Sectarianism In Glasgow Essay Examples

It won't just be Celtic and Rangers fans who are on edge when the rival clubs meet in the Co-operative Insurance Cup final at Glasgow's Hampden Park this Sunday.

Their last heated clash ended with the incendiary sight of Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, and Rangers' assistant manager, Ally McCoist, squaring up to each other.

Something had to be done. So Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister, called both clubs to a summit at the behest of the police. They agreed to consider football banning orders for fans convicted of domestic violence, which has been known to soar by 138% when the two teams play on a Saturday. There are also measures to reduce alcohol consumption and improve players' behaviour.

However the Old Firm clash has another, particularly ugly element – sectarianism. By some quirk of history, Scotland's two largest and most successful football clubs have a cultural identity closely bound to Northern Irish politics. Celtic has a mainly Catholic following. Rangers is older, and has attracted a large Scottish and later Ulster Protestant following.

As the years have rolled on and secularism spreads, the support base has broadened. Glasgow's Pakistani community, for example, can be found among each club's fans. The clubs have also made considerable efforts to emphasise their Scottish identity – both have their own tartans. The grounds are family-friendly, corporate entertainment is lavish, and most fans no different from the average Arsenal or Man Utd follower.

But despite major efforts by both clubs, there are problems on the terraces. In particular there are elements of Rangers supporters who continue to sing offensive songs.

Some of the most glaring examples of sectarian violence are directed against Lennon, a Catholic from County Armagh who had to abandon his international career with Northern Ireland when he joined Celtic – he received death threats and was advised by police to take them seriously.

Since the clash with McCoist, Lennon's family have been forced to move to a safe house. Much of this is fuelled by internet hate sites, including several on Facebook encouraging people to hang or shoot him. His treatment has been roundly condemned – Salmond recently deplored it during first minister's questions in parliament. He has said that the prosecution service and police will form a special task force to clamp down on internet hate sites.

Salmond isn't the first politician to come up against "Scotland's shame". Sectarian-aggravated offences have been in place since 2003, and at that time the Labour first minister, Jack McConnell, held a series of high-profile anti-sectarian summits. They highlighted the problem, but were also controversial in that the Catholic church and the Orange Order were given parity and clashed over denominational schools and the Act of Settlement, which bars Catholics from the throne. However, the new government preferred grassroots initiatives.

Whether we shout down sectarianism or work quietly to eradicate it, the broader question is why it persists. Institutional sectarianism, once rife in Scotland, is long dead. Fifty years ago, Catholics would have found it difficult to enter certain trades and professions. They only achieved pay parity in 2001.

There are complex historical reasons for this. Northern Irish Protestants are descended from plantation Scots Presbyterians, settled in a deliberate attempt to make the island loyal to the British crown. The success of Scottish industry in the 19th century lead to a large influx of Irish, both Protestant and Catholic. Naturally, they brought their divisions with them. There was also the added complication that Irish workers were often brought in to undercut the wages of Scots.

This is all historical. Catholics now think of themselves as Scottish. There is an articulate, well-educated Catholic middle class. One of these, Peter Kearney, the media spokesman for Cardinal Keith O'Brien, recently claimed anti-Catholic bigotry was rife in Scotland. It was an indication of the Catholic community's confidence that such a thing could be stated so strongly.

The government is likely to agree to the breakdown of sectarian crime figures – so that academics can analyse who is attacked or abused, where and when. Anti-sectarian groups were pledged £500,000 this year at the recent summit. If the breakdown shows, as many suspect, that Catholics are overwhelmingly victims, the whole approach to education work will inevitably change.

Salmond has a good relationship with the Catholic church. He gave a cast-iron assurance that the status of separate Catholic schools was safe under the SNP. He went further in advance of the Pope's visit, saying Scotland owed its very nationhood to the Catholic church.

Nowadays Scots of Irish descent tend to have the same voting patterns as the rest of the population. The Conservatives once performed well in some working-class areas of Scotland because of an "Orange vote" that supported their position on Ireland. That has disappeared, along with Scottish Tory MPs.

So why is vocal sectarianism a problem, even as the country becomes more enlightened as a whole? Is it the rise of ned (chav) culture, or does it have distinct roots?

Professor Tom Devine of Edinburgh University has written extensively on Scottish and Irish history. He suggests that Scotland, for long a stateless nation, sought to over-invest in religion as a form of identity. Perhaps this is why politicians in the Edinburgh parliament, which confers a statehood of sorts, are so anxious to stamp it out. Churchgoing may have declined. Now they just worship football which, like the old religion, has its dark side.

Sectarianism in Glasgow takes the form of religious and political sectarian rivalry between Roman Catholics and Protestants. It is reinforced by the fierce rivalry between Celtic F.C. and Rangers F.C., the two Old Firmfootball clubs whose support is traditionally predominantly Catholic and Protestant respectively. [1] Although a 2003 Survey from Glasgow City Council indicated that people clearly believe "sectarianism is still prevalent in Glasgow", members of the public appear divided on the strength of the relationship between football and sectarianism.[1]


Originally, Scotland was a Roman Catholic country; however, after the Protestant and Scottish Reformations, Scotland adopted Presbyterianism (the Church of Scotland) as its state religion.[2] Due to economic hardship, many Irish Catholic emigrants settled in the east end of Glasgow, leading to increased competition for employment and housing and, in some instances, antagonism and conflict between competing groups.[2] In addition to this, rife religious discrimination and established social networks augmented the tension between Protestants and Catholics.[2]


Deaths and serious assaults have been directly linked to sectarian tensions within the city.[3][4][5] Many of these have occurred either before or after Old Firm football matches. The murder in 1996 of Mark Scott, a Celtic fan, by Jason Campbell resulted in the formation of the anti-sectarianism charity Nil By Mouth.

In June 2003, after the publication of the Scottish Executive's Action Plan on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland,[6] Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 was implemented. This set out the situations when a criminal offence was aggravated by religious prejudice.[7]

In 2004 and 2005, sectarian incidents reported to police in Scotland increased by 50% to 440 over 18 months. Scottish Government statistics showed that 64% of the 726 cases in the period were motivated by hatred against Catholics, and by hatred against Protestants in most of the remaining cases (31%).[8][9]

In the five years before 2011, annually there were between 600 and 700 charges of an offence aggravated by religious prejudice in Scotland.[10]


Sports clubs are a focal point for religious communities, more so for (Irish) Catholics than Protestants.[2] Sectarianism in Glasgow is visible in the rivalry between the supporters of Glasgow's two main football clubs, Celtic and Rangers, together known as the Old Firm. One study showed that 74% of Celtic supporters identify themselves as Catholic, whereas only 10% identify as Protestant; for Rangers fans, the figures are 2% and 65%, respectively.[1] At Rangers' Ibrox Stadium, the Union Flag and Ulster banner are often displayed, whilst at Celtic Park, the Irish tricolour prevails.[1] During the late 19th century, many immigrants came to Glasgow from Ireland, of whom around 25% were Protestant and around 75% Roman Catholic. The foundation of Celtic, a club with a distinct Irish Roman Catholic identity, was crucial in the subsequent adoption by Rangers of a Protestant, Unionist identity.[11] From the early 20th century onwards, it has been said by prominent Rangers figures[who?] that Catholic players were not knowingly signed by the club,[12] nor employed in other prominent roles as an unwritten rule; however, no official document from the club has ever been produced to prove this.[14][15] Particularly from the 1970s, Rangers came under increasing media pressure to change their stance,[16] despite several of the club's directors continuing to publicly defend the position.[11]

In 1989, Rangers signed Maurice "Mo" Johnston, their first major Roman Catholic signing.[17] Johnston was the highest-profile Catholic to sign for the club since the World War I era, although Rangers were actually signing Roman Catholics before Celtic FC were formed.[12] Since Johnston's signing, an influx of overseas footballers has contributed to Catholic players becoming common place at Rangers. In 1999 Lorenzo Amoruso became the first Catholic captain of the club.[20]

One Rangers spokesman used the term "90-minute bigot" to explain part of the problem of religious bigotry among supporters and suggested this bigotry should be dealt with first.[21]

While the majority of Celtic fans are Catholic, some of the key figures in the club's history (Jock Stein, Kenny Dalglish, and Danny McGrain amongst others) have come from a Protestant background.[22]

In recent times, both Old Firm teams have taken measures to combat sectarianism. Working alongside the Scottish Parliament, church groups, pressure groups such as Nil by Mouth, schools and community organisations, the Old Firm have endeavoured to clamp down on sectarian songs, inflammatory flag-waving, and troublesome supporters, using increased levels of policing and surveillance.[23]

Both Celtic and Rangers have launched campaigns to stamp out sectarian violence and songs. Celtic's Bhoys Against Bigotry, Rangers' Follow With Pride (previously called Pride Over Prejudice) and the cross-club Sense Over Sectarianism campaigns have attempted to reduce the connection between the Old Firm and sectarianism.[24]

In August 2003, Rangers launched its 'Pride Over Prejudice' campaign to promote social inclusion, which has urged fans to wear only traditional Rangers colours and avoid offensive songs, banners and salutes. This involved publishing the 'Blue Guide', known as the "Wee Blue Book", which contained a list of acceptable songs and was issued to 50,000 supporters in August 2007.

Research, however, suggests that football is unlikely to be the main source of sectarianism in Glasgow. An audit from the Crown Office in 2006 of religiously aggravated crimes in Scotland between January 2004 and June 2005, found that 33% of these were related to football. Given that 57% of religiously aggravated crimes in Scotland happened in Glasgow, at the very most approximately half of religiously aggravated crimes in Glasgow could have been football related in this period.[7]

In 2011, Celtic staff and fans, including then-manager Neil Lennon, were sent suspected explosive devices and bullets. [25][26] Subsequently, Dr John Kelly of University of Edinburgh suggested that "Recent events have buried the myth that anti-Irish Catholic bigotry no longer exists."[27]

Orangeism vs Irish republicanism[edit]

The Orangemen of Glasgow (members of the ProtestantOrange Institution), parade in the city around the historic date of the Twelfth (12 July), commemorating the victory of King William of Orange's Williamite army over the deposed King James Stuart's Jacobite army at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 following the Glorious Revolution two years earlier. Irish republican marches use much the same format to commemorate various important dates in the history of Irish republicanism, such as the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and the 1981 hunger strike. The two main Irish republican organisations in Glasgow are Cairde na hÉireann and the West of Scotland Band Alliance, both of which claim to represent Irish republicans in Scotland. These marches are often a source of tension (and are now subject to stricter controls as a result), with each side accusing the other of supporting Northern Ireland-based paramilitary groups such as the Irish Republican Army or Ulster Defence Association.[28]

According to The Review of Marches and Parades in Scotland by Sir John Orr, of the 338 notified processions in Glasgow in 2003 nearly 85% were from Orange organisations (Orr 2005, p. 67).[29] A report into parades in Glasgow from Strathclyde Police in October 2009 highlighted the increased number of common, serious and racially motivated assaults associated with the marches. These included assaults against the police. There was also a rise in arrests for weapons possession, vandalism, breach of the peace and street drinking.[30]

A series of developments during the 2010–11 football season has led to an intense public debate over the question of the nature and extent of religious sectarianism in Scotland. The Scottish National Party (SNP) government has responded with a new piece of legislation which has been widely criticised and has prompted some commentators to speculate about a political ‘own goal’. This article provides a guide to the debate around sectarianism and its historical and political dimensions. It also suggests that the Irish roots of the problem in Scotland should be properly acknowledged, and that a possible way forward could involve cooperation between Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland within the structures and procedures of the British–Irish Council (BIC).[31]


Steve Bruce, who has studied the decline in religious adherence in Western Europe,[32] says surveys comparing people's ideas about sectarianism with their actual day-to-day personal experience show that the perception of sectarianism is much stronger than its occurrence in reality, and that the city's problems with health, education and social exclusion are of much greater daily concern to most Glaswegians.[33]

Bruce also found that less than a third of one percent of murders in Scotland over nearly two decades had any sectarian motive, and those that did were the result of football allegiances not religion or ethnicity.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abcd"Sectarianism in Glasgow"(PDF). Glasgow City Council. January 2003. Retrieved 2006-08-24. 
  2. ^ abcd"History of sectarianism". Retrieved 2016-12-15. 
  3. ^"Sectarian killer who slashed Celtic fan now up for parole". The Scotsman. 9 January 2010. 
  4. ^"Violent reminder of sectarianism". BBC News. 1999-09-22. 
  5. ^[1]
  6. ^"Sectarianism : Action Plan on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland"(PDF). Retrieved 2016-12-15. 
  7. ^ ab"Use of Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 – Religiously Aggravated Reported Crime: an 18 Month Review"(PDF). Retrieved 2016-12-15. 
  8. ^Carrell, Severin (2006-11-28). "Catholics bear brunt of Scottish sectarian abuse". London: 'The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  9. ^"Row over religious crime figures". BBC News. 2006-11-27. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  10. ^[2]
  11. ^ abArmstrong, Gary & Giulianotti, Richard (1 Jun 2001). Fear and loathing in world football. Berg Publishers. pp. 25, 26. ISBN 1 85973 463 4. Retrieved 15 August 2012.  
  12. ^ abMurray, William J. (2000). The Old Firm: Sectarianism, Sport and Society in Scotland. John Donald Publishers. pp. 60,64,65,189. ISBN 9780859765428. 
  13. ^Gallagher, Tom (1987). Glasgow, the Uneasy Peace: Religious Tension in Modern Scotland, 1819-1914. Manchester University Press ND. p. 300. ISBN 9780719023965. Retrieved 18 August 2012.  
  14. ^Souness, Graeme & Gallacher, Ken (1989). Graeme Souness: A Manager's Diary. Mainstream Publishing. p. 17. ISBN 9781851582242.  
  15. ^Archer, Ian (11 October 1976). "Ian Archer says...". The Glasgow Herald. p. 3.  
  16. ^Laing, Allan (11 July 1989). "Ibrox lands double coup with johnston". The Glasgow Herald. p. 1. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  17. ^"Former Old Firm Italians give their take on derby clash". 7 October 2009. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012.  
  18. ^Kennedy, Doug (2005-02-14). "'First steps' on end to bigotry". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-01-14.  
  19. ^Wilson, Richard (2012). Inside the Divide: One City, Two Teams... The Old Firm. Canongate Books. ISBN 9781847679673. Retrieved 3 January 2013. 
  20. ^"Who's getting cuffed today?". Sunday Herald. 24 April 2005. Archived from the original on 30 August 2008. 
  21. ^"Bigotry puzzle for Old Firm". BBC News. 2001-10-11. Retrieved 2006-08-30.  
  22. ^"Neil Lennon bomb police probe fifth suspect package". BBC News. 2011-04-26. 
  23. ^"Annabel Goldie shows racism the red card". Scottish Conservatives. January 2011. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 27 July 2011.  
  24. ^John Kelly: Scotland's Shame is alive and kicking - News -
  25. ^"Marches may be banned in Glasgow". BBC News. 2005-02-23. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  26. ^"Review of Marches and Parades in Scotland"(PDF). Scottish Executive. 2005. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  27. ^"Police chief: 'too many' marches". BBC News. 2009-10-01. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  28. ^Walker, Graham (2012-04-01). "Scotland's Sectarianism Problem: Irish Answers?". The Political Quarterly. 83 (2): 374–383. doi:10.1111/j.1467-923X.2012.02296.x. ISSN 1467-923X. 
  29. ^Secularization: In Defence of an Unfashionable Theory - Steve Bruce - Google Boeken
  30. ^Bruce, Steve (15 February 2005). "Beware myths that tarnish 'sectarian' Scots". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 2007-01-03. Retrieved 2006-08-24. 
  31. ^Bruce, Steve (2011-04-24). "Scottish sectarianism? Let's lay this myth to rest – Steve Bruce". The Guardian. London. 


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