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.

Appendix 2: The Case Study Sites

For our case studies, we selected five local communities across Scotland. First, we chose five regions of Scotland: we describe our reasons for choosing them below. Our aim was not to produce a subset that proportionately represented the Scottish population or any of its cities or rural areas. Rather, we planned to hear a broad range of experiences of many different residents, including those who are less often heard in the sectarianism debate.

Within each region, we then chose a smaller local area: a district of a town or city, or a group of neighbouring islands. We have not named those areas in our report.

We discussed our main criteria for selection in the Research Methods section in the main report. Here, we will say a little more about how we chose the smaller local areas. We started by looking for features such as:

  • The area is seen locally as a distinct community with its own identity and in some cases enthusiastic local historians (useful for setting the experiences of older, long-established residents in context)
  • It has a broad mix of people from different backgrounds, including a range of different Christian faith communities. For instance, we visited places that had significant numbers of groups such as new Polish migrants, some older Catholic families originating from Italy and/or a Scottish Gaelic community
  • Its migrant history is typical of the region
  • Catholic and Protestant communities are often found side by side
  • It has a wide and distinctive mix of socio-economic groups, and, in particular, areas of wealth and of deprivation
  • It is an area with many social centres, such as shops, socially active churches, libraries and pubs, and many local social groups
  • It is of a suitable size and density to study strong social ties

First, we researched histories of the regions. Alongside this, we looked at the online presence of the local areas, to get a current impression of whether people there and in surrounding areas viewed it as a distinct social community. In some cases, we visited more than one candidate area and spoke to members of the community we met there, to decide which area to select and which to reject.

We also analysed demographic data, looking at relative deprivation in the datazones set out in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2012, and postcode-level data on ethnic group, religion, sex and age contained in the Scotland Census 2011. Hence, where we describe people in this appendix as 'Catholic', 'Protestant', 'Polish', and so on, we are usually referring to how they classified themselves in the 2011 Census.

When tendering for the project, we were asked to select five case study sites. We chose one case study site within each of the following five regions of Scotland. We picked these five regions because we felt they offered us the broadest range of participants, as regards understandings of sectarianism, that we could fit within an appropriate budget.

Region 1 - West: Strathclyde: Glasgow City

In the West of Scotland there are areas characterised by the aftermath of a history of heavy industry and attendant Irish migration, more by men than women, and mainly Catholic but with a substantial Ulster Protestant element, particularly in Glasgow. Another substantial inward flow of Italian Catholics has taken place from the late 19th century onwards.

Key sites for study include Glasgow, Greenock and Kilmarnock. We chose Glasgow for several reasons. It is one of Scotland's most diverse cities and a location for dispersal of asylum seekers and also the Roma/Slovakian community in Govanhill. The city has been substantial inward Irish migration over many generations, mainly Catholic but with a substantial Ulster Protestant element, particularly in Glasgow. Glasgow has also experienced a substantial inward of flow of Italian and Polish Catholic migrants. It is very much a mixed city, in terms of both class and Christian religion.

27% of Glasgow residents' describe themselves as Catholic. Glasgow has a couple of postcodes where Catholics dominate, but it is very much a mixed city. It is the largest in Scotland and 45.5% of the 5% most deprived datazones in Scotland lie within Glasgow City. It also contains a small group of the least deprived datazones in Scotland.

Region 2 - Central: North Lanarkshire

In central Scotland there are areas characterised by a history of heavy industry and mining. Here again Irish Catholics and Protestants, mostly from Ulster and many from drastically impoverished Donegal, came to take on semi-skilled labour. Some were brought in strategically for the purpose of strike-breaking, regardless of personal affiliation, thus ensuring a mixed welcome for them. Enmities from the home country also came with them. (Some of those enmities had themselves originally been imported there from Scotland.) Key potential sites for study included North Lanarkshire, North Ayrshire and West Lothian. The former two were the most troubled of the Irish Catholic migrant experiences in Scotland (Devine 2006: ch.21). We chose North Lanarkshire because it offered areas for study that were typical of the region's migrant history.

Glasgow City and North Lanarkshire have been most marked for charges of religiously-aggravated offending in Scotland:

Number % of total Per 100,000 popn
Glasgow City 281 41% 47
North Lanarkshire 95 14% 29

Region 3 - South East: Midlothian: Edinburgh

Elsewhere in Scotland there are more prosperous areas where there has never been extensive job conflict related to Irish migration, but nevertheless there has been some history of sectarian exclusion. Key sites for study include Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Here there are proximate Catholic and Protestant communities, but with many histories differing from those of West and Central Scotland. We chose Edinburgh because of its importance in attracting new and old European migrant Catholics, from the 19th century onwards, particularly Poland and the Baltic lands. A small population remains in Edinburgh of mid-20th century migrants from Italy and Poland. The council areas with the highest proportions of 'White: Polish' in their population are Aberdeen City (7,000) and the City of Edinburgh (13,000), both 3% of the populations.

12% of Edinburgh's residents describe themselves as Catholic. There are no Catholic-dominated postcode areas, but several where they are a substantial group in the community and close to equal with those who describe themselves as Protestant. It has datazones that fall into the 5% most deprived in Scotland, but overall the level of income deprivation in Edinburgh City is below that in Scotland as a whole. Hence, as in the other case study sites, we find proximate Catholic and Protestant communities, but with many histories differing from those of West and Central Scotland.

Region 4 - North East: Dundee

Dundee was the only place in Scotland to have a large migrant Irish community who were predominantly women arrive in the 19th century. Twice as many women as men migrated there to work in the jute mills, which mostly employed female labour. For several possible reasons (the city's rapid demographic diversification, the absence of Irish Protestant migrants (Devine 2006: 506), the differing social role of women), there was much less evidence of conflict (Gallagher 1987: 32).

18% of Dundee's residents describe themselves as Catholic. There is one Catholic-dominated postcode area, and some near 50%, but it is generally mixed. Most of Dundee City's datazones are found in the more deprived deciles. It is therefore a city marked by deprivation, but not by recorded conflict, making it another interesting site for comparison.

Region 5 - Highlands & Islands: Eilean Siar: Western Isles

Parts of the Highlands are markedly segregated, with long-established indigenous Catholic communities. They have an older history indicating Scottish Presbyterian antipathy to Scottish Catholics. Key sites for study include Wester Ross, Sutherland and the Western Isles.

Overall this site is 12% Catholic. Most of Eilean Siar's datazones are found in the middle deciles. None of its 36 datazones are found in the 15% most deprived or 15% least deprived datazones in Scotland. This does not mean there is no deprivation: rather that it is not concentrated in small areas. Despite the mixing of advantaged and disadvantaged communities, the level of separation by religion is unusually strong when compared to the rest of Scotland. There is little evidence of recorded religiously-aggravated offending, though, and the communities interact a great deal. Stories of sectarianism appear from time to time in the Scottish media but the Highlands and Islands tend not to have been included in recent qualitative research. The site contains many Gaelic-speaking Scots of long-standing.


Email: Linzie Liddell

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