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  1. Analysis: is Blue Knight Paul Murray fighting a losing battle? Hugh Macdonald Wednesday 21 August 201 THE shifting quicksands of the Rangers saga have consumed a variety of personalities. Charles Green, the bluff Yorkshireman from central casting, joined the ranks yet again of those who have been banished from the drama on the south side but a more significant character now has a leading role in what will happen at Ibrox. The name of Paul Murray was absent from a Rangers statement in the wake of the dismissal of Green as a consultant but it does not require the combined skills of Interpol to deduce that he forms a block to any immediate resolution to the boardroom problems. To summarise the plot so far, if somewhat crudely: there is a move from outside the boardroom to remove Brian Stockbridge, Craig Mather and Bryan Smart and replace them with Frank Blin and Murray. A club statement last night read: "This board has been working tirelessly to find an intelligent solution to the request for a general meeting and all of the directors are open to sensible and reasonable additions. For instance, the board are not against Frank Blin becoming a director but do have reservations about other proposals.'' When it comes to Murray, some on the board have more reservations than the Apaches. There was a feeling of relief that Green had gone, a belief among his opponents that a metaphorical stake had finally been placed through the heart of the significant shareholder, but there was also an anxiety about his almost diabolical powers of recovery. The most pressing difficulty for Rangers, however, centres on Murray. The opposition group could make a compromise by suggesting Blin, former executive chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers Scotland, is joined on the board by A.N Other. Jim McColl, part of the outside group, would not consider such a role but the more intriguing aspect is the willingness or otherwise of Murray to relinquish his attempt to join a board that needs stability. The indications last night were surprising concrete given the fluidity of events at Ibrox. First, it seems there exists a strong aversion to bringing in Murray from among existing board members. Second, there was no sign of Murray issuing any sort of statement saying he would fall on his sword to facilitate peace, at least for the present. The objections are believed to be both personal and on matters of business. The accountant was part of the board before Craig Whyte bought the club and is seen by some as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. One City source said: "Murray had his chance to influence matters when he was on the board and then had his chance with the Blue Knights. There is no mood among some on the board to bring him back into the fold.'' The private concerns are shrouded in claim and counter claim. The Rangers story has been extraordinarily messy with dirt thrown in all directions. Information has leaked steadily. Murray, rightly or wrongly, has been suspected as one of those who have used media outlets to his advantage. If true, he would stand in a crowded dock as the briefings have come from almost every source, every faction. However, the fog of war has cleared just a little over Ibrox. Green has been sacked, disposed of by an increasingly frustrated and determined Mather. There is now an opportunity for compromise and even, heaven forfend, resolution of the boardroom struggle. This could come in a variety of forms. Two options are most likely. The first is Murray stands down and the McColl group is allowed to bring in Blin and an unspecified ally. The second is that Murray, backed by McColl, stands his ground and maintains his attempt to come on to the board. This eventuality would be fast-tracked by the approval of a vote at the extraordinary general meeting. The crux of the matter is this: if the McColl group is sure of the support of a group of shareholders, it will feel it has no need to sacrifice the candidature of Murray. McColl and his cohorts will flex their muscle and the Blue Room will undergo yet another change of cast. Mather, it must be presumed, would not wait to be pushed and Stockbridge and Smart would face a limited future. There are a couple of possible twists, of course. This is a Rangers story, after all. The first is Murray could step aside temporarily, peace could break out and he could then be brought on board at a later stage. The second is that the present board finds enough support to win any vote. There is also the possibility of hearing the less than dulcet tones of Green joining the increasingly raucous debate. He may be gone but no one will be surprised at another scene-stealing interruption from the former chief executive. However, the narrative is now about Murray. Will he walk away or will he pursue his ambition to be on the board? History suggests it be latter option. The arithmetic will decide whether the erstwhile Blue Knight finally lands his prize. http://www.heraldscotland.com/sport/football/analysis-is-blue-knight-paul-murray-fighting-a-losing-battle.1377061992
  2. As expected: http://www.londonstockexchange.com/exchange/news/market-news/market-news-detail.html?announcementId=11686782
  3. MOVES to remove Rangers directors from the club's board are to be pursued despite attempts to hold out an olive branch to influential investors trying to push through the radical changes. Billionaire Jim McColl - who headed a group of shareholders demanding a extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to force the removal of chief executive Craig Mather, financial director Brian Stockbridge and non-executive director Bryan Smart - has said they remain committed to it. The meeting would also seek the appointment of Paul Murray and Frank Blin, the former executive chairman of accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers Scotland, to the board. On July 31, those behind the calls for change at the top level said that if directors did not convene within 21 days they would organise the EGM and bill the club. The deadline expires today. The club has opened the door for Mr Blin to join the board in an attempt to head off an EGM, but do not want Mr Murray. The move on Tuesday appeared to echo Mr McColl's desire to see people with more corporate boardroom experience at that level in the club. But a spokeswoman for Mr McColl said: "He says we are pursuing the requisition that was presented to the club." Fans continue to support the removal of the directors because of further financial issues at the club. A fans' meeting earlier this month learned there was only £10 in the club's account, despite raising £22 million from a share offering and more than 70,000 season ticket sales over two seasons. Fans had already reacted angrily after the club was plunged into a civil war with the resurrection of Mr Green as a consultant earlier this month, after resigning as chief executive in April amid a probe into his alleged links to the disgraced oldco club's owner Craig Whyte. The board has agreed Mr Green's involvement with the club is to be ended. Drew Roberton, general secretary of the Rangers Supporters Association, said: "What the board have done is a starting point, to try to reach an agreement, but if the meeting has to go ahead, it has to go ahead." http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/h...board.21937899
  4. On Saturday, not long after the Stranraer match, the club published a statement entitled, “For the Avoidance of Doubt”. The article was written under the tag, ‘Rangers Football Club’, although almost everyone acknowledges that it was probably penned by the club’s Director of Communications, James Traynor. Although the statement was generally well received by Rangers fans, it was more noticeable for what it didn’t say, rather than what it actually did say. Whilst the statement is welcome, it is long overdue, and I doubt if it will have any substantive or meaningful impact on the serial Rangers haters who constantly misrepresent and malign our club. I suspect that most Rangers fans consider the statement to be much too terse, and would have preferred a more comprehensive, robust and forceful statement. Certainly given the nature and content of the statement, it is noticeable for its failure to comment on the serial offenders at Rangers who consistently utilise the local anti-Rangers media to further their own agendas, or censure those Rangers bloggers who are aligned with one side or another in the current Boardroom wars, and who often give interviews to the local rags, including the Daily Record. In fact it fails to confront the leaks that are clearly emanating from Ibrox, and it doesn’t ‘sit well’ with the fact that our board of directors, club officials and employees regularly utilise the local rags for their own ends. Fine words from James Traynor – but actions speak much louder than words! It is for that reason I have penned an alternative version of “For the Avoidance of Doubt”. For The Avoidance of Doubt (Alternative version) “Rangers Football Club is aware of wildly inaccurate stories circulating on various websites and would like fans to know that these flights of fancy will be monitored by our lawyers. Where it is considered necessary, we will instruct our lawyers to initiate legal action against the owners and administrators of any website, or any other media vehicle, that publishes (or disseminates by any other means) material that is inaccurate, libellous or misrepresents the club’s position in any way. The club will keep fans advised of any action initiated as a consequence of this monitoring process and will provide regular updates on the club’s official platforms. In particular, our lawyers are examining a malicious piece which seems to suggest that the club does not own its facilities. That suggestion is, of course, utter nonsense, and the club wishes to make it unequivocally clear that the club owns all of its facilities in their entirety. We urge Rangers fans to treat these idiotic and lumbering articles with the contempt they deserve. Better still, ignore them completely. However, we acknowledge that many fans may wish to analyse and assess them and, where appropriate, respond to their misrepresentations by means of their own websites and blogs. Indeed the club recognises the very practical assistance provided by the fans in monitoring these articles and responding in circumstances where the club is, either, unable or unwilling to do so. But we must also stress we cannot waste time responding publicly to every blog or ridiculous claim against the club, although we acknowledge the magnificent work that has been done by Rangers fans in challenging the reprehensible Rangers Tax Case blog; BBC Scotland’s consistent misrepresentations and its inaccurate and biased reporting; the vindictive and malign blogs of those such as Alex-Thomson of Channel 4, Phil Four Names, Paul McConville and, of course, those journalists in the mainstream media such as Graham Spiers, Tom English, Keith Jackson etc. who continually misrepresent, and unreasonably, attack our club. There is also a dangerous proliferation of anonymous obsessive’s on various social media sites and we will not give them any credence, although we will continue to monitor the material they publish and seek to identify the source of any leaks, particularly where specific material is proven to be genuine correspondence emanating from Rangers Football Club. In such circumstances we will take appropriate action against any director or officer of the club who is found responsible for leaking confidential information including, if necessary, precautionary suspension and summary dismissal. Nor can we react to every journalist and publication that appears to pursue an anti-Rangers agenda; publications such as the Daily Record which today boasts yet another headline which does not accurately reflect what manager Ally McCoist said in his press conference yesterday. The paper’s intent is clear, and we urge our fans to see it for what it is, as we urge those prominent bloggers who are closely aligned to the Club, and prepared to give interviews to the Daily Record, and provide them with information relating to the business of our board, its shareholders and the club’s operations, to desist forthwith. In this regard, the club will make every effort to ensure that no member of its board, any shareholder, club official or employee will provide information to, or give interviews to, the Daily Record or any of the other recognised anti- Rangers media. If Rangers fans want the truth they will find it only on the club’s official platforms, and we will make every effort to ensure that, from this point onward, there is substantive and meaningful information available to fans on the club’s platforms in relation to current anti-Rangers news stories, statements that misrepresent the club’s stated position and those that are causing significant concern to the fans. This is particularly relevant given the current boardroom upheavals. Finally, Jack Irvine of Media House does not speak for this Club, although we can confirm that he and Media House currently represent the interests of the Easdale brothers who are major shareholders in Rangers Football Club.”
  5. http://www.gersnet.co.uk/index.php/latest-news/155-mccoll-the-messiah-some-key-questions From a cursory look across the various forums this sunny Wednesday morning, I note Jim McColl et al appears to be requesting EGM support from the Rangers supporters who are shareholders (apparently around 12% of the whole). Fair enough and not an unexpected development but this is actually an important issue so please allow me to labour the point somewhat. First of all, I'd fancy, under normal circumstances Jim McColl would be exactly the kind of investor and/or board member and/or outright owner our fans would literally carry up the marble staircase to victory. He's substantially rich, apparently a genuine fan and his business reputation is clearly impressive given his various successes. What's not to like? Unfortunately, as we know, the situation at Ibrox is far from normal and McColl’s influence with specific regard to Rangers has hardly been impressive in recent times: 1. McColl has been involved with previous failed bids – including an aborted attempt at fan ownership in conjunction with the RST and purportedly a rejected post-D&P deadline bid for the club along with Walter Smith last year. Has he learned from these experiences? 2. McColl has always come across as reluctant at best and quirky to a fault when it comes to Rangers. Sure, a football club can’t be seen as a sound investment by someone used to making money rather than losing it but, if he’s a fan, then his involvement would only ever be an emotional one anyway. Where does he draw the line between personal concern and business? 3. Fan trust of anyone involved is at an all-time low. The most recent regimes from Sir David Murray and Craig Whyte have failed completely whilst the current incumbents are struggling to retain supporter backing with a variety of poor decisions. Thus, anyone who wants to control Rangers has to accept public scrutiny will be higher than anything they’ll have experienced before. Does that fit with McColl’s preference for remaining in the background? 4. His current share-holding is hardly impressive (even if he may have the backing of others). No-one knows just how many shares McColl owns but it must be lower than the LSE-notifiable 3%. Is that reflective of his overall interest or just someone who prefers to stay under the radar? Just how much money is he willing to spend? 5. McColl and/or his group have never made their plans clear and, in fact, it's impossible to tell from one day to the next if they want to buy the club and/or if they just want to be a short-term controlling bloc to ensure ‘effective’ ownership (perhaps via a new share issue) is transferred to someone else like Dave King. How exactly do they see the club’s financial future? All these valid questions means, instead of having the automatic backing of a huge majority of supporters (and indeed other shareholders), many people are - quite rightly - less than clear about what he's offering. Ergo, to make calls for fan backing without being completely open on his intentions is not the best strategy in my opinion. Indeed, it could be said he’s suffering from the same problems the Blue Knights stumbled into last year; namely failing to grasp supporter attention amidst a variety of strategic errors. To conclude, I'll say again: Jim McColl should be the right man for the job, but the very fact we have doubters (based on constructive criticism rather than daft stuff about his politics), doesn't reflect well on his efforts so far. Thus, I'd argue that McColl still has a bit of work to do if he wants to be successful; even if the fact he's come this far suggests he's clearly confident. However, if it's a straight choice between a Charles Green and a Frank Blin along with an Imran Ahmad and a Jim McColl, I don't see many fans opting for the former. Of course, as always, it's not as simple as that so McColl and his group would be well advised to avoid complacency and/or assume fan backing. If not, he only needs to phone Paul Murray to release what over-confidence can do to your reputation. What Rangers fans want more than anything is a well-run, self-sustainable club. If McColl can provide that, then great but instead of hiding from the debate on how this can happen, why not show the support why you’re the right man for the job. That’s real leadership quality and, if the plans are viable, then backing would be a given. Over to you, Jim…
  6. David Oâ??Connor is president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents. http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/david_o_connor_the_law_is_now_clearly_defined_1_1979321 ''Thereâ??s not been a lot said about the second part of the bill that will allow closer policing of social media networks, but a lot of the problems that weâ??re seeing are now moving away from the public place like the High Street or Main Street and into the back room or bedroom.'' Sounds more like the old East Germany than part of the UK.
  7. Iâ??m going to stick my brass neck out here and do something that appears to be highly unfashionable these days. Iâ??m going to stick up for that loud, colourful, at times controversial band of Celtic supporters known as the Green Brigade. And this is from someone, before my cyberspace friends start foaming at the mouth, who utterly deplores all IRA chanting inside football grounds. If you believe some contemporary accounts of the Green Brigade â?? in the main supplied by those who scarcely know them or see them â?? they congregate on that north stand at Celtic Park and boom out pro-IRA chants from start to finish. There is presently a fad among Rangers supporters, at times whipped up into a frenzied outrage on Twitter and elsewhere, to have the Green Brigade endlessly and continuously bawling â??Up the Raâ? at matches. The fact that these observers are rarely there to see or witness such allegations deters them not in the slightest. The latest example weâ??ve had of this fiction was at Inverness on Saturday. By general consent â?? and we were all ears â?? in the early minutes of the match a rendition of â??Up the RAâ? whimpered then petered out over a duration of ten seconds among a small section of the visiting Celtic support. But how was this being portrayed later by those who now spend their lives with agonised ears pinned to their radios? Why, it was a festival of pro-IRA chanting in Inverness. It boomed out continuously. I mean, they ask incredulously, how can anyone deny it? This whole â??offensive chanting at footballâ? debate has become a wearying charade of fiction, name-calling and points-scoring. And, right now, the group of supporters who are being most traduced by it all are the so-called Green Brigade. For what it is worth, last week I wrote that this group have certain members among them who can be crass in their chanting. I first wrote about the Celtic supportâ??s â??pro-IRA issueâ? six years ago, and I donâ??t believe Iâ??ve been alone in so doing. Moreover, I lose little sleep over whether anyone wants to call this type of chanting â??politicalâ? or â??sectarianâ?. Who cares for the hermeneutics, if most of us deem it to be offensive? Yet the Green Brigade, far from booming out the sort of chants I would detest, in my experience have done anything but. In at least four or five games I have attended at Celtic Park this season, their contribution to the atmosphere has been terrific: their loud, tribal chants being flung back and forth across the stadium. It is an utter fiction, perpetrated by some who lie awake at night obsessing over such matters, that the Green Brigade is stocked to the gunnels with pro-IRA choristers. It was fascinating, and at times comical, listening to Neil Lennon on this very subject the other day. Lennon, in the main, evidently thinks that the Green Brigade are fantastic. â??The colour, the atmosphere and the joy they bring to our games is brilliant,â? the Celtic manager told us on Friday. Hang on, Neil. You were supposed to be condemning them. Oh, right. In a fit of counter-balance Lennon also sought to condemn â??offensive chantingâ? that the Celtic supporters might produce, arguing that such chants â??dragged the club through the mudâ?, which they do. Lennonâ??s position in regard to the Green Brigade is not uncomplicated. Many of them, like him, espouse the world view of Irish Republicanism. Lennon claims that his politics are â??privateâ? but they havenâ??t always been so. He comes from a social, cultural and political strand of the Irish saga that chimes with many Celtic supporters. It was due to this and much more that, while speaking impressively on Friday on the subject of chanting and the Green Brigade, the Celtic manager could scarcely help himself in expressing his admiration for these supporters. The Green Brigade, for my part, hardly have a thing in common with me. But what I do know is that their repertoire, while not being impeccable, is not in the slightest way a catalogue of offensive songs inside Celtic Park. To believe this, you really have to have a pre-ordained and fixed view of them, which is one of contempt. On the odd occasion at Celtic Park, as in Inverness on Saturday, when this group does chime up offensively, it only serves to insult its wider expression and humour. It also allows the Green Brigade to be so grossly misrepresented, as we are presently finding.
  8. Guest

    Media Request

    Hi All, I work for a production company called VBS, we're an independent company and we broadcast films on our own website / youtube, etc to a regular audience of around 5 million. We normally go to places like North Korea, Libya, Congo to make films but we want to make one around the current situation in Scottish football, politics, law... We see the mainstream media seem not to be trusted when talking about the new Offensive Behaviour Bill, as a lot of people think they have some kind of agenda. We'd like to talk to regular fans on how they see it. Why they think the Bill has been brought in, whether it's needed, what agenda they think people are pushing. I think people outside of Scotland (including ourselves) are quite perplexed about what's going on, so I want to speak to some people firsthand. I'm going to be in Glasgow tomorrow (Friday 18th) and Saturday with no cameras, meeting interested folk. If you have a view to air, or know of someone who you think would appreciate an approach, please send me a DM and I'll get back to you. All the best and thanks for your time, especially Frankie who's been very helpful, Chris
  9. November 5th, 2011 | Author: Gerry The Power of Black and White Scotland Gerry Hassan The Scotsman, November 5th 2011 Scottish political debate is characterised and marred by a host of difficult divides and fractures. There is anti-Nationalist Labour hatred; the rage of the so-called â??cybernatsâ??; and a widespread, almost national sport of anti-Toryism. All of these are part of a Scottish problem which we see not only in our politics, but also across society, culture and football. Why do large parts of the Labour Party so virulently hate the SNP? And why do part of the Nationalist community, â??the cybernatsâ?? think it appropriate to conduct themselves the way they do? The former have used a politics of fear and negativity for years against the Nationalists, while the latter believe they are taking a stand against an omnipotent unionist establishment which is biased against them. We can look for answers in each tradition. Labour until this year saw one of their main tasks as defending the self-preservation society they had built. In Scottish nationalism there is commonly a sense of self-righteousness and belief in one â??trueâ?? way. One reason regularly put forward for the vitriol is the lack of substantive difference between Labour and SNP bar independence. Something more is at work than this. I think that part of the problem is that Labour and SNP, even beyond the zealots on each side, donâ??t understand each other and so donâ??t understand what motivates their political passions and involvement. This is why they find it easy to attribute negative motivations to their opponents. Whatâ??s more, there is a profound asymmetry between the two in that Labour, the long dominant culture, has reacted with fury to being challenged by what it regards as the Nationalist interlopers who have dared to intrude into what were once â??Labourâ??s natural heartlandsâ??. In my view, Labourâ??s detestation of the Nationalists is found at all levels of the party, whereas the manic hatred of Labour seen in â??the cybernatsâ?? is found at the margins of the party. Labour misjudgement and caricaturing of the Nationalists can be seen everywhere â?? in Iain Grayâ??s latest whinge, Ian Davidson â??s â??neo-fascistâ?? comments, Douglas Alexander, Gordon Brown and about any Labour figure you care to mention. This picture is part of a wider story. We can see a similar pattern in the relationship of Rangers and Celtic, the former the long established dominant club and culture, the latter, seen as the imposters, â??alienâ?? and â??illegitimateâ??. The records of violence, abuse and even tragically deaths connected to â??the Old Firmâ?? isnâ??t balanced between the two, but of predominantly Rangers fans doing violence to Celtic fans; which doesnâ??t excuse the excesses and idiocies of some Celtic fans. The sheer volume of hatred, aggression and anger coming from one quarter in particular, seems to be something the current sectarian bill has failed to grasp. Yet, this is what dominant cultures do when under threat and their once unquestioned writ no longer runs. All of this in our politics and society can be linked to the absence of empathy across swathes of Scotland, damaged, bruised relationships, and an aggressive, masculine language of violence across society, as well as actual violence making Scotland a more violent country than our European neighbours. While we believe we are a friendly, warm, welcoming people, the other side of our society is a shaming record of violence, crime and alcohol abuse which is off the record compared to others. Some of this echoes Carol Craigâ??s analysis in â??The Scotsâ?? Crisis of Confidenceâ??, just reprinted in a revised second edition. She argues that it is commonplace for people to be labeled and judged â??worthlessâ?? and traces this back to Scotlandâ??s religious past and the division into the â??savedâ?? and the â??damnedâ??. I donâ??t think it is an accident that the Rangers v. Celtic divide originated around religion, and that the Labour v. SNP fissure often feels like a throw back to Scotlandâ??s embattled religious sects. There is the need for action in politics. Mike Small, writing in the pro-nationalist â??Bella Caledoniaâ??, said that a debate of â??cybernats v. cyberbritsâ?? was not only quaint given the prevalence of the internet, but also â??a boring gameâ??. Small argues that we desperately need to develop non-party bases for ideas to widen out the debate which has become phenomenally narrow, insular and focused on a political class. And he rightly points to the need for the SNP to change gear in this new environment and have the confidence to engage in a degree of self-criticism, which would ultimately strengthen, not weaken the Nationalist cause. We have to go much further than that. There is a whole host of men behaving badly across Scotland (and some women) and we have to stop colluding with it, allowing it to flourish by silence and evasion, and address it head on. We have to be capable of more than the current disfigurement of much of our society. Arenâ??t our political traditions capable of more than reflecting cliché and stereotype? Would it not aid the Labour Party if it recognised that the Scottish Nationalists have been a force for good in our nation these last forty years, and stopped using a pejorative, negative language of â??separatismâ?? and â??separationâ??? And given that this is the finest hour so far of the Scottish Nationalists, would it not aid a generous, pluralist, dynamic vision of an independent Scotland, if they were to tell the cyber-thought police to shut up? It is fascinating to reflect that even writing the above carries with it a slight feeling of foreboding for what some of our vociferous political tribalists might say, but we have to challenge them. It is understandable that so many people want to cling to a rigid sense of certainty in a turbulent, complex world, but in so doing they only aid a politics of insularity, conformity and conservatism. Such characteristics donâ??t really help Scotland address the kind of challenges we are going to have to face and open up public debate and discussion. Black and White Scotland, the voices of a monochrome world are damaging themselves, their own well-being, the rest of us, our society and our prospect for creating a different, collective future. The campaign for a Scottish self-government which is meaningful, taking a stand against the authoritarian mindsets found across society, and a dynamic, outgoing public culture, are all part of the same canvas and debate.
  10. 4 Nov 2011 OPPOSITION attempts to derail the Scottish Governmentâ??s bid to stamp out football-related sectarianism have failed. All four of Holyroodâ??s opposition parties and Independent MSP Margo MacDonald claimed the SNP Government was using its majority to force through a â??rushed, flawed piece of legislationâ? which risked doing more harm than good. However, Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham said the Scottish people wanted a solution to a problem most are â??sick to the back teeth ofâ?. The SNP majority at Holyrood ensured the flagship Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill would continue its parliamentary progress. Opponents said all political parties wanted to root out sectarianism but claimed the SNP Government had failed to make the case for the introduction of new offences which could lead to five-year jail terms and bans from football grounds. They said concerns had been raised about the Bill by the Law Society of Scotland, the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Scottish Justices Association, anti-sectarianism organisations, football supporters groups, religious organisations and childrenâ??s charities and â??their powerful voices deserve to be listened toâ?. A joint statement added: â??We have come together to send the strongest possible message to the SNP Government to stop, take a breath and talk to other parties, to the clubs, and to the many others concerned about these proposals rather than using their majority to force through this flawed legislation. â??Our fear is that the Governmentâ??s response is driven by a desire to be seen to be doing something, not by any evidence this plan would actually work.â? The opposition MSPs said a more effective response would include greater use of existing laws, working with football authorities and promoting positive interventions in communities and the education system. The debate â?? based on the Holyrood Justice Committee report on the Bill â?? was introduced by its convener Christine Grahame. She said that while there had been division on its merits, members were united on the need for action and there was a greater sense of urgency on the part of the football authorities and clubs. She said: â??I donâ??t think anyone in this chamber wants the game to be conducted in what one witness described as a Mary Poppins atmosphere, so sanitised as to be sterile of emotion or passion. â??While the forces of law enforcement have a key role to play in ridding our game of bigotry, so to do the clubs and the footballing authorities.â? Labour spokesman James Kelly claimed events over the summer, including convictions for sectarian singing and inappropriate comments on social networking site Facebook, demonstrated the proper use of existing laws. He said: â??It begs the question why was this legislation needed when the current legislation was being used so effectively?â? Tory spokesman David McLetchie said: â??We should be wary of legislation which, in the broadest sense, impinges on our legal liberty to speak freely and voice opinions, even when they may be robustly or sometimes even coarsely expressed.â? Labourâ??s Graeme Pearson, a former match commander with Strathclyde Police, wanted progress on the Bill held for a year to give football authorities responsibility for â??bringing good conduct to the clubsâ?. He said: â??Ensure sporting authorities deal with sectarian behaviour by withdrawing season tickets, using closed turnstiles for matches or, like Turkey, having only women and children as spectators. Use fines and, worst of all, deduct points.â? Ms Cunningham claimed there had been â??virtually nothing constructiveâ? said by the opposition in the debate. She claimed existing law was not adequate and with further stages of the Bill still to come there was scope for Parliament to shape legislation to create â??a Scotland we all wantâ?. http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/politics/opposition-fails-in-bid-to-derail-anti-sectarian-bill-1.1133019
  11. SICK yobs were spotted on camera daubing pro-IRA graffiti across a Rangers-themed boozer in green paint, it was revealed last night. The hooded louts used a ROLLER to plaster the front of the Louden Tavern: Ibrox Stadium, with a reference to the republican terror group. Disgusted owner Robert Marshall â?? who captured the hooligans in the act on CCTV â?? yesterday called in the police in a bid to catch the culprits. He said: "I'm not interested in the politics. I'm just a football fan and I think it's disgusting that, in this day and age, people are still doing these things. "These guys have written CIRA in green lettering which is about 6ft high. I've got them on CCTV using a roller to do it. "It took them a couple of minutes. They've got their hoods up, but I reckon they could be identified. "I will be keeping a log from now on of anything else that happens." The Glasgow pub was previously known as the Stadium Bar. Last night Strathclyde Police said they were dealing with an incident at the boozer. Read more: http://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/scotsol/homepage/news/3876586/Gers-pub-fury-over-IRA-graffiti.html#ixzz1b1aN42nw
  12. ONE of Scotland's most high-profile lawyers has warned that sectarianism could "blossom" in an independent Scotland without outside influences from the rest of the UK. Paul McBride, QC, said independence could lead to "very serious consequences" for Catholics in Scotland and that the Catholic community could have "legitimate concerns" about the SNP's flagship policy. His comments, made during an interview with former MP George Galloway, were dismissed by a Labour MP as a "cack-handed" attempt to persuade Catholic voters to reject independence in the forthcoming referendum promised by the SNP. Mr McBride voiced his concerns to Mr Galloway, who is writing a book about Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Mr McBride is Celtic's legal representative. Mr Galloway's book, Open Season: The Neil Lennon Story, chronicles the campaign waged against the Celtic manager last season when he was the victim of death threats and letter bombs. Mr McBride, who was the victim of similar threats, warned of possible damage to "social cohesion and related matters" if voters backed independence in a referendum. The QC, who is reported to be representing former Downing Street press chief Andy Coulson in the ongoing investigation into phone hacking, told The Scotsman: "People are anxious that if they vote for independence and then sectarianism isn't tackled that there will be these very serious consequences. Under independence, if the issue wasn't tackled, we would have our own parliament dealing with the issue with no influence from elsewhere. Then if the Scottish Parliament under independence was not prepared to address the issue, it could encourage an atmosphere where sectarianism could blossom." In the book, Mr McBride says: "I think there are legitimate concerns on the part of Scotland's Catholic community that if Scotland were ever to become independent, and these prejudices remained as deep and wide as they evidently are, it could result in very serious consequences when it comes to social cohesion and related matters. "We must not delude ourselves that this isn't the most serious social issue in the country today. If we do, if we continue to treat it with the collective myopia it has been traditionally treated with, we will only succeed in failing future generations." However, Labour MSP Michael McMahon, a Catholic who opposes independence, said Mr McBride's comments were "not very well thought out". He said: "I believe that in the past, there was a genuine concern in the Catholic community about independence. About 15 or 20 years ago, you could have understood or identified with this, but I don't believe you can say that now." He went on: "If it is an attempt to appeal to Scottish Catholics not to vote for independence, then it's a very cack-handed strategy and is not very well thought out at all. "As a Catholic, my fears about independence are not in this regard but are more about how Scotland would be weaker economically, socially and politically under independence." A leading Catholic academic said he understood why some Catholics feared their position would become worse in an independent Scotland. Professor Patrick Reilly, professor of English literature at Glasgow University, said: "I know that some people feel safer being part of the UK, as they feel that England is more tolerant towards them than an independent Scotland might be. "I can see why some people would take the view that Scotland would be more divided under independence, as some people might be concerned that the discrimination that used to exist against Catholics over jobs and housing could return." Mr McBride is quoted in the book as saying that Lennon had displayed "extraordinary courage" last season, continuing to manage the team "despite being forced to deal with a serious attempt on his life, being assaulted in the dugout, his family being threatened and having to live surrounded by security". He said: "I'll never forget being at Celtic Park on the last home game of the season. The atmosphere was just unbelievable. "In fact you'd think we'd just won the Champions League. It was an atmosphere of defiance and unity in the face of adversity, which was down to Neil Lennon and the courage he demonstrated." Mr Galloway said he was motivated to write the book because of what he called "the unprecedented campaign to drive the Celtic manager out of Scotland for no other reason than he is a proud Irish Catholic". He added: "If anybody thinks that Scotland is fit for independence, the events of last season should make them think again." However, SNP MSP Bob Doris claimed sectarianism would be tackled more effectively in an independent Scotland. Mr Doris, the convener of Holyrood's cross-party group on equality, said: "Sectarianism will not be tolerated in modern Scotland, and after the events of last season, the Scottish Government, parliament, the clubs and police have come together to agree decisive action to eradicate it once and for all." Mr McBride has long been active in politics and in April 2009, in a high-profile move, he defected from the Scottish Labour Party to the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. At the time, he said he decided to join the Tories after deciding they were the only ones who were serious about tackling the justice system. Until then, he had been a lifelong Labour supporter. http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/news/Catholic-QC-warns-of-bigotry.6828205.jp?articlepage=1
  13. In a recent ââ?¬Ë?debateââ?¬â?¢ on twitter with the freelance Journalist Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, who often speaks on Sectarianism and Irish politics, I happened to ask him the following: Why are you ashamed to admit your views on the Provisional IRA? Were you for or against them? Your followers awaitââ?¬Â¦ http://twitter.com/#!/jdcgow/status/102513601260171265 The answer he gave was just a link to a blog piece he had written which described how he saw no ââ?¬Å?utilityââ?¬Â for pro-IRA songs any more at Celtic Park. He describes his younger self as ââ?¬Å?an energetic member of the rebel choir at Celtic Park in the 1990′sââ?¬Â and that it was a ââ?¬Å?sub culture of IRA worship.ââ?¬Â Now, there is no disgrace in making mistakes and it is very laudable for Phil to try and get Celtic fans to stop their IRA songs. However the blog piece still seemed to me more concerned that it was no longer justified in the utilitarian sense now, rather than wrong in the past. For instance he states he spoke to an ââ?¬Å?anti-Belfast agreement Republicanââ?¬Â who is in an ââ?¬Å?organisationââ?¬Â he hopes to get an interview with. He asks this person about the current Celtic fans IRA slogans and how it affects his current ââ?¬Å?political projectââ?¬Â. Phil paraphrases the unknown interviewee by telling us that: He pointed out to me that, of course, most of the songs and add ons was referring to are (sic) in endorsement of a now defunct republican organisation. The provisional IRA has left the stage and theyââ?¬â?¢re not coming back. Hold on! I thought the present and past IRA songs and slogans at Celtic Park had nothing to do with the Provisional IRA? I thought it was just a remembrance of Irish independence from the period around 1916? I have repeatedly said that many, if not most, of those chanting about the IRA and UVF are not thinking about 1916 or 1912 respectively. Itââ?¬â?¢s a trick so that those who wish to chant hatred and sectarianism at other people can get away with it under the cover of ââ?¬Âpoliticsââ?¬Â. Phil goes on to reinforce this point by saying: I was very clear a quarter of a century ago that I was taking part, as far as I was concerned, in a legitimate expression of political Irishness during the height of the Northern war. Now, Phil Mac Giolla Bhain is always complaining that he is not treated like a respected journalist on these topics. Well I will treat him like a respected journalist. I therefore feel it is completely legitimate to ask a respected journalist on Irish affairs ââ?¬â?? who pro-actively commentates in the public sphere about sectarianism, racism and hate crime ââ?¬â?? a simple question about his views on the Provisional IRA: Were you for or against them? I would hope such an easy question could be answered rather quickly. Over to you Philââ?¬Â¦ http://johndcgow.com/2011/08/16/a-question-for-journalist-phil-mac-giolla-bhain/
  14. Asked what his reaction to anti-Protestant songs being sung would be, Kearney replied: ââ?¬Å?Our position here is to act in the interest of Catholics. [ââ?¬Â¦] ââ?¬Å?Itââ?¬â?¢s not our place to step forward for other religions. If there were anti-Protestant songs, Iââ?¬â?¢d expect our friends at the Church of Scotland to step forward. (1) ââ?¬â?? Scottish Catholic Media Director Peter Kearney. In one small paragraph we see Scotlandââ?¬â?¢s flawed response to sectarianism. Corporatism before Christ. Christians denying the universality of the Christian message. Politics and PR before people. And letââ?¬â?¢s not forget Peter Kearneyââ?¬â?¢s benign tribalism is not alone. His views are shared by many who preach to the wider community on anti-sectarianism. There is a collective failure to grasp that the determination to only act in the interest of your own group, rather than for all Scots, is part of the problem. This doesnââ?¬â?¢t mean itââ?¬â?¢s necessarily done in bad faith. Most people, regardless of background, hold views that are full of myth and half-truth about other groups. Many of those who only see the ââ?¬Å?other sideââ?¬Â as bigots have no idea that they too can be prejudiced. Every Human being holds false views of the world. We canââ?¬â?¢t choose our nationality, culture, religion, family, body, psychology and other important factors at birth. The other beliefs we subsequently choose, can only be done through the distorted prism of those early influences and imperfect knowledge of the facts. We are all biased and there is nothing we can do about it. This is the human condition. The problem is not that we are imperfect and biased. The problem is when we forget we are imperfect and biased. Once we start to believe that we and our ââ?¬Å?tribeââ?¬Â are innately superior we can become the very bigots we are supposedly against. This is what is happening in the sectarian debate within Scotland. We have self-righteous groups projecting all the evils of sectarianism onto other people. Often the right of reply or attempt at dialogue is refused, leading to a feeling of helplessness and anger among the accused. Sometimes this is simply due to vested interest and at other times being unaware that what they dislike, or are offended by, is not the same as sectarianism. The hunger to force us all to be ââ?¬Å?right-minded peopleââ?¬Â (to use the thought-crime language of the day), has led to a despicable situation where legal forms of expression are being deliberately de-legitimised. The whole point of a tolerant society is allowing cultural expression that you may vehemently disagree with as long as it is within the law. You cannot possibly end sectarianism by attempting to de-legitimise non-violent beliefs just because you dislike them. Also the view that the Catholic/Protestant, Irish/British, Celtic/Rangers ââ?¬Å?divideââ?¬Â is a group divide is a horrendous lie. That doesnââ?¬â?¢t mean that there arenââ?¬â?¢t acts of sectarianism, but they are usually caused by drunken hooligans and not actions on behalf of separate communities. Go into any street, workplace and nightclub and see how these sectarian groups fail to materialise. Itââ?¬â?¢s a myth. Friends, lovers and enemies are picked on their own merit and almost never because they belong to the same (or different) Christian sub-sect, ancestry or football team. However, this does not mean that these identities are not deeply held. They are and this is why the attempt to de-legitimise these legal beliefs ââ?¬â?? however offended you others may be by them ââ?¬â?? will only cause them to be aggressively defended rather than disappear. Look at the issue of flags at Scottish football stadiums. There has been a recent rise in questioning why legitimate national flags should be brought into football. Some directly or indirectly question why the Union Flag and Red Hand of Ulster flags (never the Irish Tricolour as they know they would be described as anti-Irish) are allowed to be flown by fans. The logic is that it has nothing to do with football and indirectly a form of bigotry. Do these people not realise that asserting identity is not sectarianism? That the goal should be to encourage legitimate expressions of identity rather than hinder it. If national flags, maudlin folk songs and marches were the only problem there would be no problem. The attempt to whitewash these identities will only lead to anger and will drive it underground. It will only end up creating the very sectarianism and thoughtless tribalism that they say they want stopped. The same is true for free speech. There has been an increase in self-censorship and taboo on language concerning religion. In Scotland there is not enough awareness that criticising religion is not the same as hating those who practice religion. Of-course there are a minority who canââ?¬â?¢t tell the difference, but this should not stop intelligent dialogue among those who can. When Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry condemn Catholicism in the strongest possible terms and Hitchens even talks about the: institutionalisation of rape and torture and maltreatment of children in Catholic institutions (2) can Scotland honestly say to itself that such words (whether right or wrong) would not lead to such a person being ostracised, with the possibility of demands for a sacking and even criminal charges? The irony is that the ordinary person in Scotland is being lectured by Churches whose own history and tradition would shame a despot. The Roman Catholic Church has discriminated, tortured and killed many innocent people because of their race, ethnicity and sex for centuries. (3) Protestant history is no less intolerant. A perfect example being the shameful treatment of Michael Servetus at the hands of John Calvin simply because he had a different theology (4) and the anti-semitism of Martin Luther. (5) Scotlandââ?¬â?¢s own Kirk published the ââ?¬Å?The Menace of the Irish Race to our Scottish Nationalityââ?¬Â in 1923, that still shames them to this day, (6) and up until 1986 still signed up to sections of the ââ?¬Å?Westminster confession of Faithââ?¬Â that stated the Pope was the ââ?¬Å?AntiChristââ?¬Â. (7) Of-course it has to be made clear that these Churches have dramatically changed, but the declaration of innocence and tendency to scapegoat football fans (of all people), is as dangerous as it is laughable. Many Scots are unaware that football fans did not create sectarianism and that many of the the real culprits are those pointing fingers at others. The superficial focus on songs is so ridiculous that future historians will mock us all. The self-censorship and taboo when discussing sectarianism will also be noticeable. Recently in the Scottish Parliament, John Lamont MSP of the Scottish Conservatives questioned the wisdom of faith schools. The reaction was one of outrage. Not just for disagreeing with those who believe in faith schools, but for even mentioning it at all. Joseph Devine, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Motherwell said: ââ?¬Å?The claim that Catholic schools are the cause of sectarianism is offensive and untenable. There has never been any evidence produced by those hostile to Catholicism to support such a malicious misrepresentation.ââ?¬Â (8) Note that Bishop Devine states that such comments are not merely wrong (which is a valid criticism) but that they are ââ?¬Å?hostile to Catholicismââ?¬Â. John Lamont should not only be disagreed with, but by being hostile to Catholicism, he is implicated as anti-Catholic. Astonishingly, Bishop Devine, has previously stated that: Denominational education is an enabler of sectarianism. Roman Catholic schooling is divisive ââ?¬â?? sometimes itââ?¬â?¢s a price worth paying. (9) Whether Mr Lamont is correct or not is irrelevant. He should be allowed to discuss such an important topic without cries for resignation and hints that he is a bigot. It stifles intelligent dialogue by making certain subjects unspeakable. And before I am accused of fixating on the Catholic Church, itââ?¬â?¢s only because the Church of Scotland is an irrelevance. Unlike the Catholic Church, the Kirk no longer represents itââ?¬â?¢s members in the political arena. As a secularist I do not welcome religious groups receiving special treatment, but neither do I think they should disappear. There is a hunger among young working-class Protestants to understand their tradition, but the Kirk fails them by retreating to their ivory tower. Instead of initiatives steering the young into the intelligent and intricate world of Protestant theology, their absence allows those young people to bastardise Protestantism by believing ââ?¬Ë?The Billy Boysââ?¬â?¢ is a part of their faith. The religious tradition that produced the thinking of Karl Barth, Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich along with the moral courage of Dietrich Bonhoeffer squashed out of all recognition into the world of the razor gang. However, as much as certain songs should be condemned, there also needs to be a realisation that singing should not be the focus of anti-sectarianism initiatives. We should not continue with the ââ?¬Å?Fuck the Popeââ?¬Â or ââ?¬Å?Up the Raââ?¬Â nonsense, but the childish fixation on songs ââ?¬â?? and in particular the obsession with Rangers fans ââ?¬â?? by the government, media and police needs to be drastically reduced. Resources should be focused on stopping people slashing and stabbing each other rather than offensive song lyrics. At present it seems the reverse is the case. As I mentioned in the piece ââ?¬Å?Zero Tolerance?ââ?¬Â, our enemy isnââ?¬â?¢t some abstract ââ?¬Å?other sideââ?¬Â, but thugs who use the excuse of history at best, or at worst ignorant myth, to get drunk and knife innocent people for the glory of other halfwits. Tribalism pretending to end tribalism will not work. Looking for cultural scapegoats will not work. We need to take back the sectarian debate from those with a vested interest in demonising whole groups of people for their own ends. This does not mean leaving our core identities behind, but simply realising that disagreement and difference is fine, as long as we agree to live without violence or the threat of violence. Notes 1) http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/2011/03/26/church-set-to-prepare-hate-song-dossier-as-fans-claim-cops-allowed-sectarianism-at-hampden-86908-23017130/ 2) See debate on youtube between Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry against Ann Widdecombe John Onaiyekan in a debate on ââ?¬Å?Is the Catholic Church a force of good in the world?ââ?¬Â http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmFYpuYh6w0 3) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/674246.stm http://www.sacredheart.edu/pages/12654_pope_john_paul_ii_asks_for_forgiveness_march_12_2000_.cfm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Jubilee#Prayer_for_Forgiveness_for_Sins_of_the_Church 4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Calvin#Michael_Servetus_.281553.29 5) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_and_antisemitism 6) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/2014961.stm 7) http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/about_us/our_faith/westminster_confession_of_faith http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westminster_Confession_of_Faith http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/650/westminster_confession.pdf (original in PDF) 8) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-13891033 http://news.stv.tv/scotland/west-central/259837-msp-criticised-over-schools-sectarianism-comment/ 9) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/2274383.stm http://johndcgow.com/2011/08/02/tribalism-pretending-to-end-tribalism/
  15. In the Franz Kafka novel The Trial, a man is prosecuted by an obscure authority that fails to state his crime. I havenââ?¬â?¢t read it since my Existentialist teenage years, but memory is of a bizarre, claustrophobic fiction showing the evils of faceless bureaucracy. Of-course I would be hysterical if I said this was in any way modern Scotland. We are still part of a wonderfully free society that should make us proud. But we are still not past condemning others with labels ââ?¬â?? with no thought given to what that label actually means. We now habitually call others ââ?¬Å?Sectarianââ?¬Â without telling them what they have done wrong and then refusing any defence. Labelling someone ââ?¬Å?sectarianââ?¬Â is the new fashion, yet most assume their personal definition of sectarianism is the actual definition. The truth is that there is no agreed definition, and that is a major part of the problem. And donââ?¬â?¢t assume that those in authority are even aware of this. When people like Margo MacDonald MSP say the difference between Hearts/Hibs fans and Rangers/Celtic fans is that you will never see a family who supports both Old Firm teams, is to become aware that those making the decisions are sometimes scarily ignorant. This ignorance and reliance on ââ?¬Å?Groupthinkââ?¬Â can lead to a state where myth and lies becomes accepted as truth. The majority take the path of least resistance and rely on shallow statements and surface details, and never thinking of scratching below the surface. Over the past six months this has led to Politicians, Police and anti-Sectarian organisations so determined to stamp out sectarianism that they will flatly refuse to tell us what it is, or participate in any project to ease discrimination in society. Itââ?¬â?¢s all slogans. In fact there is so little action to ease sectarian discrimination in Politics, Law, the Media, Housing and Employment that you could say no-one believes it exists in these fields. Instead, the sole focus is on singing songs. Yes, the great fight of sectarianism that has so many people outraged is of a few football fans. When First Minister Alex Salmond wants to publicise an anti-sectarian initiative he goes to a football stadium. I am sure many readers will know of FARE (Football against Racism in Europe) who in their determination to stop Sectarian chanting from Rangers fans refuse to tell Rangers fans what is sectarian. (A cynic might think they are uninterested in preventing sectarianism so Rangers can be punished again.) What would happen if Scotland fans were accused of racism by FARE and UEFA punished the SFA without telling anyone what was said? There would be uproar among the SFA, Media and Parliament. The reason why this hasnââ?¬â?¢t happened in Rangersââ?¬â?¢ case is that most in the aforementioned chattering classes are enjoying it. Itââ?¬â?¢s human nature that we accept accusations against those we dislike without much care. The Rangers FC must take some of the blame for not stamping out certain songs among some Rangers fans quicker, and for being weak in not defending the vast majority of the overwhelmingly decent supporters from attacks by obsessed pro-IRA supporting ââ?¬Å?journalistsââ?¬Â, who spend their existence on blogs and twitter making all the worlds ills the fault of a Glasgow football team. Deranged bloggers and murky UEFA bodies aside, we should expect different standards from our political class and Police. How is it possible that Central Police publicly state in a recent match between a Rangers XI and Stirling Albion, that Rangers fans sang sectarian songs, yet cannot tell us what the songs are or why there were no arrests? Why the secrecy and lack of action? Yet, for all the recent fuss, Central Police, like Strathclyde Police, are aware of and defend the right of openly pro-IRA bands to sell concert tickets to sing songs about Surface to Air Missiles downing British Helicopters in Northern Ireland; IRA snipers executing young British soldiers as they plead for their life and blatantly racist lyrics like, ââ?¬Å?The Brits will never leave us until theyââ?¬â?¢re blown away.ââ?¬Â The truth is that Scottish Police, like other British police forces, are highly political. There is no political capital in senior officers stopping songs about murdering British people for no reason other than they are British. Why go after pro-IRA bands that are supported at concerts by high-profile people like Billy McNeill, Bertie Auld and John Hartson and others who have been authorised in the past to make pro-IRA song videos at Celtic Park? They know the fallout would be immense. However, there is plenty of career-advancing opportunity in being strong in condemning sectarianism among a few hundred young Rangers fans. Sectarianism that was so bad there were no arrests and the Police canââ?¬â?¢t even tell the public what happened. Take a moment to let that sink in. The Police are so confident that an offence has taken place that they publicise it, but refuse to arrest anyone and wish to keep the offence a secret. The new ââ?¬Å?Secret Sectarianismââ?¬Â at work. http://johndcgow.com/2011/07/14/secret-sectarianism/
  16. John Lamont is not the sort of MSP one would expect to indulge in deliberately aggravating behaviour, but that is what this mild-mannered, studious-looking Tory was accused of doing yesterday. His crime? To raise the issue of Catholic schools during a parliamentary debate on sectarianism. This is the remark that got him into so much trouble: ââ?¬Å?The education system in this part of Scotland [the west] is effectively the state-sponsored conditioning of these sectarian attitudes. And I say this as someone who believes, as a Christian country, we should do more to promote Christian values in our young people and support religious education in schools. ââ?¬Å?Clearly these attitudes are being entrenched at home and the wider community in these small pockets of west central Scotland.ââ?¬Â Now, just consider for a second what Frank Mulholland, the Lord Advocate, said when explaining the way police would interpret various forms of behaviour under the new anti-sectarian laws. Appearing before the justice committee on Wednesday, Mr Mulholland said: ââ?¬Å?It [the bill] is not intended to criminalise the singing of national anthems in the absence of any other aggravating behaviour. It is not intended to criminalise the making of religious gestures without any aggravating behaviour.ââ?¬Â And he used this as an example: ââ?¬Å?If someone at an Old Firm match were to leave the Rangers end and run across the pitch and, in front of the Celtic fans, was to sing the national anthem then the context of that may be ââ?¬â?? arguably ââ?¬â?? criminal because the intention is to cause public disorder.ââ?¬Â The way Mr Lamont was being treated yesterday suggested that he had committed the parliamentary equivalent of ââ?¬Å?aggravating behaviourââ?¬Â ââ?¬â?? that he had, in effect, run across from the Rangers end to sing God Save The Queen in front of the Celtic end. It was not, apparently, that he had raised the issue of Catholic schools that had shocked Holyrood, it was the context in which he had raised them that was important. He had raised the issue of Catholic schools during a parliamentary debate on sectarianism ââ?¬â?? and, more than that, he had suggested that Catholic schools were one of the root causes of sectarianism. Indeed, it was almost possible to hear a collective dropping of jaws right around Holyrood the moment the words ââ?¬Å?state-sponsoredââ?¬Â and ââ?¬Å?sectarian attitudesââ?¬Â were out of his mouth. ââ?¬Å?Heââ?¬â?¢s going to get peltersââ?¬Â was the general impression along the media corridor, and that is what happened. MSP after MSP lined up to attack him in the chamber, the Tories distanced themselves from his remarks and Roseanna Cunningham, the community safety minister, expressed her ââ?¬Å?astonishmentââ?¬Â at his comments. The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland was appalled and indignant at what west of Scotland Labour MSPs would regard as political suicide had it come from them. A church spokesman said: ââ?¬Å?These remarks are both inflammatory and insensitive, the Catholic Church rejects and repudiates them entirely. As a matter of urgency the Conservative Party should issue a reassurance to Scotlandââ?¬â?¢s Catholics that Catholic schools enjoy the support of the Conservative Party.ââ?¬Â But why were Mr Lamontââ?¬â?¢s comments so frightful and why was it that the context made them so outrageous? Is there a place to discuss the role ââ?¬â?? and effect ââ?¬â?? of denominational schools in Scottish society? If there isnââ?¬â?¢t, there should be. And if a parliamentary debate on sectarianism ââ?¬â?? which should be trying to explore all avenues and properly debate all the manifestations of this issue ââ?¬â?? isnââ?¬â?¢t the place, then where is? The ââ?¬Å?state-sponsored conditioning of sectarian attitudesââ?¬Â was the phrase that everybody reacted to, but it is worth going a step further back and considering Mr Lamontââ?¬â?¢s remarks in the round. This is what Mr Lamont said before that. He recalled his time growing up in a non-denominational school in Kilwinning, in Ayrshire. He said tensions with a local Catholic school resulted in some pupils throwing eggs and stones at buses. ââ?¬Å?The segregation of our young people has brought them up to believe that the two communities should be kept separate,ââ?¬Â Mr Lamont said. He argued that the education system of west and central Scotland had ââ?¬Å?produced many, if not all, of those who are responsible for the shocking behaviour we have witnessed in recent months.ââ?¬Â And it was then that he made the comment about state-sponsored sectarianism. It may well be that Mr Lamont is totally wrong in his remarks, that there is absolutely no thread at all linking Catholic schools and the festering prejudice, suspicion and ignorance that blights both sides of the sectarian divide. But if there is even the slightest hint of reality anywhere in his comments, then Scotland, as a society, should be brave enough, mature enough and fair-minded enough to debate it. It is not a question of wanting to see Catholic schools disappear, rather of whether the attitude taken by some in society to Catholic schools ââ?¬â?? from both sides of the religious divide ââ?¬â?? perpetuates and intensifies religious prejudice in later life. From what I could interpret, Mr Lamont was not suggesting that Catholic schools fostered sectarianism by teaching religious intolerance. What he seemed to be suggesting was that the existence of these schools bred hatred from others ââ?¬â?? borne out of ignorance. Most people in Scotland can recite at least one anecdotal example of sectarian prejudice that comes from an ignorant approach to schooling. I know of one person who moved from the Hebrides to Glasgow and, as an adult, was asked by her neighbours which school she went to. When she replied ââ?¬Å?such-and-such high schoolââ?¬Â, she was pressed again. ââ?¬Å?No, which school did you go to? Was it Saint such-and-such high school?ââ?¬Â However, the reaction to Mr Lamontââ?¬â?¢s remarks showed that this is one issue that politicians, decision-makers and commentators donââ?¬â?¢t appear to want to touch. It is as if it is too volatile, too risky and too difficult an area to get into. But, if Scotland is to address sectarianism, really address sectarianism, then our political leaders should not be scared to look into every part of Scottish society in an effort to find answers. This does not just mean discussing the role, value and effect of Catholic schools, it means there should also be a debate, a proper debate, about all faith schools ââ?¬â?? including specialist Muslim schools, too. It may well be that everybody involved decides that faith schools are good, positive forces for our society, and that they should not just be continued but encouraged ââ?¬â?? but we should not be scared of the debate. Religious prejudice has declined massively in Scotland over the last few decades ââ?¬â?? but, as with all prejudices, what there is, is based on ignorance. For that reason, if for no other, then we should embrace all attempts to delve deeply into the issue, not shut it off because it is ââ?¬Å?too riskyââ?¬Â a subject. If we fail to debate it, then we shall never show the maturity as a society we need to tackle it properly ââ?¬â?? and that, surely, is the real aim behind the anti-sectarian legislation currently being considered by parliament. http://politics.caledonianmercury.com/2011/06/24/sectarianism-and-catholic-schools-%E2%80%93-the-taboo-we-are-afraid-to-discuss/
  17. Leader: Cameron and Obama should take heed of people power Published 26 May 2011 The two leaders must turn their back on an age of military intervention. Barack Obama and David Cameron both entered office as avowed sceptics of military intervention. Mr Cameron declared that you can't "drop democracy out of an aeroplane at 40,000 feet", while Mr Obama, in reference to Iraq, argued that the US could not "impose a military solution" on "someone else's civil war". Yet that is precisely what the US and the UK are now attempting to do in Libya. The pretence that the Nato coalition is merely patrolling the no-fly zone over the country has been abandoned in favour of an unambiguous pursuit of regime change. The imminent deployment of Apache helicopters confirms that what was initially presented as a limited, protective action has morphed into a war of aggression. In a leader published on 28 March, we warned of the dangers of mission creep and predicted that the air strikes, rather than leading to the fall of Colonel Gaddafi, would result in a protracted civil war. And so it has proved. Yet the coalition still lacks anything resembling an exit strategy. It could break the stalemate through the deployment of ground troops, or it could seek a negotiated, peaceful settlement. But at present it is unwilling to consider either option. Mr Obama and Mr Cameron have vowed not to leave Libya until UN Resolution 1973 has been "completely complied with". Yet this stated aim is compatible with the survival of Gaddafi in power. In the meantime, the cost of the war is exceeding all initial estimates. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, told the House of Commons that the cost of military operations against the colonel would be "in the order of tens of millions of pounds, not hundreds of millions". But research by Defence Analysis suggests that the intervention will cost the UK as much as Ã?£1bn if it continues into the autumn. The Chancellor's apparent willingness to fund an expensive war makes a mockery of his previous claim that "the cupboard is bare". In spite of all this, Mr Obama and Mr Cameron have not lost their appetite for intervention. In a joint newspaper article to mark the US president's state visit to the UK, the two leaders wrote: "We are reluctant to use force but when our interests and values come together we know that we have a responsibility to act." The disastrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq should have taught them not to make such bold claims about the utility of military force. Moreover, it is precisely the absence of western intervention that has enabled the success of the Arab spring. The popularity of the protest movements reflects their nationalist and autonomous character. Regime change in Tunisia and Egypt was brought about by ordinary people, not by foreign bombs. The tedious debate over whether the relationship between the US and the UK is "special", "essential", or merely ââ?¬Å?businesslike" should not be allowed to obscure the importance of these matters. A bloody decade of war and occupation has left the world neither freer nor safer. It is incumbent on the west to forge an alternative approach. If Mr Obama and Mr Cameron are to succeed where their respective predecessors failed, they must turn their back on an age of intervention and put their faith in the people of the Middle East instead. http://www.newstatesman.com/international-politics/2011/05/obama-cameron-war-intervention
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