Give no room to those seeking the Ulsterisation of Scottish football

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By Bearwood Bear

You will have seen the Facebook memes around the Title Day celebrations in George Square.

Pictures of our decade-long wait for a party juxtaposed with violent protests outside Celtc Park, my personal favourite being when TGFITW greeted their Cup tie loss to Ross County with a mob of hundreds of baying Yahoos at Parkhead, booing their own players, fighting with Police, throwing barriers and signing ‘Lennon, Lennon Get to Fuck’ and ‘Sack the Board’.  A Club Like No Other, indeed.

Or perhaps the pro-Palestine in George Square on 16 May? Or the anti-deportation demonstration in Pollokshields on 14 May, actively encouraged by numerous politicians?  Both set against the 15,000 people in George Square on Saturday asking –  rhetorically – why no-one batted an eyelid at the first 2 when both were illegal, unsanctioned, in breach of Covid protocols and, you know, flouting the law? Remember the law? The responsibility of the then Justice Secretary? (More on him later)

We had a small taste of the bile, hypocrisy and cant due to be rolled out on the day Rangers beat St Mirren on 6 March and put one eager hand on the Premier League Trophy.

Both the First Minister and her Justice Secretary eagerly jumped in, attacking fans there to do no more than celebrate Rangers’ success, but even worse accusing the Club – despite a shedload of videos, interviews and website statements, proving precisely the opposite – of somehow being complicit and having not done enough to stop this rabble gathering outside Ibrox. The usual self-serving garbage about the usual easy targets – SNP Handbook, 101.

But even a hardened cynic like me was taken aback at the scale, scope and sheer venom of what was subsequently launched in a coordinated shitstorm aimed at our Club and support in the wake of Flag Day celebrations on 15 May.

Sturgeon, Dornan, Mason, and of course the empty can that is Humza Yousaf all waded in with faux outrage and their signature blend of inflammatory, divisive, hateful rhetoric, amplified and echoed by a lapdog media. (I’d say they’re not students or irony; but although the three men mentioned have the collective intellectual depth of a car park puddle, la Sturgeon clearly knew – and approved of – what was being done. This was little more than a political  lynch mob.)

Of course, none of this emerged from a vacuum. Jack McConnell and his fatally-flawed Offensive Behaviour at Football Act laid the footings and trenches for the latest attempt to lay the responsibility and blame for all aspects of sectarianism at the door of Rangers Football Club and their support.

Yes, the endgame for this alliance of Scots nationalists, Irish Republican apologists, handwringers, anti-Protestant bigots, Rangers-haters, snobs and pearl-clutchers is obvious.

It is to distil the last 600 years of these islands, their rich cultural, religious, economic, social and folk histories, the story of Scotland, the story of Ireland, the Story of the United Kingdom, all political developments since the franchise was extended, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, The Great Famine,  two World Wars, Irish Partition, the Troubles, faith-based education, six centuries of theological differences, the narrative of the working class, the geography of Glasgow, the civic history of the Empire’s second City and its environs, the 149 years since Rangers were founded, the history of the world’s most successful football club, the story, myths and origins of Celtic since 1887, terrorism, murders and bombings on these islands, the Peace Process and the new post-Belfast Agreement norms, the fall out from Brexit, the rise and fall of the DUP, the rehabilitation of Sinn Fein, the surge of Scots nationalism which accompanied/caused the withering away of Scottish Labour, the stubborn persistence of knife crime, alcohol abuse, violence and poverty in Nicola’s Utopia – to  consider the entire breadth and sweep of that history and to conclude that Rangers fans are to blame for everything and anything that relates to a division based on religion – after all, they sing 2 songs about the Pope and sing about hating ‘fenians’.

That, my friends, is what we are dealing with. A deliberate fallacy. A self-serving, premeditated lie. A one-eyed look at a centuries-old issue which, somehow, leaves men and women who follow Rangers in the 21st Century holding the parcel when the music stops.

Why is this utter nonsense being given house room?

Firstly, this feels like the Sinn Fein Playbook: Use the language of the left; portray yourself as ‘progressive’; lie frequently and in the most damning terms about opponents; kill off or marginalise internal dissent; cry ‘bigot’ or ‘racist’ to any opposition; all check. Which brings us neatly to Humza Yousaf.

Humza is a man-child. That this irredeemable lightweight was ever Transport, Justice and now Health Minister is enough in itself to see Scotland handed ‘failed nation’ status.

Ministerial office ought to require maturity, intellect, sound judgement and gravitas. Instead, Scotland has been lumbered with an over-promoted dunce who can’t even take a breath before allowing himself to be conned by a Tik Tok video that a ten year old child would have waved away as fake.

So consumed by his own sectarian hatred that he, literally, couldn’t wait to Tweet his outrage. Matt Hancock is an absolute melt, granted, but could you imagine him Tweeting shit about a Football Club he hates?

Which takes us neatly onto Humza’s language, in particular the accusations that our support are ‘anti-Irish racists’. Note the phrase: not racist, not anti-Irish, but ‘anti-Irish racists’.

Back in the day, An Phoblacht ‘journalist’ and blogger Ill Phil McGillivan encouraged one of his more credulous followers to complain to my employer that I, in my capacity as Chair of the Rangers Supporters’ Trust, was an ‘anti-Irish racist’. (I’m not, I wasn’t, my employer investigated and agreed I wasn’t, so I know of which I speak.)

This is a tell-tale phrase peddled for the past 2 decades by the usual suspects, the IRA apologists, the professional Rangers-haters, the paid-up salaried members of the sectarianism industry, the ‘we sing cultural songs about murderers but yooz ur just bigots’ brigade. Jeanette Findlay, Angela Haggerty, Call It Out, the late Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Kieran Brady, Ill Phil, James Dornan, John Mason and, of course, Humza.

Let’s be clear: accusations of racism are seen in wider society as more serious that those of sectarianism, despite both being rooted in prejudice and ignorance. A hierarchy of inequality exists, and racism is near to (if not at) the top. It would be foolish to deny objective reality, however unpleasant.

This explains why the R word is being used here. And let me put my own cards on the table. I’ve been an active anti-racist most of my adult life. A vocal, public and consistent critic of racism in all its forms.

But – and here’s the rub – Rangers fans aren’t racists. Certainly no more or less than any other cross-section of our society. Nothing more than wishful thinking by the afore-mentioned mhob lies behind asserting that we are. That, and good old fashioned class snobbery.

Nor can any thinking human being describe us as ‘anti-Irish’. Not least because tens of thousands of us ARE Irish.  And many more have Irish ancestry. I’d expand on that, and discuss emigration, immigration, cultural assimilation, politics and other facets of this, including sectarianism, but I don’t need to.

Tens of thousands of Rangers fans are Irish.

End of debate, on to where this is all going.

I’m beyond angry at the deliberate weaponizing of the language and terminology of hate. The fact this is being done to pander to anti-Protestant, anti-Rangers and anti-Unionist bigots in Scotland’s increasingly fractured society is breathtakingly irresponsible.

We see everywhere around us the consequences of division, tribalism and ‘othering’ sections of society. What kind of moron looks at our world and thinks ‘not enough hate – let’s see what we can do about that’?

And don’t lose sight of most Scots being unionists. Habitual, cultural, economic, political….it doesn’t matter. The ‘othering’ of most Scots is what is being attempted, even if the ostensible target is the fans of Rangers Football Club.

This is an attempt to Ulsterize politics in Scotland, as my young friend Graeme Hannah has pointed out. Zero sum, winner takes all, ‘not with us you’re against us’ language, with violence, hatred and division at the end of the nationalist cul-de-sac.

No thanks. Time for the adults in the room again.

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