28 May 2011

On MacAskill's Newsnicht car crash...

In an interview with Gordon Brewer on Newsnicht earlier this week on the SNP's anti-sectarianism legislation, Kenny MacAskill used the words "matter" or "matters" no fewer than 35 times in an 11 minute interview. In my experience, the number of times the Cabinet Secretary for Justice uses this particular term is inversely proportional to the amount of sense he is making. It is what I like to think of as Kenny's Goldfish orator mode. Like the little brazen fishlet spinning forgetfully about in its bowl, when flustered, MacAskill has the tendency to lose the stream of his discourse mid-sentence - but not a moment stops nor stays he. With gallant mien, bravely he flippers on, in mounting and often comic circumlocution. Clarity is not its keynote.

Regular readers will know that I am intensely skeptical about the approach being taken by the SNP to its early legislative priority to "stamp out bigotry". Whatever one's view of the generality of the proposals themselves, Kenny's performance on Newsnicht seriously lacked credibility. The party leadership's public pronouncements on their plans thus far have been an embarrassing guddle. Are they proposing to legislate against threats of violence made online - or are they proposing to go beyond violence in a general attempt to criminalise uttering sectarian sentiments? Salmond certainly seemed to suggest so. If the government hope to go beyond incitement to violence, what precisely are they legislating against? Practically, speaking, how can such broad legislative intentions be framed in any satisfactory way in a piece of legislation? These are eminently fair questions, and thus far I'm afraid MacAskill and Salmond haven't been able to produce any remotely clear answers. All of this might be less concerning, if we could anticipate an extended process of reflection and deliberation on the Bill, scrutinised in depth by Holyrood's Justice Committee and subjected to independent analysis by figures outside parliament. In its urgency, however, the SNP Government is committed to passing their law before Holyrood goes into recess over the summer. Practically, this means a third stage vote on the Bill before the 30th of June. Time is short.  To be short on answers when one is proposing to close the book on the proposed law in just over a month, is frankly, idiotic.

I find it utterly incensing to be treated to pious homilies about supporting a piece of legislation, whose contents those proposing it show little indication of having determined or understood. For my part, I have sympathy with the idea of clearly criminalising making threats, if parliament is persuaded to do so might be helpful. As I've explained elsewhere, uttering threats is already a crime at common law, so a statutory offence is no radical departure. Similarly, I wouldn't want entirely to dismiss the idea that such legislation can "send a message", although compliance and (non)compliance with law is a complex social phenomenon. I can envisage how a new Act explicitly relating to conduct in football stadiums might achieve this, although the common law of breach of the peace already covers a great deal of conduct of this character. Again, no radical departure. Legally, such a reform may be of questionable necessity, but if a statute could have some wider social good - I wouldn't oppose that. It is really the third prong of all of this which has got my dander up, Salmond's supremely vague and illiberal proposition that...

 "I am determined that the authorities have the powers they need to clamp down effectively on bigotry peddled online. The Internet is a force for good in so many ways – but it can also be abused by those who seek to spread hatred. That’s why the Scottish Government will bring forward legislation as soon as we can to make such online behaviour, including posts on sites like Facebook and Twitter, an indictable offence with a maximum punishment of five years in jail."

Kenny MacAskill's interview was an excellent opportunity to clear up what all of this might mean in practice and to distinguish what they are and are not proposing to do. For my part, I'd much rather have a clear idea what the SNP is about, and enthusiastically disagree with it, than fray my mental fibres trying to weave something coherent out of a ragbag of inconsistent propositions and doe-eyed reassurances about the good intentions driving the escapade. Here's the transcript of the Newsnicht conversation. If you can make out head or tail of the Bill from Kenny's atrociously vague performance, you are of much greater acuity than I.

Gordon Brewer: "Where are you going to draw the line? I can see that there's an argument that says that if you incite violence against someone, that that should be a prosecutable offence. Is that what you are saying? Or will your internet crime encompass something broader than that?"

Kenny MacAskill: "Well there are two aspects that we're seeking to deal with. One is disorderly conduct, unacceptable behaviour at, on their way, to football games. In the stadia.  That's a matter where breach of the peace would be inadequate in many instances and that is why we do have to have a specific law as well as showing our opprobrium as a community and as a country. Secondly, incitement of hatred is something - and resulting in threats - these are matters that we're trying to make sure that we get the correct balance. Discussions are ongoing. We'll make sure we speak to opposition parties but what we're trying to deal with is those threats of violence in equally, at the same time, those incitement, that are unacceptable to right-minded people in Scotland. This is a small minority - but as I say..."

Brewer: "Hold on a second. There is a very important distinction between inciting acts of violence against another citizen and having opinions which people might find obnoxious. And I'm not clear whether you're saying that you are only going to legislate on the internet for the first, or whether you are somehow encompassing this much more nebulous concept of the second?"

MacAskill: "Well, the legislation won't simply be for the internet. If somebody put it on a placard or waves it on a T-shirt, inciting violence against another person, then that would be dealt with-"

Brewer: "But would it only be if you incite violence?"

MacAskill: "No, I think we have to go further than that. We have to make sure that matters which would be viewed as unacceptable by the ordinary man on the street, or woman, that is what we're trying to address."

Brewer: "Like what?"

MacAskill: "Well, as I say, I think it is quite clear that there are statements that are simply unacceptable on a religious basis and this is what we're looking into. In every piece of legislation, Gordon, the devil is in the detail. That is what's being looked at by parliamentary draftsmen. These are complicated matters."

Brewer: "Sure. But you surely can accept that there are potentially big dangers here. If someone says, in the course of a discussion on the internet, I think the Catholic Church, or the Church of Scotland - take your pick - has been a force for evil in society in 500 years and we'd be better off without them, you're not going to legislate against that are you?"

MacAskill: "No. We're not seeking to interfere with free speech and legitimate comment or indeed illegitimate comment that goes beyond what some ordinary people - many ordinary right-minded people - would think. So as I say, at the end of the day, the ultimate arbiter here will be the courts. It is a matter of common sense in many instances what prosecutors will bring. So as I say - "

Brewer: "But I'm curious about what you think the boundaries are. I mean, if you say someone is a - inverted commas, choose your swearword Catholic/Protestant - is that going to be a crime on the internet?"

MacAskill: "I think what we're looking to do is to deal with those cases where people are inciting matters that cause great distress and fear and alarm and where it goes beyond matters which could be viewed as minor banter. These matters have to be dealt with by the police and dealt with by the prosecution authorities with the ultimate arbiter being the court. What we're required to do as a government is to bring legislation which will provide that balance - and there does have to be a balance in all these matters between prosecuting what is unacceptable and intolerable in a tolerant society and protecting civil liberties."

Does anyone feel any the wiser about what the SNP government is doing? Does anyone feel remotely reassured that Kenny MacAskill has a clear and delineated sense of what the devil he's about? From the jadedness of his performance, you might hazard a guess that the man himself feels rather lukewarm about the wheeze. At one stage, the ordinary fellow in the street is the supreme arbiter of right-reason. If his conscience was offended, this new law would be offended. Moments later, this commonplace customer is told to stuff any sense of outrage he might have, in the name of free speech. Despite perfectly clear, fair and direct questioning from Brewer, the relevance of violence and threats remains totally opaque, although it seems clear the SNP will try to give the idea of "peddling bigotry online" some legal substance. I almost fell out of my chair at the Cabinet Secretary's final remarks - commending that we trust the police, trust prosecutors and trust courts - precisely the suspect formulation I anticipated and criticised in my first post on this issue. At this stage, on this element of the Bill, I thoroughly agree with Alex Massie:

"It cannot, as the proposals stand, be thought fair, proportionate or workable. Nor is it a braw step for the brave new Scotland to create a new class of "Thought Crime", criminalising opinions merely because parliamentarians find those views distasteful. In short, as the proposals currently stand this is a nonsensical, hideously-sweeping and illiberal piece of speech-curbing malfeasance that, in terms of its narrower objectives, is scarcely needed in the first place and that, more broadly speaking, is a grotesque infringement upon liberty and common-sense alike. No wonder it's a favoured party-piece and just the sort of Bad Idea politicians find irresistible." 

So what the devil can the SNP do to get out of this muddle-guddle rapidly and with credible and concrete proposals? The answer, I suspect, will be the same one reached by the schoolboy who forgot to do his homework the night before and finds himself in a morning's panic before his first lesson - he'll peep over the shoulder of one of his fellows, and copy down their work instead, passing it off as his own.  As we discovered by looking into Iain MacWhirter's poorly informed Herald column earlier this week, stirring up hatred against persons on religious grounds is not an offence in Scotland, Tony Blair's broadly-discussed 2006 Act applying only in England and Wales. It would be an obvious and speedily solution to Scottish Ministers' unnecessary self- (or rather Eck-) imposed expedition, simply to amend the Public Order Act of 1986 up here too, so incitement of religious hatred became a stand-alone Scottish offence. It would also provide the opportunity for Ministers to use favoured commonsensical formulations and metaphors about "bringing Scotland into line" with the position South of the Border, supplemented by its air of "modernisation" and "updating" fustian legal norms with lively contemporary standards. 

While an obvious solution to the SNP government's anti-sectarian conundrums, for Holyrood breezily to pass such an offence in a single month ought to be scandal. In Westminster, it took the Labour government a number of attempts and a number of months to pass its Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, the government majority being frustrated at many points along the way, by the House of Lords and its own backbenchers. And Holyrood could do such a thing in thirty days, without pause to consider its implications or time to doubt? For shame.

65 comments :

  1. Classic moral panic followed by kneejerk political reaction resulting in vague and problematic but largely unenforced legislation?

    But I admire your application and fortitude in delineating and deconstructing Kenny's Newsnicht interview!!

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  2. I'm don't agree with your analysis. This is a complicated piece of legislation and it's difficult to explain something that is still only in its embryonic stage. The very real problem of Scottish sectarianism has to be tackled, unlike Labour's knife crime debacle, this law could be a defining moment in the battle against ignorance if done properly, the one thing I do know is that this isn't being flung together in a populist frenzy. I'd wait and see the final result before criticising MacAskill's admittedly inept attempt to explain something that is still being formed.

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  3. If the intention was to open up a reasoned debate, to consider submissions from interested parties and in light thereof to frame legislation to cover what is undoubtedly a very difficult area, then I suppose the Justice Secretary's vagueness could be excused.

    When however the intention is to have the new law on the statute book in just over one month, then it sems astonsishing that there were no concrete answers to Mr Brewer's straight questions.

    A rush to legislation generally results in a mess, or else a law which is simply ignored and unenforced.

    It will be very interesting to see what the parliamentary draftsmen come up with, although it would be prefereable if the Justice Secretary seemed to have a clear idea as to what the approach to be taken in the legislation was.

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  4. How pleased I am to note that you were too were confused by the Newsnicht interview. I wrote the other day that legislating on the hoof makes bad laws.

    Mark McCann: If this is a complicated piece of legislation and it's still in its embryonic state, then it certainly should not be pushed through before the recess. That is bad government.

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  5. 'the one thing I do know is that this isn't being flung together in a populist frenzy.'

    'SNP ministers plan to introduce a bill to the Scottish Parliament in the middle of June, with the hope it will pass through all three stages of the scrutiny process by the end of that month.'


    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-13520683

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  6. Cathy Jameson would have dealt with it thus:


    "These are very very very very very very very very very very difficult matters."


    Or perhaps wee Wendy would have been more succinct:

    "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaabsoluetl ridiculous."


    I see Taxi McLetchy is falling in to the very very very very very very camp these days. He feels that the forthcoming negotiations on Scotland's fiscal affairs are best describe thus. And that we here in Scotland had better leave these things alone.

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  7. Other than education, example and persuasion mixed with a generous portion of time, I've no idea how you would go about eradicating this idiocy let alone legislating to give it any effective teeth.

    Perhaps for now it would be more productive to target the associations, clubs and venues etc Where presently these practices are, if not encouraged, at least tolerated.

    Perhaps a regulation could be drawn up and enacted of equality and understanding that has to be incorporated in all of their articles of incorporation; is liable to spot audits and any perceived failure to incorporate the regulation has directors, office holders and senior staff facing heavy fines, jail terms or closure.

    Hit the top where it hurts and let them look after the riff-raff who support them.

    This's probably somewhere between knee and jerk.

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  8. Great post.

    To my mind when we start trying to legislate against culture we're getting into some dark waters. No wonder people think it's complex - that's because it's downright dangerous.

    I think where we're clear - incitement to violence, incitement to hatred say - then the law can be a useful tool. Where we're not clear and find ourselves unsure of what would and would not be legal - then that's something we should not be dealing with through legislation but through broader political and cultural methods.

    We don't have to make everything illegal that we don't like - especially when it means we may accidentally be making all sorts of things illegal at the same time because it was all too 'complicated'.

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  9. It seems to me that the horribly crude plan so far is no more sophisticated that the "prohibition of bad stuff".

    What is "bad stuff"? Let the prosecutor decide! How will we know if the prosecutor gets it wrong? Let the court decide!

    When seeking to criminalise behaviour, it helps to decide beforehand what kind of behaviour is to be criminalised - and why that should be the case. That way, at least a sensible debate can be had.

    That debate takes time. Time which is so far being denied to the consideration of these proposals. Which is a worry.

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  10. The Lockerbie trial, Cadder, Fraser and this. That the UK Supreme Court can appear positively egalitarian by comparison confirms that there is something very wrong with the Scottish criminal justice system. It seems that the Scottish Government and Parliament cannot get to the law quickly enough at every turn and are blinded from a distinct lack of concern for balanced civil liberties and human rights. Is this reflective of wider Scottish society? I hope not. MacAskill is not a hard target but the problems run much deeper.

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  11. No, it's a muddy policy but if a message is sent to the relidious neds then good but one hopes parliament doesn't get tied up in circles for no real profit.

    It is however very worrying that these nutjobs are sending bombs and making death threats. If this at leasts limits recruiting to the sectarian ned squads then it's worth it; if it doesn't then one imagines it's a tool for the police to use as a threatening measure to get info out of terrotists.

    Yes, terrorists, that's where we are...

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  12. It's difficult, lemon difficult.

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  13. Climb the mountain of conflict.

    I agree with Jim.

    I still think it's a useful tool for threatening soft embryonic terrorists.

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  14. Peat Worrier, I commented on your previous post (Against criminalising "bigotry peddled online..."), as I explained in my comment there I make no pretence at being a neutral in these matters – I have skin in this game – but I do hope to be fair-minded and offer you a perspective that you say you feel you lack i.e. one borne of intimate involvement of the issue in question. I hope you’ll again forgive my longwinded contribution on your post...

    You describe the SNP’s proposals as a “guddle” and I think that’s true for three reasons. First, they deal with behaviour online and as M. Sarkozy found this week it is fiendishly difficult to pin down the regulatory role the State should play in that realm; second, freedom of speech, especially where religion is concerned is a difficult subject as evidenced by the complexities relating to the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 in England & Wales; the third reason is pure politics which seems screamingly obvious to me as a Glaswegian but is understandably abstruse to the inhabitants of the civilised world! It is the third factor that I want to comment on as I think it is the key as to why Ministers are in such a mess.

    I am not anti-SNP, indeed I gave my vote to James Dornan at the election, but one observation that opponents of the SNP make of that party is that they are obsessed with independence as an issue; now, whether one thinks that is good (Eck’s clear eyed determination is a major factor in the SNP achieving their dominant position today) or bad, I think it is accurate to say that the Nationalists approach everything – everything – from the perspective “How will this affect an independence referendum result?”

    Continued in next comment...

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  15. ...continued from previous comment.

    The Nationalists believe that securing their vote in Glasgow is key to clinching a positive referendum result; there is in Glasgow, and the West of Scotland generally, a large group of people who define themselves as British first and foremost and who are culturally wedded to the Union; Salmond wants to persuade them to depart from that allegiance and vote for independence; they are also the same group who are most guilty of religious sectarianism. That poses a big problem.

    Since the Monklands East by-election in 1994 where the SNP came a close second in large part as a result of an organised Orange Order anti-Labour vote (in that case a specifically anti-Catholic vote) the SNP has, as I said in my previous comment, assiduously courted, the West of Scotland Roman Catholic Irish Republican tribal vote once so wedded to Labour; that has, in large part, succeeded and now I suspect Eck feels he must tack against the wind in the opposite direction to bring on board those in the west of Scotland who define themselves as culturally British – i.e. the wider Orange / Rangers (or whichever sociological identifier one wishes to use) community. Lately that means projecting himself as Royalist in Chief – going so far in an interview this week as to suggest that a vote for the SNP will guarantee the Monarchy in Scotland even as it faces republican pressures in England! Subtle it ain’t, but it may just attract enough of the Orange / Rangers vote to deliver Glasgow and North Lanarkshire Councils (the only Labour majority authorities left in Scotland) in local elections next year and offer a clear run to a referendum vote.

    It is in this context that the SNP have been forced by recent events to tackle sectarianism, but, how do you outlaw the defining feature (anti-Catholicism / anti-Irish racism) of the people who you are asking to vote for you, perhaps in a radical departure from their previous voting habits? The answer the SNP have hurriedly settled on seems to be in keeping legislation so vague and ill-defined that it doesn’t explicitly offend one “side” more than the other and relying on a spurious equivalence between the Orange and Irish communities in terms of sectarian behaviour. As you and others, Peat Worrier, have pointed out, vague, unspecific legislation results in potentially poor and deeply undesirable law.

    I think that we need to include this political factor in this discussion. Is there a way for the Scottish Government – whether through legislation or otherwise – to tackle sectarianism and at the same time cajole the Orange / Rangers community to vote first SNP in local governments elections and then “Yes” in an independence referendum? If not, can they still secure Glasgow and can they win a referendum on the strength of results elsewhere?

    It is low politics, not high principle but I think it’s key to understanding the Justice Secretary’s cloudy presentation.

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  16. Mick

    Very well argued, but if I thought the least of it was true..............then this agnostic curtural Catholic from an unrepentant fenian background would not hesitate in snipping my SNP membership card in two.

    I can only understand the vagueness as deliberate................though why Kenny could not articulate the complexities driving the need to be vague is anybodys guess.

    Sectarianism is most certainly a misnomer and many in the party have been pushing since before the election for a correction. Post election the SNP should now be declaring war on the bigots who have had all but a free reign on attacking a large section of our community. This is what is expected by the SNP activists from all backgrounds and more importantly new MSP's who I have heard speak the same words.

    We'll see!

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  17. Mick

    An interesting slant. It's certainly true that Eck has been right up the Archbishops's cassock for years now, and the Archbishop has responded eagerly. Just think, a small weak newly independent nation with a big politically strong influentail Arcchbishop to deliver to the Vatican. The Papacy beckons...

    It's certainly politically motivated... after all, one of the first things the SNP did in 2007 was make it very clear that they were not carrying on with Jack McConnell's very own ant-bigotry programme.

    Now .... they can't rush the legislation through fast enough...

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  18. Tony,

    time for the snip, methinks....

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  19. One thing that's pretty clear in all of this is that MacAskill is a dud. Is he the best the SNP have got for this role? The party position on the Cadder and Fraser cases is also difficult to understand on any basis other than crude anti English politicking. I suppose there's going to be a lot of that until the referendum.

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  20. @Tony,

    I self-identify in very similar terms to you but I would suggest a degree of caution in relinquishing your SNP membership if my analysis is correct. If this is the SNP leadership’s thinking, I’m not convinced that it is entirely without merit.

    I don’t for a moment think that the SNP leadership don’t regard sectarianism as a desperately serious problem but I think they believe that the best way to deal with it would be within the context of a new Scotland.

    The Orange community see themselves as reflecting the legitimate establishment – their symbols are the symbols of Britain and their political identity is founded on Union, Crown & Constitution, underpinned in every respect by anti-Catholicism. I am not sure that it is possible to change generational habits, opinions and prejudices while those attributes remain the framework of the State; it’s one of the reasons I have come to support independence.

    When David Mitchell or Madeleine Bunting complain about their potential loss of British-ness I listen but don’t much care; it’s another matter entirely if a whole community in Glasgow and the West of Scotland feel that they are to lose their identity and need to be dragged kicking-and-screaming into an independent Scotland. Imagine how bad things would become then!

    Independence will not usher in a magical new dawn, football supporters at Ibrox will still wave the Union Flag for years, perhaps decades, after the end of the Union (bear in mind that the Ulster Banner – the Red Hand of Ulster flag – hasn’t been the official flag of anywhere since 1972 and is ever present in some places in Scotland) and, although we won’t much like it, we’ll have to learn to lump it if we are to be a genuinely pluralist society.

    What I’m more concerned with is SNP Ministers rushing harmful legislation through Parliament in an attempt to get this pesky issue out of the way.

    If my cousins in Newry can use their vote tactically to try to ensure Peter Robinson stays First Minister then I can tolerate Eck flirting with the Billy Boys... I think!

    Peat Worrier, I don’t want to abuse your hospitality by talking too much so I will refrain from further hijacking your post until you comment.

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  21. Mick, perhaps the best way to win over the Orange vote is to point out that historically anti Irish Catholic prejudice is one of the threads that runs Scottish nationalism, indeed in the early years was a prominent thread, and that by dint of numbers their views would hold greater sway in an independent Scotland than they do in a UK context.It is also worth pointing out that in practical terms their brethern in the north of Ireland look to Scotland, not England, as their spiritual homeland, their Greater Scythia, as it were. Alex Salmond recognised this reality when he referred to the people of the north of Ireland as 'blood of our blood, bone of our bone', a sentiment which would have won the approbation of such nationalist luminaries as Andrew Dewar Gibb.

    Of course how you do this without scaring off the Catholic vote is another matter.One thing's for sure, it will require more adroit political skills than those of Mr MacAskill.

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  22. Mick

    Your underlying premise is overstated, hence why I declared earlier that my single SNP membership card would become two if it was true.

    The 'orange vote' is now so minimal to be unworthy of consideration, their atavism is an anomoly that Scottish society is now embarressed of. What has Salmond to court really? The pools in which they swim are shrinking and they are now a tiny but highly visible minority in the areas of the west of Scotland where they still hold sway. The recent pathetic showing in attempting to show their 'Britishness' in celebrating Billy'n'kate showed up their strength. You can count their votes in double figures from the polling boxes in Dennistoun and Brigton as votes for the Tories.

    The remarks made by Salmond concerning the people of the north of Ireland and western Scotland at least are true in the fact that our genes have swept back and forth across the north channel several times over. I'm sure he does not refer to sharing their dying views regarding their lack of sense of Irishness and anti-Catholicism. A culture that defies the description but nevertheless has entered their mindset as concrete foundations.

    Scottish society needs an SNP at this crucial juncture, needs a strong leader, be they a Salmond or a Sturgeon to lead with positivity, and thankfully we have that. The idea of 'Britishness' presented by the dying embers of orangism does not appeal to anyone really. Their 'Britishness' of course would not be recognisable to their benchmark superiors in Finchley. Thus they do not present a coherent view that resonates with anyone, and certainly does not gather new recruits from outside the hard of thinking gene pool.

    >>What I’m more concerned with is SNP Ministers rushing harmful legislation through Parliament in an attempt to get this pesky issue out of the way.<<

    Couldn't agree more!

    The prospect of a few transfers over to help civilize a party led by Pete the punt is worthy indeed. Our bigots are nowhere near as influential and perhaps stamping on them from on high will help civilize the DUPes also.

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  23. Scottish republic30 May 2011 17:36

    I don't think the SNP is trying to court the Orange vote at all.

    This all started after the bombs and death threats. The SNP dearly wish to avoid sectarian violence.

    Yet, it's always going to be clumsy legislation to impose but if it deters crazy biggots then it's worth it.

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  24. Michty me! A veritable avalanche of comments. That, in itself, is somewhat encouraging. What emerges from any sort of proper discussion of this topic are the nuances, the definitional difficulties, the complexity. Complexity which, of itself, speaks to the problems of "emergency" legislation. Whatever one's view of the final proposals, to rush is folly. I think Subrosa puts it neatly. It is simply bad government. On your point Mark McCann, I'm very happy to entertain a discussion on these issues, broadly aired, paused and reflected over. That can't happen if the tiny kernel of inspiration driving a bill is force-grown into a final statute in less than a month. I concur with both Paul McConville and Fraser Matheson on that one.

    Just to pick up a few of the many points various folk have made.

    Stuart,

    Application and fortitude - what about my "courage, strength and indefatigability?" ;-)

    Graham, Anonymous...

    As I've explicitly stated about the SNP in recent blogposts and have implicitly noted about other Scottish Parties - none has any particularly plausible or coherent commitment to liberty. On ECHR, for example, both MacAskill and Salmond have the tendency to talk terrible rubbish, while in the next breath yapping like enthusiastic supporters of civil liberties. Politically, I find the want of a clear principled basis for the support of civil liberties to be a highly regrettable absence in devolved Scottish politics. In fairness, it is not limited to the Nationalists (the Lib Dems, for instance, only have rare and mild tremors of liberalism). However, as a member of the SNP, it does trouble me that the party so often gets so lost when it tries to discuss these areas beyond fatuous generalities everyone can agree on.

    Mick,

    Thanks again for an interesting contribution. I really do appreciate the perspective, as I've noted elsewhere. Do always feel free to enlarge in the comments as much as you fancy. The same goes for everyone else. I value the discussion highly. Like others, I do find your assessment of the whys and wherefores of this to be problematic. I was not being entirely jovial when I suggested that based on his listless Newsnicht performance, MacAskill may not be an enthusiastic proponent of these measures. He has the twinkle in neither eye that cries out "collective cabinet responsibility". Your broader point about courting a loyalist vote is a profoundly unsettling proposition - which like others, I'd be minded (for which read, "would dearly like") to reject out of hand. However, my own befuddlement with the emotional power of these symbols and identities gives me pause. One to be thought about, that.

    Scottish Republic,

    I really don't agree. If this Bill emerges, as it seems it might emerge, as a generic incitement of religious hatred law, it ought to be a scandal and will be a grim indictment of the SNP backbenches, if it raises nary a flutter of discord in their ranks. Not just them, but for reasons mentioned above, as a member of the party, seeing the SNP fall into such rubbish is exceedingly disappointing and disheartening. I hope, however, that a measure of sense will prevail and that wild and Quixotic schemes will not be pursued. Or outraged vituperation shall overtake me!

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  25. Just wanted to say great article and discussion.

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  26. Thanks bigrab.

    Very much agree about the tenor of the subsequent discussion. Interesting and constructive. Rather more so, I fancy, than the response to Kenny Farquharson's article in the Scotland on Sunday on this selfsame topic. I can only assume LPW attracts a better quality of reader than the Sabbath Hootsmon!

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  27. Excellent debate.

    Anyone got an actual alternative answer to our virtual and real bigot mongers?

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  28. I feel a lot of conflicting things about this. If I am brutally honest I’ve been of the view that anti-Catholic bigotry has reduced a lot over the past ten years or so – it was certainly a much bigger problem twenty, thirty, forty years ago than it is now.

    And there’s a feeling that by making a big deal of it maybe all we do is feed it, actually give it a new lease of life. I would guess that a lot of people secretly feel that way.

    On the other hand we have people like Stephen House coming in (and I think a lot of the driving force behind the “summit” on sectarianism and what has followed originated with the police) and saying why the hell do you put up with this?

    It’s a reminder that sometimes it is useful to have an outsider come in and state the bleeding obvious. Because why do we? We’ve put up with it for years and although it has diminished it’s still there and perhaps the viewpoint of saying let’s not poke this particular snake with a sharp stick but let it stay hiding under its rock is simple cowardice.

    I am a bit more inclined to think that way myself now. I agree we need to see more details and so on. I am not in favour of letting the police make laws. But on the other hand if the police say we need you to change the law in particular ways because we don’t currently have the ability to act effectively that is another matter.

    I also feel, and this is entirely subjective, that this could be a real chance opening up because Scotland itself is changing. That doesn't follow on automatically from the election result. The election result has not changed Scotland – rather, the election result may be a sign of how much Scotland is changing. And I think this may be part of it.

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  29. Mark, I think concentration camps might help.

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  30. Scottish republic31 May 2011 18:31

    I get the feeling that none of really like this legislation because it's not really going to work.

    Yet, if it can be used to pressure these people to calm down then that's good.


    Moreover, I'm not sure what legislation it is, I haven't read it, I can't say if it's practical or not.

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  31. Glasgow City Chambers has, in the past, been referred to as the ‘Kremlin on the Clyde’ and I do not discount the possibility that I infer too much Machiavellian manoeuvre in my Kremlinology on this particular issue; something for me to think about.

    Thank you for the invitation to expand my points, I would like to develop a few issues but don’t want to dominate the space for discussion and want to complement, rather than distract from, the critical issue which is that we require parliamentarians who resiliently support civil & political rights and the ECHR, so I think this will be my last comment on this post but I will continue to read other comments (thank you to Peat Worrier and all for the discussion).

    I query the assertion that the ‘Orange vote’ is so reduced as to be irrelevant. If you would like some insight into the scale of influence of Orange culture, tour the Central Belt on Saturday 9th July 2011, the day of the biggest “Walks”. Take in the Glasgow conurbation and mid-sized towns in Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, Lanarkshire and the Lothians such as Ayr, Renfrew, Greenock, Motherwell and Broxburn - you may be surprised by what you see. The Orange Order have somewhere in the region of 50,000 members in Scotland – that doesn’t include the marching band members (typically male aged 16-35), the Ladies Association, the Independent Order or the Apprentice Boys. In comparison, the Labour Party in Scotland has around 13,000 members and the SNP 16,000. Bear in mind that 50,000 covers only the inaugurated members; each individual likely enjoys the active or passive sympathies of parents, siblings, cousins, friends and neighbours who share Orange culture and attitudes. It is an aspect of working class Scottish culture dislocated from the mainstream discourse; other than at times of extreme events such as the recent parcel bombs it is rarely reported because it’s constantly in the background, nothing new and therefore not news (also it is very complicated and journalists and editors feel nervous about tackling the subject). I just want to reiterate that I think we need to confront religious sectarianism but at the same time I’d prefer not to live in an independent Scotland in which working class Protestants feel they don’t fully belong – otherwise the Irish community will be seeing more bombs in the post.

    As to the points about historic anti-Irish prejudice in the SNP, I recognise its existence (emanating primarily from the old ‘Scottish Party’) and the fact that lots of Irish people in Scotland remain hesitant about independence because such prejudice could be magnified outside the structures of the UK. At the same time, it is worth pointing out that there are contrasting threads in the SNP’s history. The day after the election Eck mentioned in his speech another of the forerunners to the SNP, the National Party of Scotland; a grouping within that party was allied with Irish Nationalism and in particular (whisper it for the purposes of this conversation!) Sinn Féin and included the pan-Celticism of Ruairidh Erskine’s Scots National League. So it’s a mixed bag all round.

    I don’t wish to have the final word and so I will leave with a link to another article. The author is an insightful observer of Scottish society and politics who has himself stood for office in the West of Scotland and the article is interesting in many respects. I want to highlight two things relevant to this discussion:

    1) The first question posed in the article is to Alex Neil about his election campaign in Lanarkshire: did you have “trouble with the [Orange] lodge”?

    2) Salmond is described as “emperor of the long game”

    Something to think about.

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n11/neal-ascherson/wolves-in-the-drawing-room

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  32. Mark

    Applying the existing legislation would be a start.

    At the League cup final 20,000 rangers fans belted out the full songbook.

    None of the broadcast media mentioned it.

    There were no arrests.

    MacAskill issued a statement praising all involved.

    I find his actions on that occasion difficult to reconcile with his talk now.

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  33. Indy

    Your brutal honesty is true, Scottish society has moved on.

    Sadly though there still exists a state of affairs whereby my sons are still suffering the same anti-Catholic attacks and verbal abuse that I did. I find myself giving my oldest boy (he's 11 ffs) the same talk that my parents gave me about not getting into situations which will leave them open to attack etc, purely because of our background. My Da's generation pretty much to a man suffered discrimination in the job market, my generation is to my knowledge free from that.

    What is different now is that an emboldened and educated representative group of scots from an Irish catholic background are demanding parity as Scots. As I have stated before the orange embers are slowly extinguishing, but they still flicker to life which from time to time results in serious assualts and murder. The Orange order - that virulently anti-Catholic triumphalist hate group - also abuse the Human Rights Act ably aided by Sheriffs who will not eflect the wishes of society at large and meekly underline that one right ie. the right to march (Articles 9 and 10) trumps the right to a peaceful life to go about your business without threat or fear (Article 8).

    We would not tolerate this kind of attention if it were directed at the Pakistani community or any newer migrant. The challenge for us is to realise that because it has always been this way, doesn't mean it should be allowed to continue, or even die of it's own accord.

    The media are of course a disgrace, even now content to play the old discredited 'wan side are as bad as the other' line. All this serves to do is cover-up and excuse, and in actuality inhibit our ability to move on once we deal with the real problem.

    I should also mention that many in the catholic community are very reluctant to cause a fuss over this issue, frustratingly enough. Many have the same mindset I complain off that it has always been like this and nothing will change. I believe that labour have benefited from this mindset, they fed on it electoraly. Why else did they need UEFA to discover anti-Catholic sectarianism before they took moves to reflect a society that by and large had moved on.

    Mark

    Seriously, foce offenders to attend classes that are closely monitered and only allowed to progress once a real understanding has been reached. Controversially, a response I use to shock those who claim that catholic schools are somehow part of the problem. Is suggest that recividists have their children taken into care so they are not subject to the generational bigotry.

    Well ye did ask ;¬)

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  34. Have any of you nationalists read Andrew Dewar Gibb's 'Scotland In Decline'?

    That might be a good place to start if you're trying to understand the background to this issue.

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  35. Mea Culpa. That should be 'Scotland in Eclipse'.

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  36. Here's the link anonymous;

    http://tinyurl.com/3q6c42p

    Are you cack-handly attempting to make the point that the SNP tolerate anyone like that just now?

    Actually you have strenghthened the points I make. Scotland and the Scottish establishment USED to be like this, we as a society have moved on. Indeed the Church of Scotland mad a very welcome apology several years ago. They now realise that they were wrong, what is needed is a collective reasoning that the remnants of this anti-Catholic bigotry no longer should get a free hand.

    If we are talking political parties and anti-Catholic feeling look no further than labour;

    http://tinyurl.com/42bo4s5

    There was also a candidate or advisor tweeting the billy boys etc. the other year.

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  37. @Indy "We’ve put up with it for years and although it has diminished it’s still there and perhaps the viewpoint of saying let’s not poke this particular snake with a sharp stick but let it stay hiding under its rock is simple cowardice.......I also feel, and this is entirely subjective, that this could be a real chance opening up because Scotland itself is changing. That doesn't follow on automatically from the election result. The election result has not changed Scotland – rather, the election result may be a sign of how much Scotland is changing. And I think this may be part of it."

    Indy, don't you remember the anti-sectarian initiatives that Jack McConnell had going before the 2007 election, initiatives that the SNP buried as soon as they came to power?

    So "we" weren't "putting up with it.." as you contend, "we" were trying to do something about it until the Nats killed it off...or as you put it "..refused to poke that particular snake..".

    As for the election result: it may indeed be a sign of change, but not in the area of the SNP government chasing populist (as opposed to helpful) policies...

    ReplyDelete
  38. Tony


    'the Church of Scotland mad a very welcome apology several years ago'


    Have the SNP ever apologised for the views of Dewar Gibb and the like?

    That might be a good starting point if they're serious about dealing with the issue.

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  39. @anonymous

    The SNP was an orange fiefdom not so long ago. Before that it was a nest of Nazi collaborators.. see here...http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article587207.ece

    pro-nazi, anti-nazi, pro-orange, anti-orange, anti-english, pro-english, anti-catholic, pro-catholic, anti-student debt, pro-student debt, anti-PPP, pro-PPP, pro-LIT, anti-LIT....etcetera etcetera..

    Get the pattern?

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  40. To me it seems very odd indeed to focus entirely on football as the cause of religious sectarianism. I see football more as a delivery mechanism for the expression of sectarianism rather than it's cause. Sectarianism is bred in homes, schools, universities, workplaces, pubs, schemes and communities across the country. Commercial contracts are won and lost on it. I’ve witnessed it in all these fora.

    In Scotland it is caused, I think, by a combination of contributory factors. Separating our children from their first day at school on the basis of their parents' religious affiliations is one of those factors, a main one and it needs to be addressed. There is a counter argument which states that separate faith schooling has not caused problems elsewhere, so why would it here? To which I'd reply: Well, not to anywhere near the same extent and I'm not sure of the reason for that but the only plausible explanation I can think of is that some or all of the other contributory factors are absent elsewhere.

    As others have said, Orange parades are obviously a significant part of the problem too. One group is determined to parade whilst the other insists on segragating children at school. Sheer madness for which we all suffer.

    Politicians will not solve this problem alone and apportioning blame will get us nowhere. This will take time to sort out but sort it we must and the sooner, the better. Discussion is the starting point.

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  41. Anon

    Are you seriously suggesting that there were not members of other parties at that time who did not share the same views? C'mon! Those people exist in the labour and tory party just now.

    Braveheart

    You almost want to be part of this discussion, but why bother when trolling will do eh?

    Graham

    Wow! And your evidence regarding Catholic schooling being the main contributory factor is???????

    The words you use like 'segregation' screams beligerence towards Catholics daring to have choice and betrays a certain unreconstructed mindset. How dare you insinuate that taxpayers who choose to educate their children in a Catholic school are polar opposites to a bigoted hate group.

    Around a third of the weans in my local school are non-Catholic from a culturally Protestant background. Thus whilst you somehow magic up the idea that religous schooling are the main contributory factor in causing anti-Catholicism, organisations like the Orange order only play a significant part. Let's compare evidence on the OO with yours regarding catholic schools then, see where that get's us eh?

    I should state that I am for choice and not neccesarily a supporter of religous schools. Sadly Graham you pretty much shows us that a certain mindset still exists that needs to examine it's motivations.

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  42. Tony

    Dewar Gibb wasn't a maverick or peripheral figure in the SNP. He was central. A party leader and nationalist intellectual. His anti Irish Catholic racism was an essential part of his political ideology. He saw the Scots as a superior race at threat from Irish Catholic immigration.You guys are going to face up to this part of your political heritage if you're hope to be taken seriously on this issue.

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  43. Tony, I'm neither catholic nor protestant. I've never been interested in football. I have no axe to gind here. The orthodoxy of evidence normally involves digging out a bunch of numbers produced by one esteemed body or another with which to club your opponent over the head with them. I offer the evidence of my experience of having been born, schooled, grown up, worked, done business and lived in this country my entire life. I know what I have seen and heard and no amount of statistical filtering will change that. What I have witnnessed and experienced is a religious sectarianism deeply ingrained within Scottish society and practiced by both sides. Thankfully, they are both a minority. I acknowledge and appreciate that separate faith schooling is a huge issue for the Catholic community but it must be grappled with if we are to move on from the madness of sectarianism.

    I'm not insinuating anything. I'm clearly stating my opinion that both Catholic schooling and Orangeism (or Orangeism and Catholic schooling) are the main contributors of religious sectarianism. What can be done about the Orange parades? They must stop but to achieve this would involve the whole of Scottish society pulling together to bring about that change.

    But the choice to do what, Tony? Continue separating children from their first day at school on the basis of their parents' religious affiliation. It is nonsensical. Civil liberties, personal freedom and choice should be cherished by all, certainly they are by me. But the silent majority has been forced to endure this sectarianism for generations. I for one am sick to the back teeth of it. We must address this and move on from it.

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  44. @Tony

    not trolling (I believe) merely pointing out that the Nationalist Party has taken and will take any position that might get them votes (or at least publicity) however wrong-headed or contradictory.

    As for McAskill's attempts to "solve" sectarianism: he hasn't a clue. There were projects running under the previous Labour/Lib Dem administration which he let die on the vine, and now he (or more likely Eck and the Archbishop) thinks "something must be done".

    Hence a knee-jerk rush to ill-thought-out legislation and the inevitable ensuing muddle.

    I think Eck called it "Brave New World.." or some similar meaningless grandiose American political construction....

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  45. Braveheart since we are trying to have an honest discussion about this let's all acknowledge that the problem is not down to "lack of education".

    There is nobody who does not actually know that bigotry, like racism, is wrong. The people who do it know fine well that it is wrong and that it is not acceptable.

    So there is a limit to what can be achieved by education and we have probably reached that limit. That's not to say of course that we should stop the educational work and youth projects etc which are addressing the issues, simply that there is not a great deal more that can be achieved in terms of education targeted at the general population because the general population are not bigots.

    What I think we are talking about here is action targeted at the hard core minority who are bigots.

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  46. Tony I know exactly what you are saying and I agree with most of it.

    Mick I think we do have to recognise and welcome the fact that things have changed a lot - yes there are still 50,000 Orangemen but there used to be many more. And the issue is not that they exist but that some of them regard themselves as being above the law.

    We've probably all been brought up knowing, for example, that you can't "cross the walk" or you are asking for trouble. And I have personally complained to the police about incidents I have witnessed around orange walks where the police turned a blind eye.

    To their credit, in my opinion, the police were honest enough to admit that was the case and acknowledged that they did turn a blind eye to certain behaviour because if they went in and made arrests it could spark off a riot which they would be unable to control.

    That is the kind of thing that has to change now and I hope that is the kind of thing that will be addressed in the legislation.

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  47. @indy

    I'm not aware that I mentioned "lack of education". Are you thinking of someone else?

    "What I think we are talking about here is action targeted at the hard core minority who are bigots."

    No problem with that if true, but what I think we are talking about here is a badly considerd piece of legislation hurried through without proper prepapration or proper consideration of its effectiveness.....

    It's a populist reaction to headlines...a nationalist speciality.

    There's a referendum to win (more likely lose) you know....

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  48. Anonymous

    Gie yirsel a name widye!

    ".You guys are going to face up to this part of your political heritage if you're hope to be taken seriously on this issue."

    Well as I have said every party in Scotland would have shared such views. However to take your advice the SNP has now harnessed many like myself who are representative of Scots from an Irish Catholic background. Unlike the gombeen men from labour from a similar background we will not serve British interests at any time for the sake of expediency. Nor disgustingly accept honours representing an empire steeped in blood, nor the undemocratic house of lords.

    Would that be enough for you to start with?

    Braveheart

    Welcome to the debate!

    I agree that legislation should not be rushed, and Mackaskill needs strong relevant advice as he has not distinguished himself thus far.

    However to respond to a point made earlier regarding the league cup final whereby he praised the crowd not the singing. Kenny only sums up the state of affairs that exists in Scotland at present. You see it was normal to have tens of thousands singing their bloodlust calling for genocide of Irish catholics, it was normal to sing about Irish people going home, and throwing potatoes at celtic players. Kenny was merely remarking on the lack of trouble, however what it does show is that he needs new advisors because tis state of affairs is not acceptable. We deal with it ourselves or have foreigners do it for us.

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  49. Braveheart I think you know exactly what I mean.

    I'm not knocking what Jack McConnell did but it was all about inter-faith work, education in schools, sports clubs promoting tolerance etc.

    All well and good, and that stuff needs to continue, but you know as well as I know that the kind of people who think it is OK to send bullets in the post are not going to be influenced by that in the slightest.

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  50. graham

    You take the line that one side are as bad as the other.................there are no two sides. What have Catholics ever done to deserve this infamy?

    Are we festooned with attacks on Protestant clergy? No! Do we have hundreds upon hundreds of marches by a Catholic hate group decrying the reformed religion with blood curdling songs of hate calling for their deaths? No! Do Strathclyde police have figures showing that Protestants are massively over-represented in violent attacks motivated by religous discrimination? No! Do we have intelligent people excuse and enable such attacks by blaming the existance of Protestant religous institutions like Sunday schools and the boys brigade etc as reasons for anti-Protestantism? No! Yet the converse regarding the Catholic community is just that.

    Also as you have failed to even give a point of view as to why Catholic schools are the main cause of anti-Catholicism never mind any evidence. I will remain insulted by the accusation. Although I was heartened to note that you had promoted that anti-Catholic hate group up from being a significant to main factor, now there is progress.

    In one of Devine's books he posits the premise that Dundee has no significant anti-Catholic history despite having a similar percentage of immigrants over the centuries to the west of Scotland. Unlike the west of Scotland, Dundee's Irish immigrants were almost entirely Catholic. Around a quarter to a third of immigrants from ireland to the west of Scotland were protestants with a strong orange tradition.

    This is not to say that we Scots needed Orangemen from the north of ireland. In the pre-famine 1840's stats show that there were less than 30 Catholic families in Glasgow yet 40 plus anti-catholic organisations. Thus when the orangemen came over they would have found a warm welcoming embrace and ready made comrades.

    Only in the north of Ireland and the west of scotland, with notable inclusion of the unreconstructed minds of some Hearts fans do we have Catholic schools blamed for anti-Catholicism. There are more Catholics in England than there are people in the whole of Scotland. Catholic schools are eveywhere in the English speaking world. Yet we see no worldwide news embarressing such countries.

    Does it not beg the question, why don't those who believe that Catholic schools are the main contributory factor examine their own motivations for giving credence to such an idea.

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  51. I should clarify the above.

    I have not met any religous protestants who hold anti-Catholic views (some dodgy views on homosexuality granted). The Protestants I know would hold with my views.

    Te Orange order do not represent protestantism in the least, in fact their adherence shames it. What we have are a core group who claim to be cultuarally Protestant who coalesce the warm embrace of Rangers FC. A club who have fed the uber-Britishness that goes hand in glove with anti-Catholicism.

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  52. Scottish republic1 June 2011 15:46

    Braveheart is (or soon to be was) a Labour councillor in Falkirk.

    He starts off being interested and then descends quickly to poisonous remarks.

    His opinions are thus contrived and irrelevant because they are but insults dressed in comment until the veil drops and the unpleasntness begins.

    However, his accusing the SNP of supporting this and that is a new low.

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  53. Scottish republic1 June 2011 15:49

    Despite our discussion here on the policy idea itself, something has to be done :

    http://news.scotsman.com/politics/Northern-Ireland-leaders-speak-out.6777627.jp

    I believe these guys know a thing or two about sectarian troubles.

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  54. @Scottish Republic.."..."his accusing the SNP of supporting this and that is a new low.."...

    The fact that the SNP was sympathetic to the Orange vote is not disputed (I presume you don't dispute it) and, in any case, it wasn't raised by me. Mr Dewar Gibb existed, he was a prominent Nat and his politcs was well known. It's not a secret.

    The bit about the Nazi sympathies of Nationalists was sourced to the Times.. here it is again just in case you missed it.

    "http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article587207.ece"

    The other thing I accused the SNP of was being consistent in only two things, chasing "independence" by any means possible and chasing the populist vote regardless of consistency of stance. There can be no argument - from anyone knows what they are talking about - on that score.

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  55. Scottish republic1 June 2011 17:25

    I don't talk to Brit nats because you come here to disrupt and deteriorate discussion but...



    You're suggesting that the people of Scotland turfed your lot out onto the street and voted SNP in mass as some sort of pro-Orange/pro-Nazi wave of sympathy.

    Bolx

    Your lot openly use the Orange Order to 'canvas' for you and post leaflets(plenty of links available).

    Your lot just asked the Northern Ireland branch to 'come over and help' (plenty of links available). A disgusting turn of events in general and you know it.

    Your lot may call themselves Labour or Tory (same difference) but your lot are Brit nats.

    Empire dreaming Brit nats, to which you support fully their : privilege based; lord-filled (McConnell etc.); anti-decent society philosophy ; pro-markets political subservience. You think you don't but the truth is by being part of that system, you have been swallowed whole as Blairites and spat out as Brownites.

    You, until you see it for what it is, are unfortunately part of the problem.

    Your desire to deny the Scots a society built on caring and equality in preference to a Brit nat dream (the dream being a Labour that is no more - dead) that leaves Scotland in rubble.



    We're building our society from the ground up. See the light, drop the nonsense and join us.

    Get a grip man and follow your principles not your politics.

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  56. Republican, I don't see why you are so angry with me, and no-one else.

    It was Mick (I think) who brought up the Orange issue, not me. See his post of 29th May, 18:23 hrs.

    "..Since the Monklands East by-election in 1994 where the SNP came a close second in large part as a result of an organised Orange Order anti-Labour vote (in that case a specifically anti-Catholic vote)...

    And Anonymous "... perhaps the best way to win over the Orange vote is to point out that historically anti Irish Catholic prejudice is one of the threads that runs Scottish nationalism, indeed in the early years was a prominent thread, .." 30th May 10:24. again "..Have any of you nationalists read Andrew Dewar Gibb's 'Scotland In Decline'?.." 31 May 21:24

    I only mentioned it in passing 31 May 22:42 "...The SNP was an orange fiefdom not so long ago...". And it was, you know, whether you accept it or not.

    As I said, the Nazi accusation came from the Times, and I gave a link to follow.... I note you don't even attempt to deny or refute it.

    Republican, I can understand your anger, but you shouldn't really direct it at me. On this thread others raised it and in history it is true. Maybe you should direct your anger against the Scotish Nationalist Party....

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  57. Scottish republic

    Peter Robinson is affectionately known as Pete the Punt because he led an invasion of the Irish republic at the head of a group of thugs and succeeded in terrorising several old wimmen. He was arrested and paid his fine in Irish punts rather than go to gaol. The reactionary group that he led were known as vanguard and included members of unionist death squads like the UVF and UDA as well as mainstream politicians. The weapons that they obtained (mainly from kindered spirits in apartheid South Africa) have never been surrendered or decommisioned.

    Also several unionist death squad leaders, notably Davy Ervine and Gusty Spence have spoken of 'knowing the colour of the wallpaper' on the walls of mainstream unionists politicians houses. They were fed up carrying the can and subsequently being hung out to dry by said politicians when they were often acting on their 'advice'.

    This advice resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocents, mainly Catholics in order to keep that community in fear. People like Robinson are latter day peaceniks, they used their votes to force John Major to delay - almost to the point of sabotage - the fledging peace process at a crucial juncture. They are where they are today through a mixture of expediency and being dragged kicking and screaming all the way.

    Martin McG, whilst not personally responsible was a high profile IRA o/c that too readily forgot their republican principles, and far too often resorted to sectarian killings themselves. They were also very reckless far too many times when carrying out operations to the point that non-combatants would become casualties.

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  58. I have seen many suggestions that the SNP courts the Orange vote, just as I have seen many suggestions about the SNP courting the Catholic vote. There have also been some particularly bizarre internet theories about the SNP courting the Muslim vote - see Tom Gallagher et al.

    Well guess what, the SNP courts everyone's votes. And everyone, of whatever religious, ethnic or cultural background is welcome in the SNP and in the Scotland we are trying to move towards.

    That is the real context to this debate in case anyone has forgotten.

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  59. As I said, no point in talking to Brit nats.

    We won, they lost. Now onwards and upwards.

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  60. Braveheart, I'm not a member of the SNP but I've regularly associated with members over the last two decades and I don't recognise the picture which you paint of it. I'd have absolutely nothing to do with an anti-Catholic and or pro-Orange organisation. Why don't you enlighten us with what Nigel Dewar Gibb has said to cause you such obvious unease. I'm relaxed as to what your revelations might be because he is only one man and if what he's said I find disagreeable then I'm happy to say so.

    Tony, a genuine thanks for continuing the discussion in a civil manner. It is not my opinion that one side is as bad as the other but what purpose would it serve to apportion blame? I would like to think that the vast majority readily identify Orangeism as the repugnant extreme of one side of sectarianism. I’d reluctantly forego some degree of my own civil liberty to see it stamped out immediately.

    Sectarianism does not exist solely in and around football grounds, it thrives and is regularly practiced to this day in all the fora I mentioned earlier. I know this not because I’ve read it in a report or a book but because I have lived and witnessed it from both sides. It is born from segregating children from their first day at primary school, during their formative years. This clearly sets out to both groups of children at such a young age that each is different from the other to the extent that they are not allowed to sit together, learn together, work together, grow together, play together and live together. That is tragic, all the more so because adults are responsible for it. Shared campuses were at least a step in the right direction but sadly they appear to be all but dead now: http://www.heraldscotland.com/shared-campus-schools-policy-ignored-by-most-councils-1.837952

    I think the majority of our people who are on neither end of the sectarian divide have a responsibility to help bridge it. Our reluctance to become involved, whilst understandable, only allows its perpetuation. The advice of today’s Irish visitors to Bute House not to ignore sectarianism I find encouraging. We might disagree on the causes of sectarianism but I wonder if we might edge a smidgen closer to consensus on the solutions to it because that is what matters most after all. This issue will undoubtedly feature in the run-up to the referendum. It’s not an enjoyable one for me but we’d be as well dealing with it openly. What a prize if we could solve it. Slainte.

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  61. Graham

    >>Tony, a genuine thanks for continuing the discussion in a civil manner. It is not my opinion that one side is as bad as the other but what purpose would it serve to apportion blame?<<

    Nae bother............we need to apportion blame because there has been a load of money spent for nought of late. Also there are many in denial as to where the blame needs to go, instead we all get the blame Catholic, Protestant and neither. The cancer is anti-Catholicism, to dress it up as sectarianism is utter bullshit. There is no real anti-semitism here, no real anti-Protestantism, perhaps a touch of Islamophobia but that is not driven from Scotland. Thus the use of the word 'sectarianism' is a total misnomer, one that you are happy to go along with I see. Also what is the 'sectarian divide' that you speak of? I am targetted because of my religion, I don't target anyone else because of their religion. I am divided from no-one apart from bigots.

    >>It is born from segregating children from their first day at primary school, during their formative years. This clearly sets out to both groups of children at such a young age that each is different from the other to the extent that they are not allowed to sit together, learn together, work together, grow together, play together and live together.<<

    I don't know where you live Graham, is it the Shankhill? I don't recognise this. My oldest boy plays with non-Catholic and even orange weans. I could care less if they went to a catholic school or not, but the missus won that particular point. In my oldest boy's class nearly half the boy's are non-Catholics, many supporting Rangers. My other boy's best pal in his Catholic school is from a bona fide orange family, weird as it goes again the grain of their principles, but intelligence I doubt is their strong point.

    So there reall is no wee Billy and Johnny parted after nursery school, each doomed to never see each other again. It is just a big hot pile of steaming kack. Actually I know of some white supremacist loyalist type nutter in easterhouse who won't let his weans play with catholic kids. Unbeknown to him their schools have some of these untermenschen in them who his kids associate with.

    You have now had three opportunities Graham to provide evidence to back up your now oft repeated opinions. Are you even aware of how insulting the accusation is regarding catholic schools playing any role in anti-Catholicsim? Until you produce anything that resembles evidence it will just remain an insult driven by questionable motivation.

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  62. Tony, I think the term sectarian's general acceptance in this context is in recognition of the fact that there is more than one side to this and even a middle. To describe it only as anti-Catholicism is deludedly one-dimensional and if you cannot carry with you someone like myself who belongs to neither side and whose only interest is to bring the two together then it only highlights how difficult this will be to solve.

    With regard to the mysterious case of the missing evidence: I confess - guilty as charged! I now realise that only some empirical tome will suffice, preferably accompanied by a clickie. I offered evidence of what I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears in schools, universities, workplaces, schemes and communities throughout Glasgow. This is the sort of evidence that is presented, accepted and indeed preferred in courts across the land. Anyone asserting that it should be inadmissable and only books are allowed is likely to get the jail for being daft and I have to say I think they'd deserve it.

    Nevertheless, I enjoyed the discussion; a welcome change to the usual one-line sniders. It is just a pity that it led to absolutely nowhere in the end.

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  63. I see it as anti-catholicism too. I never hear catholics saying hateful things about protestants.

    It's unbelievable this rubbish continues? It's simple hate-filled prejudice.

    I wonder if the Orange mob hate me more because I think God and religion are fairy stories for adults? Probably not... too much brainwashing against catholics.

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  64. Graham

    If any of your hearsay evidence was borne out then it would manifest itself in all manner of ways. There would be songs about murdering Protestants, eh no! There would be Protestant places of worship targetted, the Sally army hassled etc., eh no! there would be casual sporadic violence and murder of Protestants, eh no! Alas Catholics do not share this luxury in our bonnie Scotland.

    What we do have and I can testify to this is some eedjits who try to replicate idiotic jokes that allows you to insert Taig/Fenian/Prod/Hun etc. take your pick. We also have the odd bit of violence at fitba matches where for a change Rangers fans might take a bit of a doing. That Graham is the extent of it. My answer to some of it is to not accept racist xenophobic or sectarian or paedophile shite dressed as jokes.

    I knew I was going round in circles several comments ago graham, I don't need books to allow me to judge what is happening. I have lived surrounded by this shite most of my life, and sadly unless we collectively admit what we have to do then sadly my weans are going to have to put up with it also. Understandably I and people like me are going to try our best to ensure this is not the case.

    I'm sure we can spare them having to put up with pickets outside their schools as well.

    natha

    Thanks, it's time we all spoke out.

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  65. Graham Catholics are six times more likely to be victims of sectarian attacks than Protestants. That is empirical evidence.

    Given that there are many more (at least nominally) Protestant people in Scotland than Catholics it is pretty clear from those statistics that Catholics are disproportionately the victims of sectarian crime.

    Can you not understand, then, how offensive it can appear to suggest that one of the solutions to this is to abolish Catholic schools?

    That comes perilously close to blaming the victim for the crime.

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