Herald writer Neil Mackay’s serious lack of self-awareness

Today, repeating one of his favourite opening types, Neil Mackay, ‘Writer at large’ [we could both lose a few pounds but we’re neither of us obese] writes:

‘SOMETHING very dangerous is starting to happen in this country. Science, our last barrier against irrationality, is under attack. Without science we’ve nothing – no reality, no modernity, no yardstick by which to measure the truth. Without science we’re finished.’

Neil Mackay is correct about some of his targets, such as Andrew Sabinsky, in terms of their apparent lack of awareness of scientific evidence, contrary to their comments but only three weeks ago he wrote, oblivious to his own need to be scientific, evidence based:

Now, though, something is stirring in the darkest recesses of Scotland’s soul and it’s ugly. At the weekend, we had yet another display of sectarian hatred imported from my country and played out on the streets of Glasgow. There were arrests and a police officer was injured after a Republican march and a Loyalist counter-demonstration clashed.


Read that opening sentence again. Can you believe it? If Mackay wanted to tell us something true, he might have had a look at evidence from official statistics and/or from a respected academic researcher like, say, Professor Sir Thomas Martin Devine OBE FRSE FBA. Here’s Devine in the Mackay’s host, the Herald, in 2018:

‘SECTARIANISM is in decline and claims of widespread anti-Catholicism in Scotland are “unhelpfully alarmist”, according to the country’s leading intellectual, Professor Sir Tom Devine. The University of Edinburgh historian claims there is little chance of coming up against religious prejudice in 2018, apart from at Old Firm matches, and accused politicians and church leaders of “brazenly spreading fear” and reinforcing “victimhood” among Catholics.’

Might Devine have based his words on empirical evidence? Well, yes. Who’d have thought it? Is that how you get to be a prof? Here is some official evidence from 2015 (latest):

‘In contrast to the strong perceptions of sectarianism in Scotland, there is evidence to show that personal experiences of it are relatively uncommon in terms of harassment, discrimination and criminal victimisation.Over recent years the SCJS has reported relatively low levels of sectarian crime. In 2008/09 1% of crimes were thought to be motivated by sectarianism, falling to 0.5% in 2009/10. In 2010/11 it was 1% while in 2012/13 (the most recently available figure) it was again 1%. Religious hate-crime accounted for around 10% of all hate crime charges in Scotland in 2013-14 (racial hate-crime accounted for 69%) and is at its lowest level since 2009-10.’


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