The long road from Ibrox to Brechin

The following piece appears as a chapter in Alan Bissett’s and Alasdair McKillop’s excellent collection of essays, ‘Born Under a Union Flag’, published by Luath. The book explores cultural and religious identity in Scotland, how these identities relate to football and their impact on the current constitutional debate. It includes writers supporting Unionism and others supporting Independence. Definitely worth a read!

In 1940 my Glaswegian, soldier father, was stationed in Brechin, and met my mother. They married in 1944. On demobilisation he settled in Brechin and became a regular at Glebe Park, the home of Brechin City FC. I arrived in 1950.
We moved in 1956, to Girvan, Ayrshire, another douce Scottish town, but without a Scottish League football club. A childish loyalty to Brechin City persisted but in 1957-58 I had a revelation when I attended my first major Scottish game beyond Glebe Park.
Brechin had won through to a League Cup semi-final at Hampden against Rangers. The football was not memorable but I recall meeting the train from Brechin at Buchanan Street Station. Rangers duly provided the result which everyone bar brave Brechin optimists had expected, a convincing 4-0 rout.
Perhaps I wanted to be on the winning side. Rangers were my Girvan school pals’ team of choice. (Some local lads supported Celtic; they, of course, attended a different school.) Divided loyalties ensued. The Brechin results were still awaited each Saturday but primary allegiances transferred to Rangers.
There was also a tenuous local connection. Bobby Shearer, Rangers’ and Scotland’s right-back, with Girvan connections, visited occasionally. There were few star-names in Girvan, footballing or otherwise!
It meant little however other than that my boyhood football strip was blue. Apart from the occasional jaunt to see Ayr United, attending big games from Girvan in the 1950s was a rarity. Ibrox was never an option.
Footballers were however seen in Girvan. Clubs heading to play Stranraer stopped in Girvan for lunch and we collected autographs from countless, now forgotten, second division players.
More impressive were the alternate year appearances of the Scotland team – Denis Law, Jim Baxter, Alex Scott – staying at Turnberry and training at Hamilton Park, Girvan FC’s ground, prior to Northern Ireland internationals in Belfast.
In 1960 our family moved again for work reasons, to Paisley. St Mirren had won the Scottish Cup in 1959. My father however had no enthusiasm for The Buddies. Alternate Saturday afternoons often meant a trip to Ibrox.
It is worthwhile explaining some family history.
My father, a bright Glasgow lad, left school aged 14, served in the Merchant Navy and enlisted as a regular soldier in July 1939. He returned in 1946, part of the Atlee generation, an active trade unionist and Labour Party member.
My parents were Church of Scotland members. My mother, a social Christian, enjoyed the respectability and sense of community and attended weekly.
My father had no interest in the social side but maintained a life-long belief in the basics of Protestant Christianity.
He was not the standard west of Scotland bigot. Yet I recall a childhood visit to Glasgow. At the corner of Castle Street and Garngadhill stood the Carlton Cinema. Built into its wall was a monument. Its inscription read: “Behind this stone lyes James Nisbet, who suffered martyrdom at this place, June 5th, 1684. Also James Lawson and Alexander Wood, who suffered martyrdom, October 24th, 1684, for their adherence to the Word of God, and Scotland’s Covenanted Work of the Reformation.”
It was indicated to me with pride, as much for the coincidence of names (like the martyr, my father, my grandfather and myself, were all Alexander Wood) as for the Protestant heritage aspect. Whatever occasioned the history lesson, it cemented an identification with Protestantism and an outrage at tyranny.
My Girvan Sunday School teacher was a kind, gentle man. He nonetheless revelled as much in Covenanting tales as gospel parables. Margaret Wilson’s 1685 execution by drowning in the Solway, for refusing the Abjuration Oath, was high on the emotionally charged list of Scottish Protestant martyrs of which he made us well aware.
I read Sunset Song, where Gibbon has Chris Guthrie visit Dunnottar Castle. “There the Covenanting folk had screamed and died while the gentry dined and danced in their lithe, warm halls. Chris stared at the places, sick and angry and sad for those folk she could never help now, that hatred of rulers and gentry a flame in her heart…”
My father’s perspective however was not merely pro-Protestant: he maintained a residual, usually unspoken, disdain for Catholicism.
When I was about 15 I recall asking him (I’m uncertain why) how he would view my going out with a black girl. He paused for moment and replied, half-jest, full-serious: “Nae problem – as long as she wasnae a Catholic.”
I also recall an earlier incident. In Girvan, like countless local households, we took in summer lodgers. One Glasgow family stayed with us several years in succession. My parents and the family became friendly.
At one point the normally warm tone of a conversation cooled when Billy, an avid Rangers fan, declared that he normally voted Tory.
My father was dismayed. “Why would a working man vote Tory? Labour stands for the working man.”
Billy’s cautious reply was, “Aye, I would vote Labour: if the Tory was a Catholic.”
My father responded that there were few Catholic Tory candidates in Glasgow.
Billy agreed but added that even then, he’d vote Labour only if the Labour candidate was a Protestant.
What divided Billy and my father was whether the religious or the class affiliation should determine their politics: what united them was an, underpinning belief in the superiority of the respectable, Protestant worker.
Ibrox in the early- and mid-1960s was an arena of football brilliance. Rangers were a superb team: Ritchie, Shearer, Caldow, Davis (then Greig), McKinnon, Baxter, Scott (then Henderson), McMillan, Millar, Brand and Wilson, I can see each one.
I witnessed superb European jousts, with Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid and Inter Milan and wonderful domestic football. With over 120,000 others, my father and I attended the 1964 Cup Final where Rangers beat a talented Dundee side, 3-1.
Then as now, a mix of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish sentiment which I barely understood permeated Ibrox. Follow, Follow was innocent enough but my gusty (but tuneless) contributions centred on The Sash, Derry’s Walls and The Green Grassy Slopes of the Boyne. I participated and thoughtlessly soaked up concepts and loyalties as children do.
My father, over-coated and bonneted, never sang a word. Yet he understood the atmosphere to which he took me and though he never participated in its cruder side, would not even have called himself a Rangers fan, he was part of that world.
So it continued throughout my school-days. I was a Rangers fan. My Glasgow cousins were Rangers fans. My aunt, whom I loved dearly, was a Rangers die-hard. Even her dog was called Ranger!
I also however followed Junior football, Renfrew and Ashfield, and watched Brechin City on their occasional games in the west.
In the meantime I had passed the quali and moved to Paisley Grammar School. My interests were English and history. I became increasingly intrigued by politics. I was a regular Church of Scotland Sunday School attender and a Boy Scout, swearing loyalty to God and the Queen.
By the age of 13, I was conducting the Sunday School infants’ class but the scepticism of the 1960s affected me. I can recall, almost 50 years later, walking home from Sunday School and realising that I did not believe in the feeding of the five thousand on minimal numbers of loaves and fishes or of Lazarus’ miraculous recovery, tales newly recounted to six-year olds. Indeed, I rejected the idea of a supernatural deity. I expected parental resistance but when I told them I was not returning to Sunday School because I no longer believed in God, they quietly demurred.
Shortly thereafter, my politics also took more solid form. The Wilson government was elected in 1964. I naively assumed that radical change was impending.
The BBC’s History of the Great War ran from 1964 to 1968. It intrigued and appalled me, reinforcing the anti-war stance common among 1960s teenagers. I joined Youth CND.
1966 was the 50th anniversary of Ireland’s Easter Rising and the 30th anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. I devoured every book on these subjects in Paisley Public Library.
1966 also saw the National Union of Seamen’s strike, an upsurge in working class militancy with which I instinctively identified but which the Wilson government opposed vigorously. I was a republican, a socialist, an atheist. In 1968 I joined the Labour Party and was active in the Marxist faction of the Labour Party Young Socialists.
Ironically, I saw no contradiction in my new ideological insights and my support for Rangers.
When the Northern Irish civil rights movement emerged in 1968, I instinctively identified with it. It was a movement of the times, parallel with the Civil Rights movement in the USA or with the 1968 protests in Paris and Prague.
I completed school, applied to read English and Education at the newly established New University of Ulster and in September 1969 enrolled as a student there.
Interestingly, in my first weeks, I was asked my religion by another (Northern Irish) student. On replying, “Atheist”, I had a familiar rejoinder.
“Aye, but a Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist?” I knew exactly what she meant. I would likely still have subconsciously considered myself a Protestant atheist. Perhaps I should have reflected on Scotland’s Protestant culture.
It was a complex web of religious, political ethnic and cultural influences and, although these have altered in the 40 intervening years, they retain some potency.
The report of the 1871 Scottish census stated that “The immigration of such a number of people from the lowest class and with no education will have a bad effect on the population. So far, living among the Scots does not seem to have improved the Irish, but the native Scots who live among the Irish have got worse. It is difficult to imagine the effect the Irish immigrants will have upon the morals and habits of the Scottish people.” SOURCE This official government statement, which would today be recognised as patronising and racist, articulated a common perception.
Most early Irish immigrants to Scotland came from agricultural communities, with few developed industrial skills. They therefore tended to enter unskilled, poorly paid employment, in the docks, coal-mining and road- and canal-building. The corollary was that native Scots, predominantly Protestant, in skilled trades, adopted various discriminatory practices to maintain skilled jobs for Protestants and deny them to Irish Catholics.
Once discrimination becomes a norm however, it requires justification. A series of generalisations about the two communities entered Scottish folk-lore.
Irish immigrants were seen as physically robust and better suited to the arduous semi-skilled labour of navvy-ing and dock-work for which down-graded artisans had little capacity. South of the border, they played a part in under-cutting the wage-levels of English weaving communities in the 1840s. There was also a fear of the use of Irish immigrants as strike-breakers as had occurred in the 1850s against striking Lancashire and Cheshire cotton weavers. They were therefore viewed as unwelcome competition, their very strengths mocked and denigrated.
In particular Scottish Protestants maintained assumptions about the characteristics of working class Protestants and Catholics. Protestants were projected as skilled, respectable, hard-working, committed to education, self-reliant and answerable ultimately only to their own conscience. Catholics were projected as unskilled, feckless, willing to undercut wages, prone to gambling and drinking, in thrall to their priests and burdened by unnecessarily large families.
G M Trevelyan, the last great Whig historian, could not refrain from denigration of the Irish. “The worst slums in the new urban areas were those inhabited by the immigrant Irish. They came from rural slums and brought with them proportionately bad habits.” He at least attempted to put his prejudice into some kind of historical context: “England’s treatment of the Irish peasant was perpetually being avenged over here.”
In 1923 the Church of Scotland produced The Menace of the Irish Race to our Scottish Nationality. It accused Scotland’s Catholic population of subverting Presbyterian values and of causing drunkenness, crime and financial imprudence. John White, twice the Church of Scotland Moderator, called for a “racially pure” Scotland, declaring, “Today there is a movement throughout the world towards the rejection of non-native constituents and the crystallization of national life from native elements.”
In Northern Ireland I joined the Northern Ireland Labour Party, was an active member of its left-wing, supported the civil rights movement and witnessed Unionist sectarianism. I campaigned in the Bannside by-election which Ian Paisley won. I was a sub-agent for Eamonn McCann, the Independent Labour candidate in Derry in the 1972 General Election. I marched on countless civil rights marches.
Home for Christmas from Northern Ireland and with my dad, uncle and cousins, I attended one last Old Firm game at Parkhead, heard The Sash, Derry’s Walls, and the rest, and never wore a Rangers scarf again.
I could no longer ignore that contradiction between my conscience and the culture of Glasgow Rangers. I reverted to type, re-found Brechin City and remain a fan to this day.
I then required to face what drives the Rangers culture – for it remains a key element in Scottish life and confusion surrounds it.
Rangers and Celtic are regularly posed as opposite but equal forces. Rivalry between fans of competing football teams within the one city is frequently bitter: Inter Milan and AC Milan, Barcelona and Espanyol, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, there is a political aspect to each of these rivalries. Inter is perceived as supported by the Milan bourgeoisie and the political right; AC by the working class and the left. Real Madrid also had a bourgeois and, indeed, Fascist, support, while Atletico was perceived as the team of the Madrid working class left. In Barcelona, Espanyol was the Spanish club and Barca the Catalan club. In terms of racial exclusivity, few clubs can match Atletico Bilbao with its continuing Basques-only employment policy. Commercial football thrives on, encourages, virulent conflict among rival supporters.
What objection can there be therefore to Rangers being rooted in a Protestant and British culture and Celtic in a Catholic and Irish culture?
The problem is that such a supposedly balanced view of the Old Firm is inaccurate.
Celtic undoubtedly has a strong, continuing link with Irish nationalism and, to the chagrin of the Scottish establishment, has always flown the tricolour at Celtic Park. (Interestingly, when Harry Swann of Hibs, then SFA President, sought to have the tricolour removed from Celtic Park, Glasgow Rangers defended Celtic’s right to fly the Irish flag.)
A vocal element of the Celtic support has been supportive of Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA. The outside observer may question the identification with para-military violence but Celtic’s Irish nationalist roots far transcend Sinn Fein. Moreover, despite an obvious overlap, Irish Catholicism and Irish nationalism were never synonymous.
Celtic was indeed founded by a Roman Catholic brother but, early in its history, Celtic (unlike Hibs) voted against being an exclusively Catholic club and has employed Protestant players since the end of the nineteenth century and had a Protestant, Jock Stein, as their greatest ever manager. Nonetheless there has remained a collective, but not exclusive, Catholic support for Celtic.
Most Scots however will know Protestants, including prominent public figures, who support Celtic. It would be a brave (and foolhardy) Catholic who would decide to support Rangers, attend a game at Ibrox and openly state his or her Catholicism. That in itself marks a significant differentiation between the two clubs.
It also reflects a difference in the traditions of Irish nationalism and Ulster Unionism. Although historically Irish nationalism enjoyed the support of the majority of Catholics it achieved, from its earliest days, support from Protestants such as Wolfe Tone, William Smith O’Brien and Erskine Childers. Since the very purpose of Unionism was precisely the maintenance of the Protestant ascendancy, (the ownership by the Protestant landlord class of the vast bulk of Irish land, the dominance of Protestant owned industry in the Belfast area and the relative privileges in employment and housing for Protestant workers) Catholics never supported Unionism: nor was their support wanted or sought.
Rangers were founded by Highlanders resident in Glasgow. It is possible that the increasing identification of Rangers with Protestantism and Unionism was a reaction to Celtic’s early successes by Protestants seeking a strong, alternative football identity, but it may also, in part, have been a reaction to Irish political developments.
From 1880s the British Tory Party stoked the sectarian fires to oppose Gladstone’s Irish Home Rule Bill. Randolph Churchill summed up that position: “I decided some time ago that if the G. O. M. (the Grand Old Man, i.e. Gladstone) went for Home Rule, the Orange card would be the one to play. Please God it may turn out the ace of trumps and not the two.” That playing the Orange card to trump Irish nationalism continued in the early twentieth century as the Asquith government returned Home Rule to political agenda. The Tories were led by Andrew Bonar Law, MP for Glasgow Central, whose famous boast of support for Carson and the Ulster Volunteers was “I can imagine no length of resistance to which Ulster will go in which I shall not be ready to support them”; and the Scottish Tories continued to play the Orange Card until their recent decline into irrelevance.
Rangers’ identification with Protestantism and Unionism had become firmly established by the early twentieth century. Thereafter Rangers never knowingly signed and retained a Roman Catholic player until Mo Johnston in 1989.
In 1967, Vice Chairman Matt Taylor was questioned about Rangers’ no Catholics policy. He stated that the policy was “part of our tradition….we were formed in 1873 as a Protestant boys club. To change now would lose us considerable support.” He was wrong on three counts: Rangers were founded in 1872, not 1873; and by Highland emigrés, not as a Protestant boys’club; nor did the abandonment of the No-Catholics policy lose Rangers “considerable support”: where else could the die-hards have gone?
If the Rangers fans sang God Save the Queen or Follow, Follow or even The Sash, they might be asserting their Unionism and Protestantism. Such behaviour might not endear them to non-Unionists or non-Protestants but it would be no worse than Celtic fans singing The Soldier’s Song, the Celtic Song or even Faith of our Fathers. The Billy Boys however, with its ‘up to our knees in Fenian blood’ or the Famine Song are different. It is worth quoting The Famine Song, an entirely contemporary Rangers anthem, since no-one can suggest it is part of a now discarded sectarianism.
“I often wonder where they would have been
If we hadn’t have taken them in
Fed them and washed them
Thousands in Glasgow alone
From Ireland they came
Brought us nothing but trouble and shame
Well the famine is over
Why don’t they go home?

“……They’ve all their Papists in Rome
They have U2 and Bono
Well the famine is over
Why don’t they go home?”
It is anti-Irish, anti-Catholic and advocating repatriation but perhaps its worst fault is its historically inaccurate conflation of ‘Irish-ness’, ‘Catholicism’ and the victims of the Famine.
The victims of the famine of 1845-1849 were Irish but Protestant Irish as well as Catholic Irish. My widowed great-, great-, great-grandmother, Sarah Possnett, arrived in Glasgow from County Armagh with her children in the late 1840s. My great-, great grandparents, William McConnell and Helen Haggarty, arrived in Glasgow from Garvagh, County Derry, in 1848. They were Protestants, impelled to leave Ireland by the economic crisis which the famine engendered.
The Famine Song however demonstrates a particular aspect of the Rangers culture. The Protestantism of those who sing such anthems of hate is not defined by theological adherence to the reformed faith of Calvin or Knox, but rather by what they oppose: their Protestantism is anti-Irish and anti-Catholic. Not every Rangers fan will identify with the more crude behaviour, whether the Famine Song or Hello, Hello – but, like my father when he took me to Ibrox in the 1960s, they understand the atmosphere and the culture in which they participate and at least tacitly endorse it.
That anti-Catholic venom, characteristic of the paying fans to which the Rangers board pandered, permeated the club. Terry Butcher had little idea of the culture into which he was stepping when he arrived at Rangers in 1986 but he soon became aware when he blessed himself before a match and fell foul of team-mate Allan Hunter, a Northern Ireland international. Hunter warned Butcher that blessing himself was unacceptable, a Catholic gesture which he must not repeat. Such entrenched attitudes characterise even its affluent, educated support, as the Donald Finlay incident confirms.
To support Rangers is to make a statement. That statement may incorporate one (but usually more) of the following sentiments: I am a Protestant and proud of it; I am British and proud of it; I support the maintenance of the six counties of Northern Ireland within the UK; I support the British monarchy.
To support Celtic is to make a different statement, parallel in some cases but not in all. That statement may incorporate one or more of the following sentiments: I am a Roman Catholic and am proud of that; I am Irish/ of Irish origins and am proud of that; I support the concept of a united Ireland.
For this former Rangers fan, none of the sentiments which characterised supporting Rangers had any continuing validity. I had been raised a Protestant but had long abandoned religion and recognised that the ‘positive’ self-images of Scottish Protestantism (hard-working, committed to education etc.) were common among many other sectors of the community. I had never been a British patriot, rather I saw myself as both a Scot and an internationalist. I was entirely opposed to the idea of monarchy.
Nor however, despite sympathy for the anti-establishment and anti-imperialist aspects of the Celtic ethos, did I identify with the Celtic supporting community’s culture. Abandoning Rangers was never going to lead me to the opposite camp. I could easily have stood with other non-Catholics at Parkhead but, although utterly opposed to discrimination against Catholics, I was also opposed to the Catholic Church on issues ranging from contraception to denominational education.
The potential role of Old Firm football fans in shaping our small country facing crucial choices should not be underestimated but equally the role of political developments in shaping the Old Firm is unpredictable.
It is worth, firstly, looking at Celtic. An outsider might assume that a support with a long history of identification with Irish nationalism would overwhelmingly identify with ‘breaking the British connection’ and Scottish independence. Not necessarily so. Two factors, one religious and one political, limit the support among Celtic fans for Scottish independence.
Although some of the founders of the SNP such as Compton MacKenzie were Catholics, Scottish Catholics were long wary of Scottish nationalism on the grounds that an independent Scotland would be a majority-Protestant Scotland. A century and a half of systematic discrimination, the racist and sectarian invective of John White and the Church of Scotland in the 1920s and the rabble-rousing of John Cormack and Protestant Action in the 1930s, cannot be forgotten over-night.
There is also a long-term (but gradually diminishing ) link between Catholic voters and the Labour Party in Scotland. Labour had initially garnered the support which Irish Catholics in Scotland had given to the pro-Home Rule Liberals, especially as working class Catholics became stalwarts of the trade union movement. Labour support for the 1918 Education Act and its guarantee of state funding for Catholic schools cemented an uneasy alliance between the Catholic Church and Labour, to the extent that in much of west central Scotland, Labour’s local leadership has included a considerable number of Catholics. Indeed there are communities in central Scotland today where the identification of the Labour Party with the local Catholic community has seen sections of the Orange community supporting the SNP – as the only viable alternative to ‘Catholic Labour’. My dad’s Glasgow friend Billy would likely have approved.
Such entrenched, traditional positions are disappearing. The substantial diminishment of structural discrimination, the weakening of links with ‘the old country’, the disappearance of coherent Catholic communities, have all supported a more diverse political culture among Scottish Catholics of Irish origins.
The Labour Party has a desperate commitment to the maintenance of the Union. Without its contingent of Scottish MPs, Labour is unlikely ever again to form a Westminster majority. For many working class Catholic voters however, a break with Labour, and therefore with Labour’s Unionism, is a difficult move.
For working class Scottish Protestants, the issues are different. The old Protestant working class Tory vote has disappeared with the shipyards, the engineering factories and the discrimination which bedevilled them. The sense of Protestant ‘superiority’, that culture among the skilled artisans, far more about protecting small local privileges than any theological disputes, has evaporated. Religion itself is withering as Scotland, with the rest of the world, adopts a secular culture.
Despite however having once been a culture based on ascendancy and relative privilege, working-class Scottish Orange-ism has changed. Today (with parallels in Northern Ireland) Orangemen see themselves not as an ascendancy but as victims, as spurned by an establishment which once at least required their votes but is now embarrassed by them. The sons and grandsons of skilled engineers, boilermakers and tradesmen, now work, if they work, in retail, leisure and service industries, without security or status. That lost status and the impotence it engenders, makes the muscle-flexing and macho behaviour on the football terraces all the more vital, the last vestiges of an evaporating sense of ascendancy and pride.
Indeed sectarianism itself is changing. In the course of my teaching career, I worked for six years in West Lothian, an area redolent with sectarian rivalry, and taught a considerable number of lads who played in Orange bands. Several of them however were going out with Catholic girls, almost unimaginable thirty years earlier.
All that remains is a residual but visceral contempt for those seen as extraneous and different. What Glasgow Rangers offer today is not that panoply of footballing skills once exemplified by Greig, Baxter and Henderson played to an audience of skilled Protestant artisans, but an atavistic tribalism in which one faction of the dispossessed can vent their spleen on ‘the other side’ in the ritualised arena of football.
It is not surprising that Scotland’s move to nationhood has created even greater confusion among traditional working class Protestants than among Celtic fans. The statements of the Orange Order are explicitly Unionist, not only in an Irish but in a Scottish context and the Order is actively campaigning for a ‘No’ vote. The bulk of Rangers fans may wave their Union Jacks and sing God Save the Queen but they no longer identify with the old men in bowler hats, suits and sashes.
One prominent Glasgow Orange Band brands itself “Scottish by birth, British by the Grace of God”. It is that contradiction which will further challenge the Rangers supporting culture in the years to come. Although perhaps Rangers have missed a massive commercial opportunity: the club’s obsession with its British-ness has meant that it never stressed its Scottish-ness and failed to tap effectively into a potentially lucrative market in the Scottish diaspora.
For 21st century Celtic supporters of Irish origins (for any Scots of Irish origins) to identify as Irish-Scots is not inconsistent, just as Pakistani-Scots, Italian-Scots and others can maintain their historical and cultural roots but identify with their new country, although, ironically there is no more avid Unionist than former Labour MP and Celtic Chairman, John Reid.
Were Scotland to vote for independence, the concept of ‘British-Scots’ however would be absurd. Nor would there be an alternative for Scottish loyalists, in an independent Scotland, in identifying themselves as ‘Ulster-Scots’, for the 6-county Unionist imperative is precisely to remain British. It is the British connection which allows the beleaguered Unionists to maintain the vain hope of a return to a ‘Protestant parliament for a Protestant people’.
(A separate but related issue is how a Yes-vote would impact on Northern Irish Unionism, for although they recognise that the British connection is their only bulwark against a united Ireland, their cultural identities are far more attuned to Scotland than England.)
That part of Scottish Protestant culture which identified with a vigorous work ethic, education and freedom of conscience and intellect, are no longer (if they ever were) uniquely Protestant. Discrimination against either Catholics or Irish Scots is, thankfully, rejected by the vast bulk of Scottish society and is illegal. It might even be argued that Scotland’s vestigial sectarianism would wither rapidly were football not the one arena in which it is not only legitimate but, to bring paying fans through the turnstiles, actively encouraged.
Rangers FC will await the outcome of the 2014 referendum with bated breath. A No-vote would reinforce the old Ibrox culture. A yes-vote would seriously undermine it and would make another cohort of Rangers supporters question the underlying ethos of the Govan club. It would also make the die-hards even more alienated from the social and cultural norms of modern Scotland.
This former Rangers fan will be voting Yes and although the undermining of that traditional Rangers culture will not be the purpose of that vote, it would, for him, be a rewarding by-product.

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