Talking about anti-Catholicism in Scotland: Part One

Pat Anderson, Up to Our Knees: Anti-Catholic Bigotry in Scotland, Snowy Publications.

Anti-Catholicism has long been a stain on Scotland’s history. Sometimes subtle and sometimes brutal, many argue that it is part of the life experience of people in many areas of Scottish life. The question is – to what extent is it still a problem, and just how widespread is it? This is still a sensitive and controversial subject – many academics and commentators wish to proclaim Scotland to be a tolerant, civilised country, which has moved on from such prejudice: the 180 degree turn on the subject by Tom Devine is perhaps the most high-profile example. 

In recent years the Dalkeith based writer Pat Anderson has presided over what is an impressive one-man cottage industry of books. He covers a wide range of subjects, including Scottish independence and the media, the rise, fall and rise of Rangers FC, and. of course, anti-Catholicism in Scotland. The last is dealt with in Up to our Knees: Anti-Catholic Bigotry in Scotland, and the related Get Over It: The Problem with Irish History. 

This review will concentrate on Up to Our Knees, (a reference to ‘The Billy Boys’, a song celebrating being ‘up to our knees in Fenian blood’), addressing the issue of anti-Catholic bigotry in Scotland.  His position is that such bigotry is a reality in Scotland, though it has not always been so. Indeed, he argues that in the immediate aftermath of the Reformation, Scotland was among the most tolerant and least violent countries in Europe. Anti-Catholicism was primarily an English phenomenon and only slowly took root in Scotland, as various monarchs tried to remake Presbyterianism in the image of Anglicanism, and later when Bonnie Prince Charlie’s ’45 was perceived as a Catholic rebellion.

The one-way street of anti-Catholicism

In the very first paragraph of his Preface, Anderson makes one of his central points very clear. Talking of ‘sectarian bigotry towards Protestants by Catholics’, he claims that, ‘evidence of such bigotry simply does not exist’. This challenges head-on one of the shibboleths of those who deny the existence of anti-Catholic bigotry – that it is essentially a two-way street.

In his poem ‘Whatever You Say, Say Nothing’, Seamus Heaney wrote: ‘Religion’s never mentioned here, of course/…One side’s as bad as the other, never worse’. This is the card that trumps any discussion of whether anti-Catholic bigotry is a reality, and anyone challenging it can expect to be viewed as stirring up trouble. In Up to Our Knees, he certainly ranges far and wide; from the 16th Century to the present day, from Hollywood to Rangers and Celtic, taking in Buckfast and Hitler along the way in his attempt to establish that anti-Catholic bigotry is a part of Scottish (and indeed English and American) life.

So does he establish the truth of this? Certainly, the existence of two tribes in Scotland can hardly be disputed. Images like the one in the paper before me this morning, of Celtic and Rangers fans throwing bottles across a line of stewards and police, make that clear.

Each of these tribes is a repository of centuries of festering grievance; each of them characterises the other as intolerant, brutal and committed to the destruction of the other. It is often claimed that there is real ‘hatred’ between them – but what do they actually ‘hate’ in the other?  Is it their religious beliefs? Is it their political beliefs?

If you asked these fans why, or indeed whether, they hate the opposition, you would get a whole spectrum of responses. Many Scots simply turn away in disgust from such images, claiming that sectarianism is a Glasgow phenomenon and nothing to do with them. But the so-called ‘Old Firm’ is really only the most visible tip of an iceberg, most of which, Anderson argues, is under the surface.  

Ironically, Anderson claims that the Reformation in Scotland was ‘a remarkably bloodless affair; certainly, when compared to England’. Apparently, fewer than two dozen Protestants were martyred in Scotland, and only one Catholic. Unlike in nearly every country in Europe, the Reformation in Scotland was a popular mass movement, but after the triumph of Protestantism in Scotland, Catholics were not burned en masse; instead, priests were offered the chance to continue to minister in the new churches, or to retire on a stipend. Monasteries and convents were left largely alone, though prohibited from taking on new recruits.

So far so civilised. Of course, he makes clear, Catholics were tolerated for just as long as they did not broadcast their faith, and that seems to be a recurring feature of the story of Catholicism in Scotland. Proselytising was frowned upon, as the ‘Blessed’ John Ogilvie discovered to his cost when he was tortured and then hanged and drawn at Glasgow Cross.

But Anderson insists that this was not typical of how Catholics were treated, and in a strikingly non-sectarian way accepts that any follower of Calvin preaching in Catholic Europe at that time would probably have been treated even worse. None of Ogilvie’s Catholic associates in Glasgow were tortured or executed, something Anderson describes as ‘an astonishing act of leniency’ – in Catholic Europe, associates of Protestant preachers would all have been rounded up and put to death. He concludes that, ‘Scotland after the Reformation was ‘a tolerant society … one of the few such places in the whole of Christendom’. So why do some Scots now sing about being up to their knees in Catholic blood?

Why we need to talk about this

When asked to review Up to Our Knees, I must confess to a twinge of apprehension. This feels like the hottest of Scottish hot potatoes, discussion of which all too often descends into indignant defensiveness and denial, producing much heat and little light. For someone like myself, long committed to the establishment of an independent Scottish republic, anything that divides Scottish people makes me uneasy. And I don’t think anything divides Scottish people more than this (apart from possibly whether you should put vinegar or sauce on your chips). Even raising the possibility that anti-Catholic bigotry in Scotland might be, you know, just saying, possibly something we might want to have a look at, can feel like poking a wasp’s nest. That sound you hear is the sound of minds not changing.

So why rake over these particular coals?  Let sleeping dogs, blacks and Irish lie (just not in my b’n’b). This inclination to silence comes from both sides of the big political divide in Scotland, for different reasons. My progressive Yes voting pals maintain that Scotland is obviously left-leaning and liberal, all Jock Tamson’s bairns and men being men for a’ that. So we couldn’t have been complicit in any of that discrimination nonsense. And remember, we’re still trying to recover from our own experience of defeat, colonialism and cultural dispossession. We’re victims too you know!

Meanwhile, my more conservative, probably No voting friends, you won’t be surprised to hear, tend to be even more outraged by any suggestion that Scottish anti-Catholicism is what I believe young folk call ‘a thing’. Instead, they argue, attitudes have changed, and there are now no limits to Catholic aspiration (the Tom Devine position).

Anderson begs to differ, and ranges far and wide in his attempts to persuade us that bigoted attitudes still lie beneath. For example, he discusses the example of Church of Scotland minister Stuart McQuarrie, at one time leader of the inter-faith chaplaincy at Glasgow University, who once stated that Catholics should stop ‘wallowing in their victim status’ and who describes ‘The Fields of Athenry’ as ‘vile, vicious and racist’, absolutely comparable to the unashamedly hate-filled sectarian ‘Famine Song’ (which he rather grudgingly admits is ’embarrassing’). Is that the mother and father of all false equivalences? We/they/’re both as bad as the other, so let’s just ‘get over it’ and move on. Nothing to see here.

But refusing to come to terms with the past, locking it away in the basement, is increasingly acknowledged to be unwise, both at a personal and a national level. Self-serving remarks like McQuarrie’s get in the way of genuine reconciliation. As a Christian myself, looking at historical conflicts from South Africa to Rwanda to the American South, it seems obvious that the only way forward is for leaders on both sides to try to reach across the sectarian divide, and apologise for the sins of the fathers. Transparently misleading statements like McQuarrie’s simply ensure that no real change is gonna come. Which, let’s be honest, suits many down to the ground, especially those who profit from the conflict.


Part Two of this extended review continues tomorrow.


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  1. Dougie+Blackwood says:

    So long as children are separated at the age of 5 and told that they are different from their former playmates the blight of sectarianism will continue. When Catholic schools were introduced more than 100 years ago they were an absolute necessity as Catholic children were routinely excluded for every aspect of civilised life in Scotland. This has clearly changed for the better and I believe that segregation in schools now perpetuates the sectarianism problem.

    Is it less than before? Without doubt. There is certainly still a cohort of mainly older people that carry sectarianism in their gut and they in turn may well inculcate this in their children. My initial paragraph stirs up passions among Catholics but I believe it to be absolutely true. They see it as an attack on their culture and identity and fail to see the wider picture.

    1. 220527 says:

      The Catholic community should have its own schools through which it can transmit its own identity and values; every community should. The problem is not that we have cultural diversity in our society; it’s our propensity to demonise others.

      1. John Learmonth says:

        Should Satanists be allowed their own schools?

        1. Alec Lomax says:

          Some of the teachers at the non-dominational school I went to in the 1960s must have been Satanists, judging by the way they wielded the belt.

        2. Therese Storrie says:

          No because we are a Christian country and Satanism is the very evil opposite

    2. stiubhart says:

      Maybe they should get ride of all religious schools as well as public schools, like class led education it’s a bunch of crap we don’t need, but for defenders of sectarian education one question, what would be the point at stopping at catholic schools if you want separate schools for all groups, would we want race or nationality, gender, gay or strait schools all valid I’m sure, but really??

      1. 220527 says:

        As I said above, ‘The Catholic community should have its own schools through which it can transmit its own identity and values; every community should.’

        1. Therese Storrie says:

          Well said

    3. snowy says:

      There is currently no such thing as a non-denominational school in Scotland, certainly in the Primary sector. It is the law in Scotland that RE must be taught and that schools foster links with a local church. In effect, this means that so-called ND schools are, in fact, Protestant schools. One school I worked at in Glasgow was completely dominated by the local Free Church minister, who insisted that certain aspects of religion weren’t taught. If you want to get rid of Catholic schools, first you’ll have to get rid of the religious education in all schools. We would have to go down the American route.

      1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

        You are incorrect regarding religious education in Scottish schools.

        Firstly, I am a humanist/atheist, who was baptised in the Church of Scotland, attended Sunday School and was a member of the Boys’ Brigade until I was 17. However, through my teens I had a growing sense that I did not believe in a god. Partly, this is down to the rebelliousness of adolescence and partly down to the influence of what my father called his ‘agnosticism’. He had happily consented to my going to church and joining the BB, partly out of respect for my sincerely Christian Auld Kirk mother, and partly because Sunday School and BB offered a range of other activities which kept many boys off the streets and bad company.

        Throughout my childhood I had many pals who were Roman Catholics. Indeed, our district of Glasgow possibly had a Roman Catholic majority. My mother had been born and raised in the predominantly Roman Catholic South Uist, where the only discrimination she and her Roman Catholic pals experienced was corporal punishment by English speaking teachers for speaking Gaelic. So, despite our next door neighbour being grandmaster of the local Orange Lodge, dislike of Roman Catholics was eschewed in our home.

        I taught in secondary schools, in both the nondenominational and denominational sectors. In the denominational school tolerance of and respect for other denominations and faiths was expected and promoted. Any anti Protestant talk was strongly discouraged, but was very rare.

        This was largely the case in the non-denominational sector, too. All the schools I worked in sought to have constructive relationships with neighbouring schools and shared classes for some subjects in the senior stages, were the only way of preserving the width of the curriculum in the senior stages.

        Very few football teams in the denominational sector wore green, but blue was more common in the non denominational sector. Make of that what you will.

        I think Religious Education should be part of the curriculum of all schools, because religion has had a huge influence for good and evil on the history of humans and has shaped many of our institutions. I contend that a person with a rounded education should learn about the different religions and denominations and be given the opportunity to discuss things like bigotry. However, it should not be religious INSTRUCTION. the denominational sector is permitted to provide some religious instruction, but, families can exercise the right to opt children out of not just instruction but also opt out of RE. Young people over 16 years can make such a decision themselves. In addition, denominational schools must provide a broad and balanced curriculum to all children and the time allocations to the different ‘modes of knowledge ‘ is the same. Religious and moral education receives a fairly small quota of time – approximately 5% of curriculum time.

        Non denominational schools have always had a small, but significant proportion of children from Roman Catholic families and that proportion has grown slowly over the past 40/50 years. Many Roman Catholic schools in city areas have substantial numbers of children from Muslim, Hindu and Sikh families.

        So, the similarities amongst denominational and non denominational schools far outweigh their differences and both schools actively discourage hostility to other groups.

        The 1918 Education Scotland Act was a significant and just gain for Roman Catholics (and, in practice, Jewish families) in Scotland. It gave them the beginnings of parity of esteem, and, over the decades children from Roman Catholic backgrounds attain at least as highly as other groups and Roman Catholics can aspire to senior posts in all occupations (except religious organisations of other faiths!). So, I am with Tom Devine on this point.

        I do not deny that there are still instances of antiCatholicism in Scotland, but, it appears to me to be much less than in the days when I lived next door to the grandmaster! (Who was actually a pretty neighbourly person, and our close was 50/50 in terms of denominations).

        I have witnessed anti Protestantism, but on a far smaller scale than anti Catholicism.

        Much of the ‘Scotland’s shame’ narrative is perpetuated by the Scottish media.

        Incidentally, the ‘up to our knees in Fenian blood’, although lauding the Bridgeton Billy Boys has its origins in the Williamite Wars in Ireland in the late 17th century.

        Having spent a lot of time in the East End of Glasgow since I retired 12 years ago, I think a great deal of the antiCatholicism in that part of Glasgow, which was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, is due to the practice of business owners importing cheap labour from rural Ireland to drive down the wages of the native Protestant workforce. The Scottish working class was fairly literate, whereas the rural Irish Roman Catholics were largely illiterate and severely impoverished. The literate Scottish working class could read about the problems caused by industry such as the poisoning by chromium, and used this knowledge to agitate for safer conditions and wages. But, the impoverished Irish were desperate and accepted such dreadful jobs. Thus the two groups were divided and ruled. One of the owners of the most notorious chromium works was a pillar of the Kirk.

        1. 220528 says:

          ‘…up to our knees in Fenian blood…’ has its origins in the 1920s and alludes not to the civil war and revolution that began in 1688 and rumbled on until the final revolutionary victory at Culloden in 1745, but to the Irish Republican Brotherhood, which, between 1858 and 1924, sought to establish an independent democratic republic in Ireland through armed struggle. ‘Fenian’ originated as an umbrella term for the IRB and their affiliate in the United States and alludes to the Fianna of 19th century Romantic Irish mythology, which were groups of legendary warriors associated with Fionn mac Cumhail. The original Fenians were drawn from both the Catholic and non-conformist Protestant communities, who had a common enemy in the Ascendancy, i.e. the landowning and professional classes who belonged to the Established Church of Ireland.

          The Ascendency came use the term ‘Fenian’ as a derogatory term to refer to any form of anti-Ascendency mobilisation among the Irish. These latter are the ‘Fenians’ in whose blood the former British Fascist, Billy Fullerton, and and his ‘Boys’ in the Glasgow branch of the British Union of Fascists stood up to their knees. After the chief constable of the City of Glasgow Police, Sir Percy Sillitoe, eradicated Fullerton’s razor-gangs in the late 1930s, most of their members joined the Orange Order, taking their militaristic style of behaviour with them.

          My paternal grandfather, who was a syndicalist, used to tell me braw stories of the fights they had with Billy Fullerton and his strikebreakers during the 1926 General Strike. He still had his brass knuckles (which I contrived to have confiscated off me at school).

        2. 220528 says:

          ‘…up to our knees in Fenian blood…’ has its origins in the 1920s and alludes not to the civil war and revolution that began in 1688 and rumbled on until the final revolutionary victory at Culloden in 1745, but to the Irish Republican Brotherhood, which, between 1858 and 1924, sought to establish an independent democratic republic in Ireland through armed struggle. ‘Fenian’ originated as an umbrella term for the IRB and their affiliate in the United States and alludes to the Fianna of 19th century Romantic Irish mythology, which were groups of legendary warriors associated with Fionn mac Cumhail. The original Fenians were drawn from both the Catholic and non-conformist Protestant communities, who had a common enemy in the Ascendancy, i.e. the landowning and professional classes who belonged to the Established Church of Ireland.

          The Ascendency came use the term ‘Fenian’ as a derogatory term to refer to any form of anti-Ascendency mobilisation among the Irish. These latter are the ‘Fenians’ in whose blood the former British Fascist, Billy Fullerton, and and his ‘Boys’ in the Glasgow branch of the British Union of Fascists stood up to their knees. After the chief constable of the City of Glasgow Police, Sir Percy Sillitoe, eradicated Fullerton’s razor-gangs in the late 1930s, most of their members joined the Orange Order, taking their militaristic style of behaviour – and signature song – with them.

          My paternal grandfather, who was a syndicalist, used to tell me braw stories of the fights they had with Billy Fullerton and his strikebreakers during the 1926 General Strike. He still had his brass knuckles (which I contrived to have confiscated off me at school).

    4. SleepingDog says:

      @Dougie+Blackwood, there is an opt-out clause for Catholic schools so they don’t have to teach moral education, only Catholic doctrine, so imprisoning their schoolchildren in a cage of Church-defined moral behaviour. Apparently they call this the ‘Reign of God’ or something.

      “The Scottish Government is working in partnership with the Catholic Education Commission in the development of guidance for Catholic schools in keeping with the values, purposes and principles of Curriculum for Excellence. In Catholic schools the term ‘religious education’ is used in preference to ‘religious and moral education’.”

      I find this horrific, both practically (for child safeguarding, for example), and in terms of the worldview it must be intended to inculcate in its impressionable and vulnerable young. I wonder if it even scriptural, given my basic understanding of the parable of the Good Samaritan. As far as I know, no other group gets this special dispensation. I can think of no worse authority for children to be beholden to than Catholic priests, and that is not some Protestant conditioning (I was not brought up in any religion and resented its intrusion in my schooling) but based on empirical, well-known and Pope-admitted evidence.

      1. florian albert says:

        For Catholics, religious education and moral education are inextricably linked because the moral education is based on the teachings of the Catholic church.

        What you refer to as ‘Imprisoning their children in a cage of church defined moral behaviour’ is educating them in Christian morality which has been at the heart of Scottish society for as long as Scottish society has existed.

        ‘Apparently they call this the Reign of God.’ I have never heard this phrase used in relation to Catholic education. In fact, it is not a phrase I would associate with

        ‘Or something’ That does not take us very far forward.

        1. 220528 says:

          The ‘Reign of God’ is a variation of the Kingdom of Heaven’. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the coming Reign of God will be a kingdom of love, peace, and justice, where justice is defined as a virtue whereby one respects the rights of all persons, living in harmony and equity with all.

          The ‘trouble’ with moral education is that it has to be taught from some perspective or other – Catholics teach morals from a Catholic perspective, atheists from a humanist perspective, etc. – and everyone thinks (to the point of conviction) that his or her perspective is the correct one.

          Morality is always only ever an expression of some community’s values, which is why, ideally, it should be taught comparatively and critically, although this is impossible to do in practice, since no one is without some perspective/everyone is encultured. The best we can attain is an ongoing dialogue between the diverse value communities that comprise postmodern Scotland towards a mutual accommodation of their moral differences.

      2. SleepingDog says:

        Following up my original comment, I was looking at some Catholic activist groups with influence in the Scottish Parliament, and came across the Aid to the Church in Need group, and decided to check out their educational materials. The very first workbook for primary school pupils states how God made the world in six days, Adam and Eve nastily rebelled, and so on. Then it says this is a lesson about trust:
        “Sometimes we might not want to do what our parents, guardians or teachers are telling us to do, but we need to know that those taking care of us only want the best for us.”
        This is exactly the kind of extremely harmful instruction to very young children that I was concerned about. Contrast the above with the secular NSPCC Pantasaurus advice:
        “No means no and you always have the right to say ‘no’ – even to a family member or someone you love. You’re in control of your body and the most important thing is how YOU feel. If you want to say ‘No’, it’s your choice.”

        How good are Catholics about policing other Catholics? My impression from volumes of evidence from official inquiries and media investigations is: not good at all. I hope to be wrong, here.

        1. florian albert says:

          You contrast two different pieces of advice, one Catholic and one not.

          Are they giving advice dealing with identical sets of circumstances ? I suspect not. The latter – with its reference to ‘control of your body’ – suggests that it is giving specific advice with regard to sexual assault.

          The more general advice from Aid to the Church in Need strikes me as accurate. The overwhelming majority of parents, guardians and teachers do deserve to be trusted. Young people growing up should be aware that there are people who would harm them but – in our society – such people are, thankfully, the exception.

    5. Therese Storrie says:

      That is utter rubbish Catholic schools are the only schools that teach that all of us belong to God And have great morals and values Why else would other religions try to get into our schools ?
      Why do the media etc all try to blame Catholic schools for all the evils It is unfair at best and bigoted evil at its worse

    6. Patrick says:

      Dougie, I’m a teacher in a non-denominational school in Glasgow. This myth of children being ‘segregated’ at 5 years old falls apart upon closer inspection. Schools of any stripe cannot deny entry to any child provided they have room. St Alberts RC school in Glasgow is 80% Muslim. Just about every RC school in Scotland has a sizable number of pupils who are not of that faith. My non-denominational school has children of all faiths and none (including RCs) so this segregation myth really is just that. Bigotry is taught at your father or mother’s knee or perhaps in the subcultures surrounding football or Orangeism. But the latter gets a free pass despite being one of the true drivers of bigotry.

      1. Dougie Blackwood says:

        You’re right. Sectarianism is taught in the home. As I’ve said elsewhere, both the strict segregation of children at the age of 5 is now much less than it was and consequently the vitriolic sectarianism also much less. While the bigoted parents have the option to tell their children that those at the “Other” school are the deciples of hell sectarianism will continue. Put all the children in one school, to learn and play together, and then sectarianism will diminish even more rapidly than now.

    7. Patrick Marrinan says:

      Ah the old ‘Catholic schools’ defence. The fact is RC schools are mixed, some even have non Catholic majorities. (St Albert’s in Glasgow is 80% Muslim) Your solution sounds like part of the problem; assimilate, become like us, vanish from the public space. I teach in a non-denominational school but I fully support the Catholic community’s right to have their children taught in a Christian ethos. When the 1872 Education Act made education compulsory up to 12 years of age, it was interpreted in such a manner that the new school board schools would teach religion in a manner agreeable to the Church of Scotland. The Catholic system stayed out of it for this reason. It took 46 years for the catholic system to merge the state system under the terms of the 1918 Act. For all of those 46 years Catholic parents paid rates to fund schools which for reasons on conscience they would never use. All through those years they also contributed to their own schools which did great work in dreadful conditions. There is literally no evidence that Catholic schools cause sectarianism in England, France, USA, etc. Why is it a problem in Scotland?

    8. Dennis Begley says:

      You blame catholic schools for the bigotry,what catholic schools do the 50,000 who attend Ibrox every fortnight go to,there are catholic schools everywhere in the world with no problems,only Scotland and N.Ireland have a problem with it,maybe you should look in the mirror.

  2. SleepingDog says:

    So, you could argue that religion “has long been a stain on Scotland’s history” instead. Far from being ‘tolerant’, Scottish Calvinist Protestantism was surely extremely intolerant, for example of women in positions of authority, and I imagine they would have frowned on ball games too.

    What this piece lacks (and perhaps part 2 will include), is the very substantial body of rational criticisms of Catholicism that can be, and are, made. To take the heat off of Scotland momentarily, I have recently watched the French movie By the Grace of God:
    Does ‘anti-Catholicism’ cover those kinds of critiques? After all, there were a mixture of staunch, wavering, lapsed Catholics and atheists working together in the group portrayed. Some of these criticisms can be levelled at other religious and secular organisations. But Catholicism and Anglicanism have their It-Popes and Brit-Popes that demand overseas fealties that appear to be exceptional and problematic features in unaccountable hierarchies.

    Perhaps we should be welcoming, not the end of the sectarian divide, but the overdue fading of religiosity in Scotland? After all, what purpose does it serve? Organised religion seems ever floundering to catch up with worldviews on, for example, environmentalism and global public health. As for demographic support, well, I guess we await the recent Census results.

    1. 220527 says:

      The social problem of sectarianism doesn’t consist in the theological and ecclesiastical disputes between various schools of thought, but in the weaponising of such differences by politically motivated agents in promoting intercommunal conflict. I doubt anti-Catholic sectarianism in Scotland today is much impressed by Protestant critiques of Catholicism.

      1. Cameron Fraser says:

        Religious differences /grievance, whether real or imagined, particularly anti Catholic and more particularly anti Irish Catholic has been used as a tool by the bosses to divide and conquer the working classes for years, high time those same working classes woke up to this fact.
        The loyal and staunch folks who have very little in life that would differentiate from their fellow RC citizens, delight in claiming that at “least” they’re not Catholic and see this as some kind of badge of honour that see’s them one rung above the lowly Catholic.
        Nae wonder I shake my head in disbelief at this!

        1. 220527 says:

          Again, the Scottish establishment never used theological and ecclesiastical issues to maintain itself; it used xenophobia, the same mechanism by which our dissatisfaction with the shittiness of our own lives within the establishment is still deflected or displaced morally onto ‘others’ and away from the structure of the establishment itself.

        2. Cameron Fraser says:

          When pits were privately owned, the Croy miners, predominantly RC, the Kilsyth miners, predominantly Protestant, worked in separate pits and it was easy for the mine owner, who owned both, to sow the seeds of mistrust and division among his workers.
          “That lot shift more coal and they’re on a tanner an hour more”
          Easy, all you need is somebody to spread the lies, good for business.
          Bosses use division to keep the workers in their place!

  3. Dissenter says:

    The claim that anti-Protestant bias does not or never has existed in Scotland is a good example of the dishonesty of some of this debate. Any examination of the Roman Catholic Church or of west of Scotland MPs shows both repeated attempts to impose Roman Catholic social teaching on a largely non-Roman Catholic population.

    It also ignores the degree to which, again mainly in the west of Scotland, close knot religious/social networks have worked to advance the careers and interests of some members of the Roman Catholic community over the majority community. The last 20th century Protestant Lord Provost of Glasgow was in 1972

    1. ‘the majority community’. Wow.

      The majority community in Scotland are undoubtedly atheists and agnostics.

      1. 220527 says:

        But are those atheists and agnostics Catholic or Protestant?

        I once heard from an auld wumman in Leith that Muslims were Catholics. I suspect that, in many (if not most) sectarian circles, ‘Catholic’ has no substantive meaning but functions only as a term of abuse – the Scottish equivalent of the redneck ‘Pinko-Commie-Fag’.

    2. Alec Lomax says:

      Themmuns, eh?

  4. Ottomanboi says:

    Hmmmm! That Scotch exceptionalism to the fore again; not as bad as elswhere.
    Catholicism, and the history of Catholic Scotland, were effectively cancelled by the new draconian, «reforming» religious order. Albeit it was a hit and miss affair in the early stages, it did, however, a good job marginalising Catholic culture signally by demolition, burning and proscription. Very little of Scotland’s Catholic culture «pre-reformation» actually survives.
    The Union reinforced the alienising of Catholicism as «foreign» and backward, the underpinnnings of the contemporary problem. The arrival of poor Irish immigrants helped to reinforce negative views of Catholicism.
    The so called «reformation», which came late to Scotland, was a catastrophic in the country’s history preparing the way for the annexation by England and subsequent anglicization.
    The Union was built on a stoked fear of Catholicism to which Scotland’s establishment contributed more than its fair share, and continues, by default, to do so.
    Once again a case of victors writing the history and cherry picking their references.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Ottomanboi, you seem to be missing out the great many modern papal apologies for many bad things the Catholic Church did, from Pope John Paul II’s Wikipedia list to Pope Francis’ recent apology for “the ‘pain and shame’ of Canada residential schools”:
      So many people trying to defend religion treat it as almost content-free, as if its actual tenets or practices were irrelevant to its support or justification. But many of the Catholic Church’s stances (on contraception and abortion, for example) are seen as deeply problematic (even by many of its followers).

      In Lucy Worsley’s new documentary on the Black Death, she gets out a set of Lewis chessmen, and uses King, Knights and Pawns to sketch out medieval hierarchy. Then brings in the Bishop to show whose (compulsory) sermons are used to keep the whole unjust system of oppression in place. OK, that’s a simplified model, but not too simplistic. We were still ordered to sing “the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate” at my school. The Catholic Church’s role has been in oppression, abuses and exploitation (it failed to take the opportunity of the Valladolid debate), and its corruption wrought the success of the Protestant Reformation (and new kinds of corruption and oppression).

      I recently watched Bertrand Russell on why he wasn’t a Christian. He supplied good reasons, but there are others. If you read the bible (I prefer the Brick Bible with its glorious LEGO® illustrations) one is, or should be, struck by just how evil whole screeds are. Perhaps it should only be available in heavily-annotated academic versions, like Mein Kampf.

      There is one statement, about the preponderance of Catholic prisoners in Scottish jails, that could do with unpacking. I knew an anti-Catholic perspective was that the Catholic upbringing of sin-and-repent was a primary factor in allowing for too much wrongdoing (see By the Grace of God etc.). It could be that anti-Catholic prejudice contributes in some way, although this also would need to be put into a testable hypothesis. I read a report summary that suggested that because the Catholic population were on average younger than general population, and prison population is also younger, then that could be a significant factor.

      Perhaps some of these points will be addressed in the follow-up article.

  5. JohnDarge says:

    Well said, John.

    Look forward to part 2.

  6. Wild Goose says:

    Since Presbyterianism is one of the totemic features of Scottish identity, the role of England in the Scottish Reformation is generally obscured. Henry VIII’s England worked against Catholicism in Scotland from the” assured Scots” noblemen taken prisoner at Solway Moss and bribed and intimidated into being an English 5th column, through the military invasion of “The Rough Wooing” which led to Scotland becoming an Anglo-French battleground, to the demise in the late 1550s of Knox’s” monstrous regiment of women”, Mary Tudor and Mary of Guise, which left the door open for England’s new Protestant Elizabethan regime to have an English army hovering in the wings as the religious coup d’etat played out. Cue the rapid extinction of the public face of Scottish Catholicism.
    Scotland’s late 17th century religious wars were essentially Protestant on Protestant affairs with William of Orange enabling Presbyterianism to become Scotland’s established church resulting in many Episcopalian ministers losing their livelihoods and explaining why Episcopalians were the dominant sect among the Jacobites. William’s legacy to the British state was 125 years of European wars, mostly against Catholic France and the disparate Protestant elements in the new British state could usefully be jointly focused on the Catholic other. Since for a span of nearly 300 years there were few Catholics in Scotland there was little local evidence of anti-Catholicism.
    Today’s animosities are a consequence of mass Irish immigration to provide the muscle for the mines and factories of a rapidly industrialising Scotland where the distinguishing feature of most of these white immigrant fellow citizens was their faith. Although there are parallels with the judiciously, demographically engineered, post-Partition Northern Irish statelet and the Tory domination of Liverpool politics from mid-Victorian times to the end of the 2nd World War, achieved by a close association with the Orange Order, the Central Scotland situation is remarkable for its stamina. Transubstantiation and prayers for the dead do not feature prominently in Ulster’s disputes which now seem to have a primary political flavour, the coming to power of the non-sectarian Labour Party was associated with declining religious contention in Liverpool but Scotland’s bare-knuckle bruisers keep coming out when the bell rings for the next round. Clearly, for good-going anti-Catholicism you need a critical threshold of Catholics. Are we looking at a failure to assimilate or reluctance to allow a minority group a certain identity or is it just something now woven into the warp of Central Scottish life or (Heaven forfend!) our DNA?
    I write from my home of 30 years in England but almost all the foregoing comments I have just read could have echoed round my car as I headed down the M74 30 years back. So if the shade of Lenin were to ask me” What then is to be done?”, I could only shrug my shoulders and turn the palms of my hands skywards.

    1. 220528 says:

      ‘Presbyterianism is one of the totemic features of Scottish identity.’

      Presbyterianism features little, if at all, in the lives of the millions of other Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, non-believers, New Age syncretists, etc. who nowadays comprise the Scottish identity with their diverse origins, histories, and heritages. The stereotypical white, Protestant, heterosexual, male Scotsman is in the past now, and in the past he must remain. The Scottish identity is culturally and ‘racially’ plural now, an ever-shifting forcefield of difference.

  7. snowy says:

    Some of the comments here actually prove that the subject under discussion is real and current. Blaming Catholic schools for sectarianism is a lazy way of blaming ‘them’. It’s like saying that racism wouldn’t exist if there weren’t so many blacks in the country – so send them ‘home’ and the problem will be solved. Others mention religious indoctrination, which is far from being the truth as most folk, Catholic and Protestant, have no real idea of the tenets of their own denomination. Mention ‘Double Predestination’ to most Protestants and you’ll receive blank stares. And then there’s the argument that Catholics have managed to take over various sectors of employment, especially in local councils. The implication there is that they simply don’t deserve to be in those positions. There are also commenters that suggest we look into the ‘evils’ of the Catholic Church. This is merely a rationalisation, a smokescreen to hide one’s prejudices. The sheer bigotry displayed on this forum is remarkable!

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @snowy, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is lagging behind, but its England and Wales counterpart has said:
      “The sexual abuse of children within the Roman Catholic Church has been a matter of national and international concern for many years: the Archbishop of Westminster’s calls for this Inquiry to be established reflected that concern.”
      and as its Chair concluded the investigation (one of many):
      “For decades, the Catholic Church’s failure to tackle child sexual abuse consigned many more children to the same fate.
      “It is clear that the Church’s reputation was valued above the welfare of victims, with allegations ignored and perpetrators protected.
      “Even today, the responses of the Holy See appear at odds with the Pope’s promise to take action on this hugely important problem.
      “While some progress has been made, there still needs to be lasting change to culture and attitudes to avoid repeating the failures of the past.”

      I would call that evil. Pope Francis has called it evil. IICSA looked at many institutional offenders, religious and secular. The Catholic Church was among the worst and most resistant to correction. I don’t expect the Scottish inquiry to come to different conclusions than elsewhere around the world, given what we already know here. The Anglicans were found to be about as bad. More scandals will probably appear in football, theatre, education and other organisations, although these don’t claim the kind of moral authority churches do.

    2. 220528 says:

      Spot on, snowy!

      1. Dougie+Blackwood says:

        I refer to my earlier comments. There is nothing wrong intrinsically with Catholic education but what is wrong is to create two separate tribes that do not normally mix when children are separated at the age of 5. As I said than, to make this obvious point is taken by some as an attack on “Their” side.

        1. snowy says:

          But it’s okay to separate children due to their parents’ financial situation. Fee-paying schools are a bigger blight on society than RC schools ever could be.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @snowy, who here disagrees with that? Fee-paying private education is a form of social cheating in the UK, aimed at creating an imperial elite bent on misrule and exceeding planetary boundaries. Comprehensive education all round in the New Scotland, then.

          2. 220529 says:

            SD: many (if not most) private schools are comprehensive, insofar as they don’t select their intake on the basis of academic achievement or aptitude; some public schools (e.g. state-funded grammar schools) aren’t insofar as they do.

        2. 220528 says:

          Do children from the separate tribes mix before they’re five years old, like?

          They’re separated long before they reach school. My cousin’s granddaughter, not that long ago, refused to join the Green group on the day she started preschool nursery up in Cambuslang because (as she shyly told the nursery assistant) she was from an Orange family.

          The sectarianism or ‘themmuns-and-usins’ comes first; the ‘anti-Catholicism’ (or however else the sectarianism manifests itself) follows.

  8. SFTB says:

    I would have thought that Pat’s thesis allocating the lion’s share of the blame on English rule, and reinforcing the idea of Scottish exceptionalism in finding that we killed fewer Catholics than England (if you exclude the Gordon riot deaths instigated by a Scot) would have played better with the National readership.

    There have been some insightful comments on this review but , sadly, too many redolent of the equivalent of the Scottish version of Daily Mail Gammonism- if they don’t like it here and complain about us – their hosts- then we should close their schools and that’ll teach them.

    Tom Devine is right- the legal barriers to achievement and success have largely disappeared- all across the UK and not just in exceptional Scotland. However, like our English cousins, we retain a strong desire to homogenise- to create, through legislation, good little Scots in our image and likeness. We are, quite correctly, wary of being seen to be racially prejudiced or anti- Muslim, Hindu or Bhuddist- but we carry traces of concern that an allegiance to Rome makes a less trustworthy Scot.

    I grew up in the RC school system- I was never taught any anti- Protestant attitude by a priest or teacher. There was , though anti- Protestantism being inculcated in some homes by parents. Despite attending “separate “ schools- we tumbled out of our tenements after evening tea to play football with everyone in our area- there was no Protestant- Catholic separation or animosity. When I went to University- I associated with people of all religions and none. I am not stupid enough to believe I am free of prejudice or bigotry- I have to deal with my irrational side too.

    Too many Scots give themselves a bye on prejudice and see it as a west of Scotland issue yet Neil Lennon was attacked by a Hearts supporter in Edinburgh and by an Aberdonian medical student in Glasgow- where did those attitudes come from.

    We have a growing problem with racial prejudice against immigrants now that we have a significant immigrant and second generation population with brown and black skin. We have a residual tendency to blame England for our faults and we have the dying embers of anti Irish Catholicism to deal with.

    Yes – the Catholic Church has done bad things.

    Yes- – the English have dominated the UK scene and have diminished Scottish identity- especially in our beloved area of football.

    And yes- there are aspects of immigration which frighten us.

    We need a continued effort on truth and conciliation – Pat’s book is a welcome prod (no pun intended) to that debate.

    But spare us from Scottish exceptionalism – we have the same fears, issues and tendencies to prejudice, bigotry and “sectarianism “ – whatever that ill- defined term means- as the rest of the world.

    It’s the human condition innit? Where would we be without it?

    1. Cameron Fraser says:

      I grew up and had part of my education in Inverness and moved back to the central belt in the early to mid seventies. I could not have told you what my classmates religion was as it was never thought of, far less asked. Many years later, I read that an apprentice boys club had opened in the town and now the” full house “of “loyal” institutions operate there, oh how my heart sank!
      This phenomenon, some may say blight, is totally alien to the local Highland culture and I assume was transported by people moving up from the Central belt, a “plantation” of sorts!
      Kinda puts holes in the mainstream theory that anti Catholic bigotry is a West of Scotland thing.
      Recently Celtic were playing in Dingwall and someone among the home support filmed them when Celtic scored late in the match, the assorted howls of “dirty fenian bastards”
      was something that would not have been out of place in darkest Lanarkshire!
      Don’t know how to tackle it but pretending it’s not a problem cannot continue!

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