Tall Tales: Religion and Scottish Independence

Michael Rosie, University of Edinburgh

Michael Rosie, University of Edinburgh

In this piece, originally published at What Scotland Thinks, the University of Edinburgh’s Michael Rosie discusses the links between independence and religion in Scotland, concluding that apparent differences between Catholics and Protestants on issues of constitutional change are a result of differences of demographics rather than religion.

Tall tales are common currency when it comes to religion’s supposed role in Scotland’s politics. On the one hand, there are occasional murmurings of a continued underlying ‘Protestant’ basis for Unionism in Scotland, as if Better Together marched, willingly or otherwise, to the beat of the Lambeg drum. Yet at the same time we are also told that Catholics could have much to fear from what might be a more stridently Protestant and ‘anti-Catholic’ independent Scotland.

Two responses spring to mind. First, if Scotland’s Protestants oppose constitutional change because of their deep-rooted Unionism, and Scotland’s Catholics say ‘no’ because they are afraid of the Protestants, then how on earth did we achieve devolution, let alone come to debate independence?

Secondly, these tall tales assume, a Scotland riven between these two Christian camps. Even if that were true in the distant past (and even there it seems like gross simplification) it certainly ignores the very profound religious change that has taken place over the last several generations.

Secondly, these tall tales assume, a Scotland riven between these two Christian camps. Even if that were true in the distant past (and even there it seems like gross simplification) it certainly ignores the very profound religious change that has taken place over the last several generations.

For the rest of Michael’s analysis, please visit What Scotland Thinks.

Michael Rosie is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh, and Director of the Institute of Governance. His research interests span (ir)religious identities, ‘sectarianism’, and national belonging.

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