Sunday 8 December 2002


On Wednesday, I wrote about the response of the police to government proposals to deal with sectarianism in Scotland. Now, the well-known TV presenter, Kirsty Wark has joined in the debate:
At an awards ceremony for aspiring headteachers in Glasgow yesterday attended by Cathy Jamieson, the Scottish education minister, Wark spoke of her unease with a system which meant that as a child in Ayrshire she and her best friend had to go to different schools simply because of religion.

In many parts of Scotland, there are two separate systems of state-funded schooling: one "non-denominational" (essentially Protestant), and one Catholic. I fully agree with the many critics who think that this division is responsible for a great deal of the tension between the Protestant and Catholic communities particularly in the greater Glasgow area where the educational divide is strongest. Support for separatist schooling is strongest in the Catholic community that felt, with some justification, that it suffered discrimination in the early part of the 20th century. Now, Catholics are at the heart of the Scottish establishment, especially in the Labour party and that explains the government's reluctance to grasp the nettle and bring together the separate schools. Of course, in a free society the schools would be totally private and free to offer any type of education, religious or otherwise but I suspect that most schools would be non-denominational and that sectarianism would eventually die a welcome death.

Proposals to ban the flying of "sectarian" flags (including the Union Jack!) at football matches are unworkable, as the fans of Rangers and Celtic make clear:

One of his punters, a guy called Willy who's itching to get into the stands, says: 'You can't ban the Union Jack --- that's our flag. That's totally out of f***ing order banning the flag of Britain.'

He points to the Union flag fluttering over Ibrox, asking: 'Will they pull that down too? I tell you what those arseholes over in Holyrood should do -- they should stop segregated schools, that's where sectarianism begins. Just leave people's flags alone. I mean, what f***ing country are we living in?

Are the "a.......s over in Holyrood" listening?