Letter: Historic prejudice against Catholics

THE assertion by Mr Peter Kearney, the Catholic Church's media spokesman, that Scotland has a degree of anti-Catholic prejudice is denied by Dani Garavelli (Insight, 5 December). The history of Scotland can help us to disentangle these competing assertions.

In 1560 the Scottish Reformation Parliament proscribed the Catholic faith and the depth of the Reformers' success has deeply affected our country's culture in the present day. The Act of Succession from the 17th century that explicitly excludes Catholics from ascending the throne of the United Kingdom sets the tone for Catholics being seen as outsiders and somehow not equal to the rest of society. The mass immigration of Irish Catholics escaping the famine that killed over one million of their compatriots to Scotland to seek refuge in the industrial towns and cities was met with resentment from the native Protestant Scots.

In the 1920s the Church of Scotland was calling for the repatriation of Irish Catholics so that scarce jobs in the post-Great War economy would be given to native Protestants.

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If Scotland has little anti-Catholic culture then the attacks on priests that Mr Kearney adumbrated should be treated with the same degree of media interest and political concern as if the same had been visited on a rabbi or imam. These hate crimes are somehow accepted as the price of the Catholic Church working closely with the poor in the deprived areas of Scotland. If we are to be a "great small country" we need to be rid of the small-minded sectarianism that seeks to marginalise Scottish Catholics.

Andrew Gray, Edinburgh