Monday, 20 May 2013
George Galloway on Catholicism in an independent Scotland
Yes, I know it's a cheap shot
George Galloway is not one of my favourite people. He strikes me as representative of that well known type of apparently strong, charismatic leader in left wing politics that talks a good game, but ends by screwing up other people's lives. (That of course is if they ever get any power. If not, they just do a lot of screwing: he's apparently on the fourth Mrs G just now.)
Anyway, Galloway has been warning that Catholics should be careful about voting for independence:
Speaking to the Sunday Herald, Galloway warned Scotland's Catholics to be "careful what they wish for" in the 2014 independence referendum, and claimed that as a Roman Catholic he would have concerns about living in a post- independence, SNP-led Scotland.
The Respect MP for Bradford West said "there's an historic crossover between Scottish nationalism and anti-Irish-Roman Catholicism" and warned Catholic schools would be threatened by independence.
Galloway said: "My own experience of growing up as a Roman Catholic in Scotland has led me to fear independence in Scotland.
"The possibility of Scotland being a kind of Stormont [the Ulster parliament] is a real one. I wrote a book recently about Neil Lennon's year of living dangerously and in the course of it I had to revisit some of my own experiences.
"Of course, most Scottish people are not swivel-eyed, loyalist sectarians but there are a large number of them. A large six-figure number, and if I were living in Scotland as a Roman Catholic I would be worried about that.
"I really urge Scotland's Catholics to be careful what they wish for, because the SNP has, in its roots, a Tory, anti-Catholic mentality. William Wolfe, former leader – before Alex Salmond's time but still within my lifetime – called for the Pope to be banned from visiting the country."
(Full article here.)
It's quite true that William Wolfe did have some 'odd' views. For example:
He went on to describe the Roman Catholic church as the world’s “largest and most widespread political organisation” which had “centuries of experience, infinite patience and Machiavellian skill, using good or evil, wealth or poverty, left or right political parties, black men or white men, in fact any person, organisation or circumstance which is likely to serve the ultimate aim of the church”.
David Torrance covers the events here . But that sort of nationalist Protestant chippiness (familiar to readers of Archbishop Cranmer's blog) has all but disappeared from the modern SNP, in part because of a drive to win Catholic votes from Labour and, more importantly perhaps, because the younger generation of Nationalist politicos is as secularist as any sensible modern youth could be.
If there is a danger to Catholicism in an independent Scotland, it's from that secularizing tendency in a new political class. The National Secular Society and its ilk bombard the letters columns of Scotland's press with demands for the exclusion of religion from this or that sphere, and any replies in the comboxes are met with keyboard warriors rejoicing in the vision of a future Scotland where the last minister is strangled with the last copy of the Sunday Post. Militant secularism is certainly deeply embedded in 'progressive' politics up here and, in the absence of any sort of Burkean conservatism in Scotland, there isn't much of principled opposition to it.
So I agree with George Galloway that, should there be an independent Scotland, as members of the most obviously countercultural church, we'd need to be on our guard against (especially) a challenge to Catholic schools. But as education is already a devolved matter, that possibility exists already.
As it stands, it would be electoral suicide for the SNP or anyone else to aim to attack Catholic schools. I suspect that will change and I suspect the attacks will come at some stage, whether or not Scotland becomes independent. Certainly, the excitement generated by a newly independent nation might provoke a taste for nutty modernizing. (Whilst, if there is no independence, it's hard to imagine the future of Scottish politics other than a generation long sulk while the Tories use the opportunity to get UKIP supporters onside by bludgeoning 'rebellious Scots'.) Certainly, the wish to draw a clear line of separation between an outmoded British state with funny mediaeval habits and a nice new shiny Scotland with none of that sort of thing might again lead to increased attacks on religion in the public sphere.
But then, when you've got a United Kingdom Conservative Party forcing through same sex 'marriage', secularizing tendencies are hardly unknown elsewhere, are they?
My best guess is that an independent Scotland probably would see greater pressure particularly in the area of Catholic schools, but that, in everything else, the UK in substance is going to be as hostile to religion in the public sphere as could be wished. The rump of the UK would still have the form of an Established Church etc, whilst the last vestiges of the Church of Scotland as the National Church here will disappear. But otherwise, those of us who have not got 'with the programme' are going to find life distinctly chilly, whichever side of the border we end up.