There was an error in this gadget

Monday, 20 May 2013

Scottish Nationalism And Catholicism

The level of debate on Scottish independence has gone through various phases over the years and while the Unionists point to SNP assertions and false claims, successive Labour and Tory governments have consistently lied about a whole variety of issues that have affected Scotland. For many years after World War I, it was impossible to get accurate figures for Scottish was losses, which when they were published, showed exactly why. Scottish regiments suffered higher war losses than those of any other part of the UK - bar none. As a member of the economic committee of the SNP which did much work on the oil situation in the 1970s, under the guidance of Donald Bain, I always followed with interest, the government of the day's figures on oil production and the revenues generated. Gavin McCrone, the government economist published his report during the period of the Wilson government, when Denis Healey was Chancellor. McCrone's report was so damaging to the UK government's case against independence, they kept it a secret for over thirty years. Denis Healey has just admitted they "massaged" the figures; in other words they lied. Healey is now a Lord and as one of the "untouchables" he can now admit he was a liar while in office.

Unfortunately, the arguments haven't changed one bit. The oil is running out so fast, we will be lucky if it lasts another two years, the NHS in Scotland is on its last legs, we will never be able to afford to pay pensions in an independent state and one lie follows another with monotonous regularity. Why would any Scot believe a single word about anything, any one of our UK or Holyrood Ministers tells us? Unfortunately, instead of kicking every one of them into touch, out of office and as far away as possible from having anything to do with Scotland's governance, our gullible fellow Scots either don't care enough or consider their behaviour perfectly acceptable. It was inevitable that the "anti-Catholic" charge would raise its ugly head at some point during the campaign, as it always does. It is one of the ugliest aspects of Unionist politics but one which paid good dividends to the Unionist cause, particularly in West Central Scotland, where the vast majority of Scotland's Catholics live. It is not as much of an issue as it once was because the power of religion is not what it once was, but it is also true it can still play on old prejudices to the point of having an impact on certain sectors of the population. It is one of the most despicable cards in the Unionist armoury.

George Galloway, has decided to play this particular card once again, and despite his oft-declared detestation of the establishment in this country, he is willing to play the useful idiot on this occasion, which is a measure of his hatred for the SNP. Brought up a Catholic in a mixed marriage household, where religious tolerance was taught at the earliest age, I can honestly say that the SNP is the one organisation in Scotland where I came across no sectarianism of any sort. I can still remember, as a seven year old, being put off the service bus in 1947, in a snowstorm during the worst winter in living memory at that time, because I attended the local Catholic school. I didn't know why I was a wee Fenian bastard, or why some passengers applauded nor did I understand why my mother burst into tears when I asked her. I am still the only Catholic who was ever recruited into Perth City Police, to spend two years being subjected to the worst kind of religious intolerance. When I stood as the first ever SNP candidate in local government elections in Perth in 1967, my mother and sister were accosted at Mass on the Sunday following the publication of my nomination, by Labour Party supporters of my Labour opponent. They were asked why I was standing against another Catholic.

Like most Highland families, I have relatives in Glasgow, some of whom stayed in Royston Hill, a Catholic ghetto at the time and a product of the corrupt housing policy of the Glasgow corporation. The Labour Party regularly distributed election leaflets outside Mass on a Sunday morning, spreading the word that the SNP would close all Catholic schools, just as Galloway is doing to this day. In fact, the Labour Party in Scotland is the one political party where sectarianism was openly practiced. That kind of jaundiced environment was not a product of anything the SNP did, it was a product of the kind of government tolerated and even encouraged by certain elements at Westminster,  supported by Galloway and his ilk. It is not an SNP government or a constitution drawn up by a SNP government, which demands that the monarch of the UK should neither be a Catholic nor marry a Catholic and Alex Salmond is the only political leader of the major parties who has openly condemned the discrimination against Catholics.

I spent over thirty five years in the SNP and never once throughout that time, was religion ever a problem. I did not know the religion of colleagues I had known for years because the topic was never raised, until during the period after the 1974 elections when the party had eleven Westminster MPs, the Orange Order became concerned about the number of Catholics who were prominent in the party and published a list of their names. I had ceased to be a practicing Catholic many years earlier but my name was up there in lights along with the rest of them. Early in the campaign, I expressed the hope we could have a decent and civilized debate about independence but as the weeks have passed, that hope has long since disappeared. Galloway has just lowered the tone another few notches and no doubt before the referendum arrives, it will be lowered even further. It is all vey sad.

9 comments:

  1. Hard-hitting stuff - good article

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are two aspects of Scottish life I detest, drunkenness and the "yer no a man unless ye can drink" attitude of some, and sectarianism. My father was a non-Catholic and religious toleration was imbued in me from an early age. Unfortunately, Catholicism and Irish were seen as synonymous and detestation of the first was a reflection of detestation of the latter so that sectarianism and racism became one and the same. I was sitting in the muster room when a police sergeant came in boasting he had just given "an Irish drunk" a good hiding and left him in a close. He knew he was Irish because he had "an Irish face". It turned out he was a patient from the local mental hospital who had been missing for 24 hours and needed his medication. He was neither drunk nor Irish.

      Delete
  2. Catholic (well, atheist) Celtic fan myself ... Nothing more gets on my wick, than other Tims ranting and raving about William Wolfe's rant against the Irish which he later apologised for, and using that as an excuse to vote liebour and no next year.

    Was good seeing some saltires waving amongst the support on sunday though :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had known Billy Wolfe for years when he made his comments about the Pope's intended visit to Scotland and had never known him to voice any anti-Catholic views. It turned out he had come under pressure from some Church organisation which objected to the Pope being afforded any special attention and foolishly allowed himself to be used. Billy wrote a long personal apology to me and, I assume other Catholics in the leadership, although I was not even aware he knew about my Catholic background as it had never been discussed. I know he regretted his intervention because it was so out of character and, he thought it might harm the SNP.

      Galloway and the Labour Party have used the Irish/Catholic/Labour relationship for many years and the way in which they are prepared to foment this kind of religious discord is one of their most despicable campaign tricks, one of several. I utterly despise Labour's machinations in West Central Scotland, and the way they manipulate the Catholic vote. For a great many years it worked but has been less successful for some time. Any attempt to resurrect the old hatreds should be stamped on - hard.

      Delete
  3. The SNP wanted to make "aggressively blessing yourself" a crime....no thanks

    ReplyDelete
  4. The SNP destroyed a report showing catholics were the biggest group who suffered from sectarian crime

    ReplyDelete
  5. The SNP OBAF was pushed through as current legislation didn't even up the amount of arrests....not enough Catholics being arrested

    ReplyDelete
  6. Jim - nice to read your words, I hope you and yours are good, I enjoyed our chats in years gone by, and perhaps we will meet again in a free and fair Scotland - our dream
    Greg Keenan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope you got my reply on email Greg. It was nice to hear from you again. Keep in touch

      Delete