What is his deal — really? What really gets on James Kelly’s goat is the stink of Fenian. The Orange sash is not merely an artefact of open anti-Catholic sectarianism, it is a paracite of the mind that penetrates deep into the Scottish psyche. This is no indictment, it is a consequence of colonialism — Britain has driven this deep into our culture. Catholics and Protestants are equally susceptible to it. This is the attitude towards Ireland and the struggle for Ireland’s freedom that is drip, drip, dripped into Scottish minds by the media and our education system.
On 18 September this year, the seventh anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum, a staggering thirty-four unionist-loyalist Orange Order parades will take place in just one city — Glasgow; one of two Scottish cities that backed independence in 2014. This of course is no coincidence. The Orange Order, in typical fashion — and with the consent of Glasgow City Council, intends to put on a triumphalist show of force to celebrate the victory of Britishness over Scottish independence and remind independence supporters of their place in the union.
Granted, most of us pay this garbage little attention, and for good reason – but let me put it to you that this might be something of a mistake. In the replies to some of these bigoted comments independentistas have pointed out that religion is all but dead in Scotland. Insofar as we read these sentiments as an appeal to religious loyalties, they are meaningless. Protestantism and Catholicism have become redundant terms to a majority secular Scotland. This is where we are getting it wrong; these appeals are not to faith traditions or religious loyalties.
Yet, we feel that we can’t ban these marches – that we can’t ban the organisation – because to do this would be illiberal, it wouldn’t be tolerant. Rubbish! If the Orange Order insisted on marching through the more affluent streets of Glasgow, insisting that they too were “the Queen’s highway,” they would have been banned decades ago. If their songs and their open hostility were directed against Jews or people of colour instead of Catholics, the government would have no option but to ban the organisation. So, why is this not the case when they are marching down working-class streets?
Sectarianism is a reflection of the historical, social, and political tensions of Scotland, dating back – of course – to the Reformation. Even then however, from the mid-sixteenth century, the struggle between Catholicism and the various Protestantisms of the Reformation period was always, in essence – as it was in England and on the continent, a power struggle. With the Peace of Westphalia – ending the Wars of Religion in 1648 – where states recognised the principle of cuius regio eius religio, which granted the monarch the right to determine the religion of the state.
After sharing his latest opinion piece in The Times on social media, Massie added an afterthought, suggesting that “we might ponder how the decline of Presbyterian Scotland both made Scotland a warmer house for Catholics and independence.” Given his unhidden political bias against Scottish nationalism and independence, it could only be assumed that his linking of independence with Scotland becoming less hostile to Catholicism assumed his negative opinion of the latter. Sure, the last thing we need, we take from this, is Scotland becoming a more welcoming place for Catholics.
Sectarianism is a serious social problem in our country, for sure, but there is little we can do about it when it happens outside institutions. We can’t police people’s homes to stop parents poisoning the minds of their children. The best we can do here is improve diversity awareness and education in schools and hope some of it sticks. But racism, prejudice, bigotry, and sectarianism thrive in institutions where such cultures have gone unchallenged and allowed to fester.
Yesterday the independence-supporting city of Glasgow was treated to a vile demonstration of what this born-again sectarianism has become – a quasi-paramilitary and fascist “black bloc” masquerading as a supporters’ movement. Make no mistake about it; this is a sign of where the British state wants to take us. This is happening because the British state is pushing the right buttons in Scotland, and it knows where those buttons are because it installed them.