In recent times the Scottish Media has labelled the Sectarianism surrounding Old firm football matches between Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic as the Scottish Disease!
The fact of the matter is that it is not peculiarly Scottish nor even representative of Scotland as a whole. Nor is it Religious!
It is a toxic mix of tribalism using religion as an identity to emphasise division and as a marker of which Gang you belong to!
The vast majority of modern day Rangers and Celtic fans couldn’t give a rats arse for religion, they are only interested In football and beating their traditional footballing rivals. However there is a vocal minority among both clubs who are uneducated Neanderthals who vehemently hold on to their songs and marches and bilious hatred of anything Green or Blue.
These poor uneducated pawns have been used to sow political division,and maintain British rule on the back of an archaic war from centuries back, and which resurfaced by the efforts and machinations of a scurrilous British State, which led to years of destruction and civil war in Northern Ireland.
Whether you are Rangers or Celtic, very little of the spill over from the Emerald Isle into the West of Scotland has anything remotely to do with Religion or Christianity, no matter whether one is Catholic or Protestant!
It is however highly Political!
The Labour party In particular grasped the same tactics as the British State used in Northern Ireland to create their fiefdom in Glasgow and the West of Scotland. They created a system of political patronage which were particularly successful In areas of Lanarkshire where there were definable protestant and Catholic communities among the poor working class.
A particularly abrasive manifestation of divide to rule politically religious sectarianism can be observed from the highly contested bye election of the Monklands East Westminster constituency on the death of John Smith, between Helen Liddell for labour and Kay Ulrich for the SNP, In 1994.
In this bitter exchange where the SNP eventually reduced a 16,000 vote deficit under John Smith, to a 1,000 vote deficit against Helen Liddell, there were strong accusations made against some of Labours supposed tactics.
The accusations were as follows:
That Labour were telling those in the predominately Catholic area of Coatbridge that the SNP were anti Catholic! Whilst in the predominately protestant area of the constituency in Airdrie, they were saying that the SNP were anti protestant!
I am not stating as fact, that these allegations were true or false, namely that there have been in years past much made of the alleged patronage of friends and family and sympathisers in North Lanarkshire Council and in other Labour Controlled areas, and that such political sectarianism was a matter of course.
Whether true or false, there is no doubt that Ghettos and dividing lines between communities of any type, religion or colour, create division and suspicion, hatred and conflict. Much like the Estates and No Go areas of Belfast in the 1970s.
Political rulers will make the most use of such divisions to maintain their power base!
Why else do I maintain that Sectarianism Is a Political rather than a Religious construct?
Let us look at the main Identifiers and Symbols of Rangers and Celtic fans.
Firstly the Flags which they wave! You will rarely if ever see the Saltire flown by supporters of either side. Their preferences are not for their own Scottish Flag, but for flags of Different nations.
Celtic Fans will proudly fly the Irish Tricolour
Rangers Fans will do likewise with the Union Jack, the Red Hand of Ulster and sometimes even the flag of St George has been seen
No Saltire and no Lion Rampant amongst a group of mostly Scots, although both attract supporters from Ireland who regularly make the trip to see them.
For Rangers fans the use of the Union Jack is obvious, it is the flag of the British State. Primarily they are Unionists.
The Red hand of Ulster or O’Neil on a de Burgh Cross, commonly confused with the flag of St George,and the former flag of Northern Ireland.
The use of this flag is contentious, as both Irish Unionists and Irish Republicans can claim the Red Hand of O’Neil/Ulster
its history according to legend is According to one myth, the kingdom of Ulster had at one time no rightful heir. Because of this it was agreed that a boat race should take place (possibly in Strangford Lough) and that “whosoever’s hand is the first to touch the shore of Ulster, so shall he be made the king”.
One potential king so desired the kingship that, upon seeing that he was losing the race, he cut off his hand and threw it to the shore — thus winning the kingship. The hand is most likely red to represent the fact that it would have been covered in blood
There are common accusations made by Irish Republicans that the Ulster Unionists misappropriated the Red Hand much as the Nazis misappropriated the Christian Symbol which is now known as the Swastika.
But the Imagery of the Red Hand depicts Rightful Kingship, thus the Sovereignty is reserved and claimed for the British Crown by Ulster Unionists and Rangers Supporters.
The Celtic Fans will raise the Irish Tricolour In support of Irish Republicanism and its cause of a United Ireland.
Interestingly enough the Tricolour of Green,White and Orange
Is meant to depict as one story goes, Green for Irish Catholic Republicans, Orange for Irish Protestants and the White in between is the sign of Peace between them united as One Nation.
So what we see in these Flags, Is not as much Religious division but rather Political division! A Unified Ireland versus a British Unionist hold over Ulster.
Where Religion and Politics conflate can be seen by their Figureheads.
Celtic has the Pope representing Irish Catholicism, the majority of the Republic of Ireland being at least nominally catholic
Rangers has the Queen, representing Irish protestantism
The Queen of Course being the Leader of the protestant Church of England. And as Westminster statute decrees, no Monarch can be Catholic and ascend the throne!
Songs and Chants
Celtic have such songs as the Soldiers Song, and the song The Fields of Athenry
The Soldiers Song depicts the fight against the British State to regain Irish Independence
And the Fields of Athenry hearkens back to the Irish potato famine and how the Individual concerned was made a convict and sent to Botany Bay In Australia for trying to feed his starving family by stealing British Corn from a British Landowner.
Rangers fans sing songs from a much earlier time …The Cry was no Surrender, The Sash my father wore
Both these songs pertain to the war between Prince William of Orange and King James2 and as such are more religiously partisan than their Celtic counterparts, whose songs are mostly about the struggle for Irish Independence and Unity. However medieval politics is at play here too!
For Celtic, the colour Green representing Irish Republicanism Is prominent, along with the colours of the Tricolour.
Therefore more Political than Religious in meaning.
For Rangers, the Colours Red,White and Blue of the British State
and the Colour Orange for William of Orange
Royalist, Unionist and lastly Protestant.
In effect the major clash of their Sectarianism is not so much religious but rather political!
The use of Religion is purely a guise for the real motivation of the conflict, and it has been Politically structured and maintained as such!!
The majority of both sets of supporters couldn’t give a toss about religion, and most certainly don’t follow any Christian belief in using it as a means to conflict.
The curious aspect is how in the West of Scotland Labour have succeeded for so long to play one side against the other, and maintain the support of both! Why also have the Celtic Community continued to support a Unionist Party, while being strongly supportive of Irish Independence and Unity from a British State, and not their own Countries independence and struggle for the same freedom?
And why have Rangers supporting Scottish Nationalists not made themselves more visible and vocal?
Part 2 Will examine the Historical role the British State has played in creating and maintaining Sectarianism, and where Myxomatosis comes into the story!!