Community Experiences of Sectarianism

This study explored community experiences and perceptions of sectarianism, based on in-depth qualitative research within five case study communities across Scotland. The insights obtained provide depth and context to other research about sectarianism, including quantitative survey and national criminal offending data.

14. Sectarian discrimination


14.1 Few participants were able to concretely identify a recent occasion when someone was denied employment due to their religion. We cited one in chapter 6. Another recalled an applicant being denied a job in the Govan Shipyards two years ago because he was a Catholic. He was identified as such because of his Irish Catholic name and the school he attended. Our participant was informed that this was the reason for his refusal by a group who worked there, who said it was known by employees that this was the reason. In two separate interviews participants mentioned golf clubs that would refuse Catholics membership based on their names/school attended, and in one interview a participant named a particular golf club.

14.2 Some participants across all the case studies were sure that sectarian discrimination in employment used to take place in the past but probably not today. This was put down to nepotism as well as sectarianism. These past stories about employers (whether anti-Catholic, anti-Protestant, or promoting a more specific strand of Christianity) ranged from small individual employers to larger companies and public bodies, not just in west-central Scotland but also for instance in Dundee. Several were named as specific examples.

14.3 In a Glasgow focus group, participants answered with a very strong 'Yes' when asked if sectarian discrimination takes place today, yet when pressed were unable to come up with any concrete examples in employment, suggesting a perception (but not personal experience) of sectarian discrimination in employment in Glasgow.[25] Nonetheless, if people believe discrimination to be continuing, and if they adjust their lives accordingly so as to avoid instances of it, this would have impact by itself.

Sectarianism among the powerful

14.4 As we mentioned in chapter 8, several participants brought up the impact of Mrs Thatcher's political era and argued that it had worsened sectarian tensions. A couple mentioned the role of the media. These apart, though, it was rare for our participants to speak about sectarianism in the most powerful sectors of society.

14.5 A few participants in the Western Isles said that the Free Church of Scotland, strong in Stornoway where the local council was based, dominated financial decision-making, to the detriment of both Catholics and other Protestants in a way that they felt could be sometimes interpreted as sectarian.

14.6 Outwith the islands, it was rarely mentioned, other than by two interviewees. The first spoke at a few points in the interview about how he thought that Scottish government was dominated by an austere, Protestant outlook, both at national level in Edinburgh and in some local councils, particularly in the northern half of Scotland:

Interviewer: How important is the religious aspect of that rivalry?

Participant: More than people seem to recognise. Always has been. I worked in Edinburgh, it was pretty bad. It was always you know.

Interviewer: Do you think that might still be the case then?

Participant: Absolutely, in Edinburgh? [Yeah] Oh aye, that is where the government is.

Interviewer: What do you mean by that?

Participant: Well, as I said earlier it is the Presbyterian lifestyle. The governments are aware and they employ people who have got the same likes and dislikes ...

Interviewer: Do you think that is a trait of the SNP or the government in general?

Participant: No, I think that is a trait of political parties in general.
(Man, Interview 4, N Lanarkshire)

14.7 Another interviewee insisted that more research should be done to study the powerful:

Interviewer: And do you think there are people in your community that are more likely to be sectarian? Participate in sectarian behaviour. Certain types of people or certain groups in the population?

Participant: Yeah. Yeah. I think there's certain ones where it's more explicit. But there's lots of it where it is implicit. As well. You know, so. And I think the explicit thing is a thing we focus on a bit too much so it will be people from a certain class, social category, that's where they sort of shine the spotlight. I'm sorry, let's shine it on our teachers, our doctors, our lawyers, our politicians. That's where it needs to be shone.

Interviewer: So it's not ... So you think people say that it's working class?

Participant: Yes.
(Man, Interview 5, Glasgow)

Otherwise, however, we were surprised at how rarely this was mentioned.


Email: Linzie Liddell

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