Last week saw Alex Salmond elected Scotland’s First Minister with a huge majority. The old Labour strongholds were routed and the Nationalists made sweeping gains the length and breadth of the country. Whereas the SNP sees itself as the new, modern vibrant party, Labour is depicted as a dinosaur, dying on its feet.
The SNP is going to need all the luck it can, because in many parts of the world Scotland’s image has been soiled by sectarianism and racism. Last night’s images of Neil Lennon being attacked by a thug at Tynecastle have been beamed across the world. “To see ourselves as others see us”. Indeed.
Events move quickly in Scotland, if not actions. Recent times have seen a new sinister phase in the campaign against Neil Lennon and Celtic. We now discover belatedly that the ‘hoax’ bomb destined for Neil, was in fact a device capable of killing or at the very least seriously maiming the persons who opened it. Along with Neil Lennon, we also learned that Paul McBride Q.C. and Trish Godman former MSP were intended to receive similar devices.
At one stroke Scotland’s shame was exposed for the world to see, which a complicit and timid Scottish media could not suppress and bury. From North America to South East Asia, suddenly this was worldwide news. Scotland’s little secret had been exposed for all to see.
We then subsequently learned that the Head of The Roman Catholic church in Scotland had received a live bullet prior to the Pope’s visit to the country.
The bullet carried a death threat.
The question many people outside Scotland would surely have asked is, what sort of country is Scotland?
Indeed, it is a question I have been asking all my life.
Scottish politicians go to great lengths to portray the country as a small but confident nation where tolerance is practiced at all levels in society. Moreover, it is according to them at least, a modern society where toleration coexists with the spirit of the Enlightenment.
Sitting here in The Netherlands it all looks very different. Scotland now has all the appearance of some Central or South American Banana Republic. We used to express astonishment that in Columbia a player was shot because he missed a penalty in the World Cup. That sort of barbarism would never happen in Scotland, it only happened in uncivilized parts of the world. After all, lawyers, politicians and civic figures were only assassinated or lived under permanent threat of bloody execution in third world, undemocratic regimes where corruption and anarchy ruled.
The Scottish media would love to portray the bomb makers as lonely, crazy, twisted individuals, representing nobody but themselves. No doubt the people who sent these devices are crazy and twisted, however these actions could not have happened unless circumstances already existed to encourage the would be assassins to take this course of action. And those circumstances are of course, a deep-seated, visceral hatred of people of Irish Catholic descent.
Lennon, McBride and Godman are either Catholic or Celtic supporters or both. That is the reason why they were targeted, it really is that simple. Naked sectarianism and racism.
In the new brave Scotland of Alex Salmond, it seems that a few home truths need to be recognized. Today Peter Lawwell eloquently alluded to a bigger picture, namely a dysfunctional society where football rivalry itself is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Salmond’s summit following the ‘disorder’ that ensued the Celtic-Rangers Scottish Cup semi-final, was nothing more than a political stunt, a mechanism for him to be seen to be doing something. The summit was not aimed at informing or addressing the general public, instead it was a simple means for Alex Salmond to prance the stage and appeal to the electorate. It was in every sense cheap and insulting.Were Alex Salmond to dare look at what lies beneath the stones, he might find some deeply disturbing truths writhing in the filth.
Catholics and Irish Catholics in particular, are not accepted by a section of Scottish society. First generation, second generation, third generation, it makes no difference. They may speak with a broad Scottish accent, eat the same food, drink the same drink, but they will always remain the “Papes”. The eternal outsider, consigned to the role of third rate, stupid, silent, non-complaining victim. It is often said that any society however advanced needs a group to look down upon, after all it reassures the most impoverished or disadvantaged in the indigenous society.
The Irish encountered great hostility with the diaspora of that there is no doubt. However, through their hard work and ingenuity they managed, like other ethnic groups to make their way in social mobility within the English-speaking world, with the obvious exception of Scotland where base and atavistic views still prevail.
Within the narrow confines of the Protestant supremacists, people like Paul McBride weren’t meant to get to the top of the legal ladder. Women like Trish Godman were never expected by the bigots to reach positions of political power. Above all, a person like Neil Lennon was never meant to manage and succeed at Celtic. To understand the hatred of Neil Lennon is to understand what is wrong with modern Scotland.
Neil Lennon was hated because he is an Irish Catholic, but he is hated more because he refuses to be a passive, silent witness within the status quo.
He refuses to accept the role assigned to him by the media and by people who should know much better. He questions, he gets angry, he does what he has to do. He doesn’t accept being a second-class citizen because he is proud of what he is. That is why Neil Lennon is hated by people some of whom for the most part are pleasant and civilized, yet turn to madmen when his very name is mentioned.
We don’t know what the future will bring for Neil Lennon, we wish Neil and his family are kept safe above all. But if nothing else, the Lennon years will have shone a nasty light on Scotland’s shame. Let us hope some good will come out of this despicable episode.