There’s a great deal I agree with, strongly, in this piece by James Foley. There were repeated incidents of horrific abuse of a sectarian nature. I was horrified and disgusted but it’s not ‘Scotland’s Real Shame‘ any more.
I write as the grandson of a ‘Rangers man‘ but also of a father who knowing and working with Catholics disavowed sectarianism in disgust at what he saw and as someone who has donated to a Green Brigade charitable initiative which built sports facilities in Palestine.
I write also as someone old enough to be taught only British Imperial history at school but who later learned by himself of its horrors from, India to Ireland.
But, I write now in 2021 as someone who has also read Tom Devine and studied sectarian conflict in other places such as the Balkans.
In the mid-19th Century, the Irish born population of Scotland doubled in a flood of around 100 000 people. By international comparisons, it was accepted relatively peacefully. There was no civil war, there was no ethnic cleansing, there were no forced repatriations, of the kind we have seen in Europe even in the second half of the 20th Century. There was violence, there was economic exploitation and appalling housing conditions but few murders and no starvation.
Times were bad, really bad, but could have been so much worse and Scotland has little reason be ashamed now of this past. I’m far more ashamed of the role our soldiers have played enforcing the rule of Empire.
Today, as Devine points out, it is largely over. There is no systematic discrimination against Catholics in any of our institutions. Catholics on average are better educationally qualified and as well-paid as any other than perhaps Hindus.
I share Foley’s disgust at last Saturday’s riots but they should be kept in perspective.