BY SCO Admin | September 2 | comments icon 2 COMMENTS     print icon print


Will independence fuel sectarianism?

— Church parliamentary spokesman questions judgement of claims made by Paul McBride QC

A spokesman for the Catholic Church says it is difficult to judge whether Scottish independence would increase anti-Catholic sentiment in Scotland, as suggested this week by a leading lawyer.

“The heroic martyrs of England and Wales show that it is the manifestation of a strong Catholicism which brings out anti-Catholic hatred,” John Deighan, parliamentary officer for the Scottish bishops, said. “Whether independence can make a difference to that in our present day Scotland is difficult to judge given that it is the values of secularism which are now providing much of the justification for anti-Catholic feeling.”

Sectarianism could blossom

Mr Deighan’s comments were made in response to claims this week by leading Catholic lawyer, Paul McBride QC, that sectarianism could blossom in an independent Scotland and that the SNP’s flagship policy could lead to ‘very serious consequences’ for Catholics.

Mr McBride (above right) described the situation as the ‘most serious social issue in the country today.’

“People are anxious that if they vote for independence and then sectarianism isn’t tackled that there will be these very serious consequences,” Mr McBride said. “Under independence, if the issue wasn’t tackled, we would have our own parliament dealing with the issue with no influence from elsewhere. “Then if the Scottish Parliament under independence was not prepared to address the issue, it could encourage an atmosphere where sectarianism could blossom.”


Mr McBride’s comments were, however, rebuked by Catholic Labour MSP Michael McMahon.

“As a Catholic, my fears about independence are not in this regard but are more about how Scotland would be weaker economically, socially and politically under independence,” he said. Mr McMahon said that, in the past, there was a genuine concern in the Catholic community about independence but not now.

However Professor Patrick Reilly, leading Catholic academic and retired professor of English literature at Glasgow University, said that he understands why there may be fears among people in Scotland over independence.

“I know that some people feel safer being part of the UK, as they feel that England is more tolerant towards them than an independent Scotland might be,” Professor Reilly said. “I can see why some people would take the view that Scotland would be more divided under independence.”

SNP MSP Bob Doris claimed that the problem of sectarianism would be tackled more effectively in an independent Scotland.

“Sectarianism will not be tolerated in modern Scotland,” Mr Doris, the convenor of the Holyrood government’s cross-party group on equality, said.

Bigger picture

Mr McBride, who like Celtic FC manager Neil Lennon had threats made on his life last season, made the comments in an interview with George Galloway. Mr Galloway, who is writing a book on the campaign waged against Mr Lennon, expressed similar concerns regarding independence in an interview with the SCO prior to this year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections.

“One of the reasons I oppose independence is because it could be that the break up of the union would remove a protection from Scottish Catholics that would lead to greater sectarianism,” Mr Galloway said.

Peter Kearney, director of the Catholic media office, said of the situation: “The Church does not have a position on Constitutional settlement, which is an entirely civic matter.”


Comments - 2 Responses

  1. I wouldn,t like too see jet’s flying overhead,dropping bunker bombs on the city’s off Scotland, if Scotland had an Independent uprising.Westminster has already desolved Scottish Powers, in the Hollyrood Executive. The Scottish executive would be reduced too taking useless legal action as a last resort, only too make matter’s worse. Scotland has had a bad history off, poverty and strife, but things seem to be going back to the bad old day’s but in a modern war like way.I think we are going too have to face up too life in Scotland, at present. I don’t know if this will make you feel any better. As the old hardships are returning, under the new Tory Coalition.

  2. Brian Innes-Will says:

    Re: “Mr McBride said. “Under independence, if the issue wasn’t tackled,…
    If pigs flew, the clouds would squeel.
    Disingenuous contrived scaremongering nonsense. Why must Unionist rely on spreading fear, doubt and uncertainty, have they no positive vision to offer?

    The first ever serious effort to tackle the sectarian disgrace is being launched – by the SNP Government – not past Westminster regimes, not the current regime and pigs will fly before it is tackled by any Westminster government as far as can be seen. So much for the vaunted beneficial influence of the Union!

    Previous Unionist regimes in Holyrood did make some ineffectual token gestures to address the issue, but not nearly enough considering that a major football match can have a casualty toll of 350 ending up in the hospitals. Totally intolerable. For evil to flourish it only needs the good to do nothing – or little.

    Scotland is a small country and smaller countries can adapt faster and more effectively than larger ones.

    The SNP have already set improvements going in a series of social indicators, such as diminished crime, improving measures of community wellbeing and community confidence. This social cancer can and must be tackled energetically.

    The whole point of pursuing independence is self belief in being able to bring about a cleaner, healthier, happier more prosperous and progressive national community. That includes mutual respect and decent conduct to,from and for all. Sectarianism has died out in former dominion territories where it was previously rife. Eg google Cardinal Mannix and how Victoria, Australia outgrew bitter divisions. Scotland can and will succeed likewise.

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