Scotland’s relatively civilised response to 100 000 refugees

When I see the words ‘Kevin, McKenna, Catholic’, I think there’s an SNP or Scotland ‘bad’ thing coming.

Often I move on but today, I see the possibility of a quick easy piece of enlightening and balancing and putting in perspective or is it proportion, the treatment of the many thousands of Irish refugees arriving in Glasgow in the 19th Century?

In 2016, I wrote this:

The in the wake of the Rangers riots of May 2021, I wrote:

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.


6 thoughts on “Scotland’s relatively civilised response to 100 000 refugees

  1. Most decent Scottish people accept refugees with a generous spirit ( it could have been us if circumstances were different ).
    Sadly we are entering the ”season ” when a tiny minority of Scots take to the streets to express their continuing triumphalism against a certain section of society by marching along our busiest highways , causing traffic chaos and creating tensions in many people’s daily lives .
    The MET dealt last week with non-violent and completely peaceful demonstrators in a high-handed and over-the-top manner yet we in the West of Scotland will have to endure countless ”marches” this Summer , which if proposed by any other organisations would be prohibited because of the disruption to daily life .
    Why ?


  2. Growing up in N Ireland we routinely visited grandparents in Belfast to watch the 12th July parades. It was a real festive occasion – treats and snacks throughout the day, stirring music (Scottish bands especially appreciated) and colourful banners, adults in holiday mode relaxing normal family rules

    Of course at that time I knew very little about Irish history and how these parades affected the Catholic population. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I had a history teacher who taught us about Ireland and Britain’s role in the divisions and violence of the troubles. Soon after I moved to Scotland not least to escape from the ongoing hostilities, the unfairness and the hatred these orange parades sought to commemorate, to escape from the beefy, angry middle aged white men celebrating a battle that took place in their country

    Older now, I still have no truck with orange marches or indeed any event which has one group of people ignoring the feelings and beliefs of another, and, while the indy marches are for a cause I support I do question whether they are as provocative to unionists as sectarian parades are to others. I have read widely and gained a better understanding of different sides of the Irish debate and can accept how ordinary folk with little understanding of shared histories can cling desperately to traditional customs they have come to believe are their right and their only voice in disempowered communities

    The blame as ever lies with those in power who first created the divisions and then actively promoted them or at least did nothing to build bridges between divided communities. The ancient city states, the modern imperialists, the far right dictators who don’t give a fig for the trouble they cause in their pursuit of power, wealth and influence, who arrogantly partition countries with no thought to the consequences, who manipulate us through fear, disinformation, bribery like pawns on some ghastly chessboard where only the powerful pieces surviving matters

    Education and strong democracies are our best defences here, respectful debate and respect for others need to be nurtured by us all

    Liked by 3 people

  3. An exchange from 10 years ago comes to mind with a superb reposte by David McWilliams to the “foreign country” gambit which had been building until he slam-dunked them at 4.46…
    10 years on and despite the audience laughter at the time fading from their memories, it’s the same rhetoric from Sammy and Jim to this day and ever will be.

    Religion was never the problem, those weaponizing it to maintain a division in society were always the problem, hence refugees are still a thing…


  4. OT John, a copy of what I posted over on WGD –
    “HMS James Cook’s latest wheeze is a lesson in impartial journalism, the only saving grace being it demoted the “Donald Cameron is a moron” story over Lorna Slater closer to the grave it should never have left.

    James’s latest adventure “Nicola Sturgeon ‘absolutely failed’ Scottish children – commissioner” perfectly demonstrates propaganda by omission – Attempting as it does to restore credibility to the failing Guiser Geissler vehicle “The Sunday Show”, which might possibly double Martin’s audience who don’t rely on subtitles to perhaps 100, it’s that headline which matters at Pacific Quay, that’s what their sponsors pay them for.

    The BBC article really is worth reading for a lesson on why BBC Scotland exists – Are they making comparison to England ? Hell No – the ex FM’s vision, the “Once in a generation game” where scots win a pair of sliding doors.

    Yet down near the foot of the article rests “In 2021 the Scottish Parliament backed incorporating the UN convention into Scots Law. However, a Supreme Court challenge from UK law officers said the legislation could affect Westminster’s ability to make laws for Scotland”
    The UK has suffered from so many disastrous PMs in recent times, but I’m fairly certain in 2021 the State of a Secretary for Scotchland was the same Minister for Flounce, and member of the “Royal Company of Archers” Alister (couldn’t hit a barn door even if it was in front of him) Jack.

    Yet is is James Cook’s focus on “The Scottish Conservatives said Mr Adamson’s comments were a “devastatingly brutal assessment” of how ministers had failed Scotland’s children” where the gambit collapses in laughter.
    – The contribution “they should be cleaning chimneys” from Stephen Kerr was thankfully edited by Nick Robinson before 30p Lee thought someone took him seriously.
    This was an “impartial BBC broadcast”…

    Still in prime spot on both the Scotland and Scotland/Politics pages, and featuring on BBC/UK’s page in 5th spot.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 1960 – the Pill etc reduced population totals. China ‘one child policy’. The world population will peak and fall. Leading to less need for mass resources. Migration has made the world go round for ever. People moving for a more resilient life. Government or other factors will not change an urgent need for humans to find some respite to other human behaviour patterns. Al, humans reguire a shelter, food and subsidence. Their circumstance and need will require the need to move to achieve it. The human condition guaranteeds an ambition to achieve the right to survive. The movement of people justified by a need to survive.

    No government or organisation has the right to regent the survival or the species. Governments will fail and fall trying to prevent human survival. The force is the strongest human instinct. Supported by other human sympathy. Altruism of the human race. A need to support and survive by the majority of other humans. Other humans who do not appreciate Govenment and organisations, illogical threat to human existence, Not appreciated by others. Often elected officials or organisations willing to do harm and harm to others.

    The world is a melting pot. With every chance of survival.Enough to go around if enough people share and embrace the communities, There is a majority to prevent greed and self interest take over. People enjoy being altruistic and helping others. One of the joys of the human race to stop others suffering. Helping gives a boast to others. Makes then feel good. More equality leads to cohesive, more prosoerous and happy societies. Fairness and justice is the basic stanceto the majority of the participants. The joy of communication and helping others to survive. A basic human instinct. Not the survival of the fittest but the pleasure of people joining together and helping others. Even if they sometimes realise others have taken the wrong path to self harm. Resulting in hurting and harming others.

    One day the whole world will be brown with less discrimination. Around. People like people who are like themselves. Or opposites can attract. The majority of people care about others, worldwide, as the world becomes a smaller place. A majority of people will fight for the rights of others. A need for a relatively roof above people’s heads. Food to survive, education and healthcare


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