Thursday, 28 April 2011


Because I live in the east of Scotland, I have had little personal experience of the sectarianism that grips the west of my country.  However it is a very serious issue which divides the west's population with the public displays of hatred at football matches between Rangers and Celtic.

Now we have another example of the hatred (I don't use that word lightly) between the Protestants and Catholics.  McVitie's of Glasgow, who have been making cakes for royal occasions since 1893, were asked by the royal couple to make an unbaked cake from dark chocolate and crushed Rich Tea biscuits as an alternative to the traditional wedding cake they'll also have at their wedding breakfast.

Staff in the factory decided to decorate their canteen for the big day on Friday and someone put up the union flag.

Bosses asked for the flag to be removed because of 'direct connotations with football and sectarianism' after some employees complained it was 'offensive' and a threat to their 'dignity at work'.  One worker said:

"A group of staff were putting up bunting and a Union Jack in the canteen at lunchtime when one woman shouted that it was offensive.
"She said she would be bringing in an Irish tricolour if the Union Jack stayed up.
"Several staff then went to complain to management. They were saying it was an affront to their dignity at work.

There are two issues here.  The McVitie's management should have told the protestors to put their complaint in writing and it would be dealt with in the usual manner.  By that time the wedding celebrations would have been over.  Giving in to bigots will increase the tensions not defuse them.

If McVitie's have Irish republican sympathisers on their staff they should deal with them and it would now appear they have done so.  The following is a copy of an email response from McVitie's.

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the Union flag in the Scotland site. 

Despite recent press allegations United Biscuits can categorically confirm that it has not banned the union flag from any of its sites. At Tollcross, in line with all other factories in the UK, celebratory decorations are on display which include the union flag. 

The initial Tollcross canteen decorations did include some union flags which resulted in complaints from some employees. Given the recent well publicised football sectarian tensions in Glasgow, with the union flag linked with one particular team, the management of our Glasgow factory chose a more neutral theme for their canteen decorations featuring purple bunting and pictures of the happy couple. Their aim was to ensure that all employees could wholeheartedly join in the wedding celebrations without any football associations. However this change resulted in complaints from a different group of employees and so union flags will remain as part of the decorations. 

McVitie's is a proud British brand and has just launched a promotion featuring the union flag on a number of its products to highlight the fact that it sources its wheat from the UK. 

Kind regards, 
Sue Gibson 
Consumer Services Co-ordinator 

What concerns me is the troubles which continue to blight Northern Ireland may transfer to Scotland.  We are not Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland and the decent, peace-loving people of Scotland are now being affected by this increasing sectarianism which nobody can control.

When the SNP are returned to Holyrood next Friday I would like to see them take a very firm stance on this issue.  My football supporting friends suggested that the union flag and the tricolour should be banned from matches although I've no idea if that would make a difference.  Maybe it would be a start.

So, tomorrow the McVitie's canteen at Tollcross will have the same bunting as thousands of other canteens throughout the UK.  The wedding will go without a hitch because they've had more than enough rehearsals.  A good time will be had by all.

I'm celebrating with friends in Dundee where we intend to raid Sainsburys then congregate to watch a couple of old films while we devour our not-so-low-fat feast. I do hope one of them is 'Gone With The Wind'.


English Pensioner said...

The Union Flag should not be banned anywhere within the British Isles under any circumstances whatsoever.
If you are a citizen of a country, you owe allegiance to that country, whether or not you agree with what those in charge are doing at the time, and respect for the National Flag is part of that allegiance.
Anything else in days gone by would have been considered as treason, an offence which, regrettably in my view, seems to have ceased to exist.

JRB said...

Sectarianism - the answer is simple – Education!

Education is the key to resolving this sectarian nightmare. All single faith or religious based schools should be banned.

Children should be taught together and brought up together as a single cohesive community under a common non-denominational education system.
Religion should be no more part of the education system than is arithmetic, history or PE.

As for ‘the wedding’, being an old curmudgeon I shall be avoiding the media hype that surrounds it like the plague, because – “frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”.

Enjoy your day tomorrow.

Doug Daniel said...

How utterly, utterly pathetic. I'm not a fan of the union flag being put up in Scotland because of my desire for an independent Scottish republic, but that's a far cry from this immature, tit-for-tat rubbish. If you're against the monarchy and find the pomp and circumstance too much, then fair enough - but this is just ridiculous.

When will the West grow up and stop dragging the rest of Scotland down?

Joe Public said...

I agree that it's a sad situation, but not helped by weak management.

The person who complained, should have been told she had no right to not be offended by a piece of material. Perhaps she should put her money where her mouth is; and resign.

Unfortunately, such pathetic sectarianism isn't confined to Scotland.

Recently there was an operative employed by a contractor working for a council who was initially instructed to remove the 'palm cross' from the dashboard of his van for fear of 'offending' someone.

subrosa said...

Of course, I believe some of those in the west of Scotland don't feel any allegiance to Britain at all EP, but they like to come here and take the benefits we offer.

subrosa said...

JRB, my view entirely, yet we continue to support separate schools - possibly because schools which do have a religious connection provide a higher quality of education.

Religion never played a big part in my own schooling. We had an assembly once a week with a hymn and then lecture by the rector, plus a dose of RE about once a month.

I'm so pleased you noticed the connotation and may I reiterate 'neither do I'.

subrosa said...

It will only change once the football business is resolved Doug. They should play behind closed doors. Neither team is much good these days anyway I'm told.

But you're right, they give us all a bad name.

subrosa said...

It was a poor management decision Joe but obvious higher authority was sensible enough to change it - not without damage being done of course.

If I was management I'd be watching the tricolour bringer very very closely. She's a bully.

The incident in England is a product of recent social engineering. This business in the west has been going on all my life.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Non-sense and non-sensibility seem endemic in society, through all its strata's.

Macheath said...

When I was growing up - south-east of Edinburgh - it was a common occurrence for children to be grabbed in the playground, pinned up against a wall and asked the eternal question: 'Div ye support Rangers or Celtic?'

The correct answer depended on the identity of the group doing the pinning, and a wrong one inevitably resulted in a chinese burn or - worse - being 'felled' on the way home from school.

When people talk of sectarianism in Scotland, what I see is playground bullies writ large; my childhood tormentors have long-since grown out of their tribal game but their west-coast equivalent have not.

Demetrius said...

In the Arena for the Last Night of the Proms several years ago there was both a flag of Northumbria and a White Dragon. They were close to a flag of Estonia and one of Imperial Japan. There were quite a few Germans there as well, but they were waving Union Jacks.

Nikostratos said...

if? SNP are returned to Holyrood next Friday sectarianism will inevitable increase its just a fact of life.......

Nationalism increases sectarianism increases thats the price you pay
for trying tearing a nation apart
it will get far far worse.

But thats what the Nats want

Brian said...

Travelling home from university on a packed train many years ago I was ignored by the young Scotsman sitting opposite an empty seat when I asked if it was free. As I desperately wanted to sit down and rest my rucksack, I smiled at the chap who was fortified by the contents of the dozen or so empty tins of lager on the table in front of him, stowed my bag and sat down. He glowered at me. As I unzipped my coat to get the benefit of the heated carriage, he caught sight of my Exeter scarf. "Oh, you're a Celtic fan" he said and was amiable until I left the train at Birmingham while he continued northwards. Thank goodness Exeter's colours are green and white.

Allan said...


Completely agree. Yet any time I (or anyone else brings this up, For example Andrew "Brillopad" Neil brought this up reciently) sympathisers of this system of education brand people as "biggots".

Unfortunatly neither the last SNP government or any of the Labour/Lib Dem administrations had either the inclination or the backbone to really tackle the problem. McConnell at least recognised the problem. Salmlmond's solution was to throw another £500,000 at failing anti-sectarian charities.

If you think the SNP will takle this problem if they get in... well i'd be surprised if they do. Interestingly enough there is an Orange parade in Paisley tomorrow night. You would have thought that the local SNP/Lib Dem council would have had an opinion about that...

Shuggy said...

increasing sectarianism which nobody can control.

Sectarianism, by any measure you choose, is not increasing. It is in steep decline, which is why a few hardcore idiots are so desperately fanning the embers, trying to bring it back to life.

For everyone else, the supposed 'hatred' between Prods and Catholics is pretty much a 90 minute affair.

Nine people were arrested at the Old Firm game on Sunday. Nine. How many arrests d'ya think will be made in Glasgow City Centre tomorrow night?

Woodsy42 said...

"raid Sainsburys"

But not in the Bristol Tesco manner I hope!
Personally I will be doing everything I can to avoid the royal event. Not because I have any ill feelings towards them but because I have absolutely no interest in the marriage of people I don't know.

subrosa said...

The main problem is the damage this does to the whole of the country Crinkly.

subrosa said...

Never had that trouble in Dundee Macheath but then both teams were protestant I think.

All I understood as a child was that the catholic church had 'special' schools. It took some years for me to understand it was purely for religious reasons and nothing else.

subrosa said...

Royal celebrations in the UK normally consist of bunting using the union flag Demetrius. What is worrying about this small incident is the intensity of the sectarianism which exists in some parts of Scotland.

subrosa said...

Niko, I never thought I'd see you type the words 'if the SNP are returned...'. What about your hero with the honest haircut?

subrosa said...

You had luck on your side that day Brian by the sound of it.

Just out of interest - how did you know he was a Scotsman if he didn't speak?

subrosa said...

Is sounds as if it's as strong as ever if you're on this side of the country Shuggy.

subrosa said...

Oh no Woodsy! We couldn't have a sit-in. We wouldn't be able to get up. :)

Dramfineday said...

Mmmm... remind me again, what was wrong with putting the Saltire up? It does form a major part of the union flag does it not and is the flag of THIS country?

Still, I look forward to the day the the last Unionist and Irish republican of Scots decent is strangled with the last copy of the daily Record.

Anyway, that tosh aside while you are watching the wedding why dont you tune in to Spike Jones and his City slickers singing, "I went to your wedding"? While you are doing that I'll play "Cocktails for two" by the same outfit- enjoy your day :-).

Jo G said...

The McVities incident is shocking.

I am disappointed that the usual "close catholic schools" call goes up when "sectarianism" is mentioned. As the product of a catholic education myself I know that the education system is not to blame for the shocking bigotry here in Scotland for if it was we would all be bigots and that isn't the case. I never heard a party song at home in my entire life. I mixed freely with friends of all religions and none. I was taught not to label people. There should also be room for what we now call "faith schools" in any society which wishes to claim to embrace diversity.

Subrosa, you need not worry about the NI experience coming here now. It was here aleady. The links between the west of Scotland and Republican and Loyalist paramilitary groups in Ulster are well known and have been for decades. And where do you think "Ulster Scots" came from originally? And in the past we've had notorious Ulster Loyalist paramilitary leaders attending matches at Ibrox. I daresay their Republican counterparts attended Celtic Park too to oversee the collections there for the provisional IRA.

My own belief is that bigotry is taught in the home and not in schools. I know catholics, for example, who are Scots born but who insist they are Irish and who get upset when I tell them they are not.

The disappointing thing for me in the last few weeks has been to see Celtic Football Club painted as the innocent party. Neil Lennon is no innocent either. That is not to justify the sending of potentially explosive devices: it is simply to point out the faults on both sides when it comes to the Old Firm. Certainly Rangers once had a "no catholics" policy and that is a fact. But just because Celtic were founded by an Irishman does not make them an Irish Club yet they behave like one. And the stuff sung at Celtic Park is every bit as offensive as the stuff you will hear at Ibrox. These two could be hauled into line if the will existed to do it. But what did we get from the SFA recently? We had the Rangers coach and two of its players let off instead of being hammered for conduct that could have led to a riot amid 60,000 people. We'd seen Smith ( the only man with dignity during that particular match) trying to hold McCoist back from brawling and yet the SFA said there was no "evidence" to make McCoist's ban stick? That sort of failure to hammer both sides does not help. The SFA really needs to be dismantled and rebuilt. We need a body in Scotland with the guts to hammer the Old Firm by making them play matches behind close doors if need be or deducting points from them when their fans misbehave. (We probably couldn't do this but personally I wouldn't allow coaches to travel from the island of Ireland for Old Firm games.)

Finally please don't make the Old Firm about "religion" because it isn't. It is about bigotry and that's another animal altogether. Religion is about a belief system with a God at the centre. Hatred isn't part of the deal. So don't view Old Firm bigots as religious: let's just call them bigots and leave it at that without tarnishing all decent Christians in Scotland of all denominations with the same contaminated stick.

Jo G said...

I was up early today with two aims: one was to finish painting the sitting room and the other was to do so while watching William and Kate.

And even as a Scot who won't be voting Unionist this Thursday, I'm sorry, but I loved every minute of it.

I think any of us who saw that young man and his brother walk behind their mother's hearse that day have kept an eye out for them ever since. I am happy that this woman he married today clearly loves him and that he loves her. There is no doubt Kate is getting a better deal than William's mother got. He is also clearly close to his brother and you can see their mother's work in both of them. (Does anyone else think Harry is very like Diana's brother.) And old Lizzie looked as if she was enjoying it all. Very relaxed.

I liked the lesson too. Not a secularist in sight to jump up throwing tantrums at the mention of a God and the readings were spot on. I tittered watching Elton John singing hymns having previously heard his rants against those with spiritual beliefs. And I despaired of Victoria Beckham. If a woman can't smile when being escorted by a man looking as fabulous as David did today there is no hope for her.

I can't celebrate with a glass yet Subrosa: I'm up ladders painting, but maybe later. God bless them both no matter what path Scotland takes in the future.

Dramfineday said...

Anent (good Scots word) JoeG's responses. I came from the deep SW of Scotland Joe where at one time the Rangers and Celtic supporters went to the match (and back) in the same bus! You are also spot on about this Cod Irishism that goes on. I'd like to suggest that the SFA should have deducted 30 points from them both following the recent outbreak of violence; and every time a ref is abused (touched, sworn at, slandered etc) deduct 6 points. How long do you think the gruesome twosome would last? Time to get tough on sectarian idiots (and that includes the management – hear, hear Neil?).

Now on another, lighter, note. Like you I was engaged in the old painting and decorating today. I'm doing up my old father in law's living room (he's 90 and an ex WW2 Burma Veteran). No TV, just getting stuck in. Before we started I took him to the local baths. While we were getting changed to go in (9.30am ish) a number of young elderly chaps around mid 70's came out to get dried. From the conversations they had all come for a quick dook and were rushing back for the main wedding event! Too much for me I'm afraid, I started to whistle La Marseillaise - to say I was glowered at would be an understatement! But that's me. To the young couple, I would wish them all the very best in health, happiness and wellbeing. To the Royal aspects of it, to the bin of history with it and as quickly as possible.

Jo G said...

Dram, Lovely post and thank you. My own father fought in WW2 with the Royal Engineers. And him a catholic too. The cheek of him! Sometimes I hate this wee bigoted country of ours.

Jo G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jo G said...

Oh and Dram, I bet your painting and decorating is better than mine!

Jo G said...

Subrosa, I'm sorry but I have to say this because you've absolved the East Coast of the sectarian gene. You're wrong. I have travelled all over Scotland and met the gene. The anti-catholic one. It exists even if you won't acknowledge it. Even in your Dundee football teams. I'm sad to the heart to see you describe catholic schools as "special" schools. I am injured in fact. I don't even know if I will come back to your blog after seeing you post such words about catholics.

I loved football so much that I dumped both halves of the old firm into touch and picked an English team to follow. Sectarianism is a poison that has captured many Scots on both sides of the divide. I am glad I escaped. I often challenge both sides of it because they both disgust me. And I sure as hell don't like to be labelled just because I'm a catholic.

Jo G said...

And to those of you in Scotland who worship the acceptable face of Christianity, congratulations for the help you give to the secularists and the humanists who want faith people dumped out of the debate altogether. For with your hatred of the catholic form of Christianity you have so bought into the secularist agenda.

Dramfineday said...

Don't know about the painting and decorating Jo....slap and dash the village decorators, that's me!!

Now here's a hoot, when the in-law was in India, every Sunday there was a church parade. The men were fell out to the various religious orders. In-law and a few chums, although Church of Scotland, fell out to the Roman Catholic service....on the grounds that the catholic worshipers got a better tea after the service than the protestants!! Ha ha ha. :-)

Allan said...


Sorry, but the education system is a huge contributing factor to the bigotry problem in this country. If you segragate children at an early age along religious lines, you are making an impression that there is something diferent on the impressionable minds of small people. Yes Bigotry comes from the home enviroment, but where do you think that comes from. Oh thats right, being segrigated at an early age. And by the way there are other factors at play here at well - all of which are not helped by this. Personally, I don't think that there should be any kind of "worship" in school. But I would like to see Religious Education being more about all of the worlds religions, not just one or two. It would also (hopefully) give a better understanding of say Islam and Bhudism, two huge religions that are still musunderstood in the west.

You seem to have an issue about "anti-catholisism". Personally speaking, I only have a problem with people who object to how I view organised religion as a whole. The last couple of people who spoke out about "secularism" happen to be Cardinal Keith O'Brien and Pope Benedict XV. Yes there is an Anti-Catholic part of Scottish society out there, painting everyone who is, I suppose O'Brien might describe as "Heathens", does not help the situation.

subrosa said...

I don't see a problem with our saltire Dram although it isn't often seen in bunting associated with royal weddings - not that I've seen bunting for that up here at all.

Great idea but I missed the wedding. The music will be grand though.

subrosa said...

Jo, my fault, I actually meant the serious current increase in violence from Ireland as I know it's been here for years,but not to the same extent as over the water.

It's difficult to say where bigotry comes from, perhaps between home and peers.

Well our social engineering encourages the Scots born people to call themselves Irish. What about the census and the list there?

I completely agree that Celtic are just as responsible. I'm not a football supporter so don't take much notice but neither team seems to be worth much.

Have to admit I've seen a few of the wedding highlights this morning Jo and we are experts at pomp. Nobody does it better.

Is your painting finished? Good time of year to get that done. Did all the ceilings here a few weeks ago.

subrosa said...

Dram,you'll be banned now from the baths. The old chaps were possibly rushing back to see the pomp provided by their modern couterparts. I must say I haven't heard much of the music provided by the umpteen bands. Shame.

subrosa said...

I've a good one for you Dram. When I spent a few months working in Stornoway many years ago, the congregation immediately made for the back door of the local hotel, which I had been told would be very quiet on a Sunday because the bars would be closed.

The queue snaked well round the place and everyone trotted off happily with their half/full bottle tucked away in the folds of their black 'uniforms'. An unbelievable sight. The hotel took more on Sundays with off-sales than it did all week. How do I know? I was the temporary manager of the place and dishing out the poison.

Jo G said...

Allan, a couple of things. I didn't express an issue with anti catholic sectarianism. I attacked sectarianism of both types here in Scotland. So your observation is wildly inaccurate. I highlighted problems on both sides and condemned both types.

On secularism Keith O'Brien did indeed speak recently on the subject but he is not alone among his counterparts in other churches in believing that the advance of secularism and humanism and the agenda, to keep believers out of the debate, is unhealthy not to mention undemocratic. If these people are so determined there is no God why do those with beliefs represent such a threat to them and what right do they have to attack faith groups as they do?

As I also said earlier you will find that the real sectarian stuff is taught in homes Allan. The really bitter stuff. It is taught and learned in homes from the point when weans are wee toddlers. It is drilled in in many homes, not all, but many in Scotland. That's why we're not all contaminated because not all of us grew up with it. And it starts with Rangers and Celtic and all the baggage that goes with the support of either side, including the Irish stuff, the Northern Irish stuff and the hatred. Religion doesn't teach that stuff Allan.

There was a time when all schools had RE but that was stopped in many schools and it is something I know the Church of Scotland at least regrets.

There is also, incidentally, no longer such a thing as a catholic school in Scotland. All schools in Scotland are required to take in pupils of any denomination who live within the catchment area. That is the law.

Jo G said...

Dramfine, haha, great story!

Subrosa, I ended up getting caught up in the wedding yesterday and then decided to have a wee glass of red with dinner, just to toast the happy couple, and after that I decided I was done painting for the day! So here's hoping I get it finished today! I would so much rather be out doing stuff in the garden. Beautiful day here!

subrosa said...

Jo, you're a wise woman. I wouldn't be going up a ladder after one glass of wine - mainly because even without wine I'm not good with ladders.

Beautiful day here too. Was going to zap my ground elder in the beds today but it's too windy. Mind you, there are a thousand other jobs to be done, although the garden certainly looks good for this time of year. What a difference sunshine makes.

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