Scotland’s shame: the never-ending story

YESTERDAY I received two emails from constituents complaining about sectarian chanting by Rangers supporters at a recent Old Firm match. It seems to have been even more offensive than usual – something about telling Catholics to go back to Ireland because “the famine is over.”

Inevitably, of course, I knew nothing about this until I received the emails and then watched a news item on BBC’s Reporting Scotland. I say “inevitably” because I have no interest in football and whenever I’m asked the politically- and religiously-loaded question, “Which team do you support?”, I can honestly reply: “None.” That might seem odd coming from an MP who represents the constituency which hosts Scotland’s national stadium, but it is a game in which I find it very difficult to feign any interest.

It’s called “Scotland’s shame” for a reason: sectarianism makes you feel embarrassed to be Scottish. I hate it when the subject is even raised when I’m with English friends because I imagine they must look at us as a backward nation. That is, after all, a logical conclusion: what kind of people still think it’s remotely acceptable even to care about what religion other people follow, never mind object to that religion? What kind of nation still tolerates this kind of mindset?

The only time I ever seriously contemplated moving out of Scotland was in 1992, following the birth of my eldest son. I dreaded the idea of bringing him up in a city where so many people gave a toss about what school he went to.

Whether you’re mocking people because their ancestors starved to death in the Irish potato famine, or flaunting past IRA terrorist atrocities from the terraces, you’re a moron. But unbelievably in 21st century Scotland, you’re still tolerated.

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13 Comments

Filed under Church, Family life, Society

13 responses to “Scotland’s shame: the never-ending story

  1. Ironically from my own family history I know it wasn’t only Irish Catholics who migrated to Glasgow, Liverpool or the new world in the mid 19th century as a fall out of the potato famine. Maybe we should educate the Rangers fans a little more about their own forebears history especially about how unsectarian and just plain ignorant that chant actually is.

    As for football team I love shutting the rest up by supporting Livingston. Especially as when I’m seen out and about on a Saturday in my team’s colours I’m either going to or back from the game unlike many others I pass.

  2. John Taylor

    So, no interest in football? My estimation of you goes up and up.

    Having been brought up in the general vicinity of sectarian chanting (I still remember the Orange marches through central Edinburgh) I tend to take it all with a pinch of salt. But, for an outsider, it is appalling and perplexing. For those involved (either giving or receiving) it seems perfectly normal. And whilst racism generally is put down to a ‘minority’ that isn’t my experience of sectarianism in Scotland.
    On one of the few occasions I have ever gone to a football match, I remember all the Celtic supporters chanting pro-IRA songs, and all the Aberdeen supporters (who, oddly, weren’t sectarian) singing back something derogatory about Bobbie Sands. But it has little to do with actual religious beliefs (I doubt any of those involved go to church). Rather it is the desperate need for many of my fellow Scots to pigeon-hole each other based on some tribal tag: football, religion, schooling, class, part of the town etc.
    The ‘funniest’ tale I heard was a friend of mine who bought a pub in the Mull of Kintyre. He had no interest whatsoever in football yet, due to the demographic of the area, he had to decorate the pub in Ranger’s paraphernalia, Union Jacks etc. Less funny was that he had to ask his Catholic mother to keep her religion hidden.

    My hope is that, as generations pass, it will begin to fade. That’s the religious history thing – not the tendency of Scots to take against others for obscure reasons. The worst thing that could happen would be to try and legislate against it – that would just make it worst.

  3. Madasafish

    I remember watching Millwall play Spurs in the 1980s . lots of racist chanting.

    It’s basically all gone now as the FA in England have tried. And tried. And tried,

    Says it all. The SFA could stop it basically in a month if they wanted.

  4. Johnny Norfolk

    Now you know how we English feel when we are hated so much by some Scots, or does that not count, are we fair game and Catholics are not. I think you need to think this one through Tom. Please be consistant.

  5. What a lot of rot you talk sometimes, Johnny. You think I approve of anti-English morons and bigots? Or even anti-Scottish morons and bigots?

  6. Here here.

    Friend speaks my mind, as the quakers say.

    Seriously, as someone who moved to Scotland in 2001, I never “got” the whole sectarian thing, why it mattered which team you supported and why it was significant.

    I don’t like football, never had. Like rugby a little but have absolutely no interest in football.

    Not longer after moving to the area, I had someone in college ask me which team I supported. I said “I don’t.”. He asked again, and I said “I sometimes support Wales or Scotland in the 6 nations”.
    He asked again, saying I was either one or the other, so I got confused and asked him to explain who one or the other are.

    He then came out and said “Are you a protestant or a catholic.”. Apparently that’s what supporting two dull boring football clubs in Glasogw means.

    When I told him I was neither, he was taken aback, saying it didn’t matter if I was atheist, I was still one or the other since I must have been born one or the other.

    I was close to calling security and having the gorilla dragged away, but I persisted by saying “What the religious beliefs of my family are is neither relevant nor any of your business. Furthermore, as a pagan, someone who has no beliefs in the entire Judeo-Christian system, I find the petty and trifling differences between Catholic and Protestant to be meaningless and insignificant in this day and age.”

    He followed that up by “Ya a dirty Prot. bampot so ya are”. I think he was wearing a green top as well. Makes no odds since both sides are the same to me, and anyone who thinks it matters in any way at all are, as you say “morons”.

    Ditto anti-english or anti-scottish racists. I was born in England, yet I am a member of the Scottish National Party. Usually shuts up people going on about how the SNP are racists. Also quietens down those anti-scots racists too.

    Bigotry are the preserve of the feeble-minded. Tolerate it and you yourself become the feeble-minded.

    Sorry for the long post.

  7. You’re point about which school your son went to is interesting. When we moved to Scotland, my wife who is a Fifer and lived for many years in Edinburgh before moving South and then ‘dragging’ me North, told me about the Edinburgh schools ‘thing’. I couldn’t believe it, but have come to believe it wholeheartedly. In fact it is a kind of running gag between us whenever we’re anywhere that the subject comes up. It in its on why is not a million miles from the Celtic/Rangers thing. Both reflect a basic tribalism that seems to exist for so many people.

  8. NodToBob

    I wish people would stop calling it “Scotlands Shame”: its not, it’s largely a Central Belt thing. It’s the preoccupation of Weegies, Darkies (natives of darkest Lanarkshire that is) and the odd idiot from further east who really should know better. Most people in the north in particular don’t give a toss what religion you are (or aren’t) – and never have.

    And sorry Tom, I’d have a bit more sympathy for your discomfort if Labour hadn’t ignored sectarianism for decades. It could really have tackled the issue when it was in power (at various levels of government) but it preferred to sweep the matter under the carpet, eg, John Smith allegedly turning a blind eye to the goings on in North Lanarkshire.

    In my five years as a student in Glasgow I came across plenty of bigots, and funnily enough, no matter their religious persuasion, they were generally Labour supporters as well. ‘Nuff said.

  9. Johnny Norfolk

    Tom I stand by what I said, and more should be done to discourage the insults from Scotland to England. You cannot just cherry pick what is ok and what is not. You need to be consistant.

  10. Johnny, what on earth are you talking about? When have I ever said that anti-English sentiment should be tolerated?

  11. Johnny; I hate to wade to the defence f a Labour party member, not to mention a Labour party MP, one who stands opposed to virtually eveerything I’m for, from Scottish independence, to LIT to a good many other issues (although I know there is some ground I see eye to eye with Tom on), but Tom is many things, but an anti-English racist isn’t one of them. Neither is he an anti-Scottish racist. Certainly not from all the comments he has made in the public scene.

    If you want to throw mud at someone for racism, try the BNP blogs, I’m sure they exist, and I doubt they’ll even try and refute your claims.

    Tom is NOT a racist, so stop trolling. Grown-ups are talking.

  12. bigrab

    There is a real sectarian problem in Scotland but anyone who is offended by the so-called ‘famine song’ really needs to look at themselves. It’s a bit like ‘go home ya huns’ which the Celtic fans used to sing (I have no idea and neither do I care if they still do). These are wind ups and in no way reach the levels of hatred of ‘up to our knees in fenian blood’ etc. I wish my life was so trouble free and benign to get worked up about an inane song.

    The phone ins have become obsessed with this song and it almost reminds me of my two girls aged 8 and 10 saying ‘daddy she called me a rude name!’ Sure lets tackle sectarianism but the more we get wrapped up in trivia like this the less we tackle the real issues. Shame on the Irish politicians from North and South who get caught up in the point scoring. That really is what it’s all about.

    I look forward to the day when Rangers and Celtic bugger off to England and take the Pope and the Moderator of the General Assembly with them.

    Come on Dumbarton! Come on Richard Dawkins!

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