter sub-culture.

          3. Derek Thomson says:

            Mike, you know nothing about me. I don’t have a “bitter sub-culture” and I actually find that quite offensive. I despise a lot of what you probably think is the “bitter sub-culture”. I find myself shouting at the telly at every Rangers away game when the “fans” are singing songs that are nothing to do with football. I am a committed republican, I despise the Royal Family and everything they stand for, I despise the British State and everything they stand for, and am quite rabidly supportive of Scottish Independence. Nevertheless, I am a Rangers fan and have been since I was a laddie. My views on just about everything have changed since then, but not my choice of football team, regardless of what a lot of their fans believe in. That is a cheap dig, and a tarring of all Rangers fans with one clearly biased brush. You should apologise, but I won’t hold my breath, as I’m on this board a lot, and know that you don’t like being disagreed with.

  12. w.b. robertson says:

    I have been watching a young grandson who plays in Knightswood 2005 side. ( they are now in the semi final of the Scottish cup.) the squad includes boys who profess to support Rangers, Celtic , and at least three other senior clubs, plus some who could not claim allegiance to any. they play competitive fitba each weekend yet during the week they go, as 13-year-olds, to “separate” schools.

  13. Jason Parks says:

    ” Strict Liability” should also apply to Orange walks.
    Fine the organizers.
    Restrict road/street access maybe get them to march in circles in a park somewhere.
    Fine any individual not doing so and send the organizers the bill for the cops.
    Since these bigots have no money anyway it might start to die out.
    Such a scenario would also be a deterrent for all those Norn Irish pricks coming over with their sashes and attitude.

  14. Kenny Smith says:

    I have said this before on similar threads and as bad as sectarian behaviour is I do think it’s in decline. That was one of my hopes about independence that it would help speed up it’s demise although I’m fully aware it wouldn’t vanish overnight. I support Rangers, always will. I was never brought up to hate anyone and neither was anyone in our mixed group of friends, of course we gave each other a bit of slagging about football but when we were young boys kicking a ball about we supported two Glasgow teams that had an intense rivalry. I have a sporting rivalry with Celtic end of, nothing more. I gave my heart to Rangers long before I knew about any of that crap and so did thousands of others. I will never condone sectarian behaviour it’s vile but trust me I have had it being called an orange bastard and the like and Iv never been on a walk in my life so it is both ways. When I first started in the ship yards whole sections were decorated in their chosen colours and you definitely knew you were supposedly in the wrong bit. Thankfully people wouldn’t dream of that now. I still remember the 3 questions, 1 what’s your name? 2 what school did you go to then lastly what team do you support. Anyway as for the whole separate school debate if it was up to me no faith based education should be paid for by the state no matter what religion it is. Like it or not kids learn very young that they are divided. My daughter after spending two years in nursery was bemused at why her friends were going to one school and she was going to another for no other reason than religion. By all means learn about faith and respect towards different ways of worship

  15. Jim Bennett says:

    I agree with the main thrust of the article. I agree with the Ed’s point that there is no “equivalence” in sectarian abuse. I agree that pro-Republican sentiments are political rather than sectarian. I have myself been the subject of anti-Catholic sectarianism on about a dozen occasions.
    However, having attended Catholic schools, I can’t agree that apartheid education shouldn’t be challenged. Education based on religion is a blight and should be destroyed. Of course we campaign for cross class education. Isn’t that what comprehensive education is about?

    1. Long term I would agree with you Jim – though the proponents of non-religious schooling only seem to pop up when there is another disastrous example of bigotry and sectarianism – at all other times their campaign seems to be odddly silent.

    2. florian albert says:

      Jim Bennett

      ‘Of course, we campaign for cross class education’

      I see little evidence of this. Since Michael Forsyth started publishing Higher results, a generation ago, it has been obvious that we have what Gerry Hassan and Alex Massie both term ‘educational apartheid’ – by that, they mean apartheid by class, not religion or colour. The SNP belatedly noticed this recently but appears barely half-hearted in its response. The progressive left does not seem much bothered either.

      1. Jim Bennett says:

        Hiya Florian (I hope that’s your real name because it’s great!). The Scottish Government has constructed a solid defence of comprehensive education. Two examples: we haven’t adopted “free” or “academy” schools along the English lines, and; we’re removing the tax incentives for private schools. This is against the background of a rightwards drift in ssociety across the globe.
        Comprehensive Scottish education is nowhere near perfect but it generally points in the right direction.
        It’s not been a major campaigning issue for me but I have detested Catholic schooling since I was it’s victim. It breeds a culture of separateness which whilst not being equivalent to anti Irish and anti Catholic sectarianism, certainly does nothing to help.

        1. florian albert says:

          ‘Comprehensive education is nowhere near perfect.’

          That is something of an understatement. A Bank of Scotland survey, six months ago, showed that – on average – the best state secondaries added £73,000 to the price of a house in their catchment area. For James Gillespie’s it was £174,000. Remember, we are talking about state comprehensives.
          Why do parents pay so much ? Because, at the best state schools, you have a vastly increased chance of getting to university and – perhaps even more – into the elite faculties . Plainly, working class parents are excluded from buying such houses.
          I would prove my point by quoting you the Higher result figures (published annually in mid-December) except the SNP government has stopped their publication. What this demonstrates is the defence of an unfair status quo; one which disadvantages the already disadvantaged.

    3. Andy S says:

      “pro republican” sentiments include the glorification of the murder and maiming of our fellow citizens, “Kill all Huns” banners, KKK style nooses, casual use of “Dirty Orange Bastard”, etc, etc.

  16. Redgauntlet says:

    Sectarianism is probably the best divide and rule device which London ever came up with…

  17. SleepingDog says:

    So what about non-sectarian school reform? Perhaps Catholic conditioning is particularly evident because it tends towards the cermonial and stands out as minority (and Christians could be a minority in Scotland soon). Perhaps ideological conditioning in comprehensive schools is more insidious. My concern would not just be on acts of aggression and bigotry (although these are undoubtedly dangerous beyond their immediate targets), but on passivity, defensiveness and deference to hierarchies. Catholics and authoritarian Protestants (like Anglicans whose Queen is apparently God’s representative on Earth, like the Pope is for Catholics) may be prone to closing ranks when under attack, which shields the (frankly more serious) kinds of wrong-doers in their midsts, especially if they hold positions of authority within their respective organizations (churches, schoold, football clubs, children’s organizations and so on).

    Atheist philosophers have pointed out the anti-ethical nature of religious indocrination, where one does good for the sake of one’s soul, flatter a deity or to obey authority, rather than for the good itself. This naive indoctrination has been seen most clearly recently in the young would-be returners from ISIS.

    From this perspective, schools should probably be teaching critical thinking and challenges to authority rather than conditioning children to be religious, or consumers, or militarists, or supporters of the status quo.

  18. Finbar Boyle says:

    When I was a kid in 1960’s Glasgow, there used to be what was called “the Hibs Walk”(as in Hibernian, though not the Football club, but AOH Ancient Order of Hibernians)within a couple of years of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland starting these walks stopped, they weren’t banned to the best of my knowledge, but because they were adding fuel to an already troubled situation. The AOH was an organisation with history etc and all the stuff the LOL has but they had the integrity enough to do the right thing. Apropos of schools, Catholic schools don’t teach sectarianism, this is learned in the home.

  19. Darby O'Gill says:

    I was friendly with one of three brothers who all signed for Rangers in the 1950’s. Each of them was obliged to become a Freemason before signing, ironically at the Celtic Lodge in Edinburgh. My cousin’s husband one of the great Rangers players of the late ’40’s/’50’s underwent the same ritual. I presume that practice ceased long ago, but was indicative as to how a ‘them and us’ mindset became embedded.

    It does seem to be a problem peculiar to the West of Scotland. You might expect there to be a similar problem with Hibernian, founded by the Catholic Church , and Heart of Midlothian, but I know dozens of Hibs supporters and not one of them is catholic. Some are even Free Church.

    1. Jamsie says:

      Does that explain or excuse the bottle throwing incidents yesterday then?
      Have the Edinburgh Irish Catholic team’s supporters been infiltrated?
      And I take it they don’t like the Glasgow Irish Catholic team?
      Mr Ed what do you think?
      A proud moment or what?
      Maybe it’s political eh?

      1. Not a proud moment at all – its disgraceful behaviour – and supports my argument that we need Strict Liability now.

      2. Darby O'Gill says:

        No Jamsie, there is no excuse for throwing a bottle, but it does offer an opportunity for so-called ‘decent’ supporters who witnessed the incident to come forward and identify the guilty party.

  20. JAMES says:

    Has anyone been aware of the sectarianism in Scotland and membership of bowling clubs ? There are plenty of clubs that have reluctantly moved into the 21 century some are still stuck in the past. Many clubs in Lanarkshire and beyond will not allow Catholics as members. I find this truly amazing in this day and age that some bowling clubs still stick to this outdated and cave man attitude.

    1. Darby O'Gill says:

      That may have been the case in the past James, but not today. Bowls is currently the most inclusive sport in Scotland.

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