Scotland: sectarianism

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by sound shift, Dec 15, 2009.

  1. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    A touchy subject this, but definitely a cultural one, I reckon.

    In Scotland, do people know which religion their neighbours/colleagues/friends follow? Does this knowledge affect the way they organise their day-to-day lives? We read of sectarian-motivated crime, but I would like to know whether the law-abiding majority are in fact sectarian in outlook.

    It's very difficult for someone not living in Scotland to get a feel for this. My non-religious English parents lived near Edinburgh for two years in the 1950s. My father heard people say "He's a left-footer", code for "He's a Catholic". He knew what the expression meant but he never found out whether the knowledge affected the speaker's behaviour towards the person in question.
  2. Jasmine_Chila Senior Member

    Scotland ~ Egypt
    English - Scotland
    Hi there, I'm from Scotland (currently Edinburgh, grew up in Glasgow).

    I've never lived in England so I wouldn't be able to compare it to what you consider as normal, but yes, generally you know who comes from a Catholic family and who comes from a Protestant family. Although the majority of the younger generation don't really divide themselves on any physical level by this, and a good number consider themselves agnostic, there's still a general difference in upbringing between Catholic families and Protestant families.

    In the West Coast (I've not been in the east long enough to know) even the tiniest villages have both a chapel and a protestant church, and school assemblies for Christmas and Easter in Primary Schools alternate between the two. When I was at Primary School (Not too long ago, I'm only 19 now) there was always a couple children in the class whose parents ban them from attending events in a church of the opposite denomination. It's probably the same in England.

    In England about 8% of people are Catholic, while in Scotland that's about 17% so there's a stronger influence of seperate Catholic schools etc. which further divide kids.

    Don't forget the issue of football (Celtic is traditionally associated with Catholics while Rangers is associated with Protestants). While the yobs who identify their football teams as their respective religions are usually unreligious in the extreme, they will take any excuse to fight and this is a major cause of sectarian tensions.

    Yes, Sectarianism has been a problem in Scotland for a long time, but I do believe things are changing.
  3. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Thank you very much.

    I have a much clearer picture of this now that I have read your "the younger generation don't really divide themselves on any physical level by this". That was really what I wanted to know.

    The difference with my experience in England is this: When I was at school, I was unaware of the religion of my mates. We didn't have any expressions like "left footer". We didn't talk about religion. It might have been different if there had been a lot of ethnic minority pupils at my school, but there weren't.

    I am aware of the football issue, but from what you say it is more to do with belligerence than with deep-seated sectarian antagonisms. The difference with England is that, as far as I am aware, no club is seen as Catholic or Protestant, even nominally.
  4. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    I'm not from Scotland but most of the Scottish problems derive directly from Ireland in one way or another so I'll add what it's like here if it's of any interest.

    In the South (the Republic of Ireland), you'll very rarely hear anything about Protestantism or Catholicism in daily life. I went to a Protestant-run secondary school and every Protestant there was just like any Catholic there, they all supported the Irish soccer team, called themselves Irish etc.

    Of course there was the odd joke here and there about who was a "Brit'' and who wasn't, but I never heard anything that resembled acutal sectarianism. Religion isn't so much a taboo subject in my opinion, as one of non-interest.

    That's not to say sectarianism doesn't exist here though, it does. Glasgow Rangers (and their supporters) are generally looked on in a very poor light, especially in working-class areas, and should you be caught wearing a Rangers or England soccer jersey after hours in certain quarters, you probably wouldn't have the most enjoyable time of your life.

    Things in Northern Ireland are somewhat different. There, religious division is a fact of daily life. The two communities are very divided in my experience, and tension can get extremely high the lower you go on the socio-economic scale. Catholic Irish kids generally play Irish sports like Gaelic Football and Hurling, go to Catholic schools, learn Irish and don't often mix with the other side. Protestant ''British'' kids generally go to state run (Protestant majority) schools, play rugby and soccer, and definitely don't learn Irish. You can pretty safely gauge which area you're in by the flags flown (Irish/Basque/Palestinian or Union Jack/Ulster Banner/Israeli). This can even descend to absurd differences in how things are called, Catholics (and people from the South of whatever religion) will always refer to ''Derry''. Northern Protestants though are more likely to insist on it being called ''Londonderry''. There is even a squabble in Derry City Council about getting the named changed (or restored, according to your outlook). ''Peace Walls'' even exist to separate the two sides in parts of Belfast which are particularly prone to outbreaks of inter-communal violence. The political parties also generally break down along ethno-religious lines, from Protestant fundamentalist right-wing Unionists (the DUP), to the establishment Tories (UUP), centrist Catholic Nationalist (SDLP), and left-wing Republican (Sinn Fein). The British election campaign in Northern Ireland would probably seem strange indeed to someone from Rochdale.

    As one can guess, it's a very different place, though what I've just written above is obviously a generalization. There are many (if not most) areas in the North where Protestant and Catholic get along fine and religion and/or nationality never come up. I've been to Scotland a few times and never noticed much in the way of sectarianism, except for the obvious Celtic-Rangers rivalry. I believe Glasgow is far worse than any other area of Scotland as regards the problem. I have heard from relatives that anti-Irish (Catholic) discrimination was far worse in the past (1950s), than now.
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2010
  5. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Since my last post in this thread, I have acquired a very limited amount of first-hand experience of the matter. Both of you mention football. Earlier this year I attended a match at Hibernian FC, in Edinburgh. As the name, the green colours and the harp on the club crest suggest, this club has Irish Catholic roots. Apparently, some prople follow the club because their own roots are similar, but I didn't see any Irish flags or hear any Irish songs in the stadium. In fact I didn't see or hear anything that might be labelled "sectarian" (although there was an audio announcement just before kick-off, warning against sectarian behaviour and other forms of "unacceptable" behaviour - something that I have not heard in any English football ground). The club has for decades tried to appeal to all parts of the community. I doubt very much that the club would be viable if only Edinburgh's Catholics attended its games.
  6. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    Hibs were originally the Irish club in Scotland but gradually got moved out of that position by Celtic. They still retain many Irish trappings from what I've seen (the Erin go Bragh flag being a principal one), though Irish tricolours aren't much in evidence (probably because that's now the preserve of Celtic). Apparently the Hearts-Hibs rivalry is like the Rangers-Celtic one though on a smaller scale. I think Hearts fans are much more like Rangers than Hibs fans are like Celtic's though.
  7. Sunshine on Leith Senior Member

    Spain's Spanish
    In my opinion, sectarianism is clearly a problem in Scotland since the Scottish Government is trying to tackle it from a political perspective. But it is not exclusive to Scotland, and it is not a question of religion. In Spain, Madrid and Barcelona fans might be mortal enemies, even though they might share the same religion. IF ANY. It's just that places like football grounds seem to make it acceptable to let out steam and shout abuse at others, until it makes front page news, and then everyone becomes sanctimonious and politically correct.

    Sectarianism is about believing that we belong to the rightful team or group, and we are better than others, it makes people feel good about themselves, just by buying a ticket and dressing in certain colours and shouting a bit, funny, heh?
  8. McBabe Senior Member

    English- British
    I think the whole problem of sectarianism in Scotland is mostly a West coast problem, if any problem at all! All of my family is West coast but I grew up in Aberdeen and now live in Edinburgh, and on the East I've never really seen or heard about any sectarianism. I'm 22 now, and I remember when I was about 10 or so the boys in the close my gran stayed in asked if I was Catholic, I said no. "What, you're protestant then?". Again, no! It's definitely more of an issue in the West than the East, but even so it's a lot less problematic than it used to be.

    I think the only thing that remains throughout is maybe knowing what kind of names are typically Catholic. I think this happens in Ireland too. However, it's not always a good indicator! I have probably the most Catholic sounding name possible, and I, like my parents, am an atheist!
  9. Ironicus Senior Member

    English & Swahili - East Africa
    Sectarian sentiment is by no means a problem in Scotland, as can be seen by the fact that politicians say it is, so that in time to come they can claim to have solved it!
    What is a problem, though, is being Catholic on the East Coast and wanting to marry a Protestant girl. Up until the matter comes up, you're just another Scot; but when it happens, you're a pape!
    On the West coast though, there's no such problem, every good Catholic, and nobody but Catholics, marries in a Catholic church, so there's no problem.
    Pedro y la Torre is right when he says it's all an Irish problem. The Glasgow Catholic population is mostly descended from 19th-century refugees from the Irish Holocaust, there being few native Scottish Catholics since Stuart times.
    But that's assuming that all sectarianism is Catholic and Protestant. Perish the thought! Scotland has several strong and mutually exclusive flavors of Calvinism. Someone else will have to fill you in on the details, though.
  10. Jasmine_Chila Senior Member

    Scotland ~ Egypt
    English - Scotland
    My grandfather was a catholic and married my irreligious, if anything, protestant grandmother. On the west coast all those years ago.

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