Independent thinking: Why Celtic fans are wary of Scottish nationalism

By on November 29, 2013
<> on November 23, 2013 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Many Celtic fans feel a sense of idealism and responsibility in supporting the club that might not fit into a Scottish Nationalist agenda

THE violent events that transpired before and after the Ajax games in both Glasgow and Amsterdam continue to be discussed and written about in Scotland.

It is now clear that a sectarian element was among the Ajax support. In Glasgow they sang “F*** the Pope” while sporting Rangers scarves.

Those supporters caused over £20,000 worth of damage to Celtic Park and their club have been charged that amount by UEFA.

We are now all too familiar with the violent events that occurred in the return leg, innocent fans being attacked by a mob as they left hotels is one of many horror stories associated with one of the darkest experiences supporters have endured.

Five Celtic fans have been found guilty of using violence against Dutch police in Amsterdam. Those fans have denied the charges and are currently free during the two-week period in which they can appeal.

As previously mentioned here, the way the story has been reported in Scotland has failed to put it into context as well as failing to focus on the provocation caused by both Ajax fans and the police.

Celtic supporters are fed up of being misrepresented. Isn’t it time the media shifted the focus from the unpalatable behaviour of a small minority and gave a better platform to the majority of Celtic supporters?

It’s worth looking at a story from earlier this year to understand the difficult relationship between Celtic supporters, the police and the Scottish government.

Many Celtic fans’ beliefs and behaviour is being neutered by the Offensive Behaviour Act (2012). This has been a contentious political happening that has alienated many football supporters.

In March, supporters organised a peaceful protest around the Gallowgate. Despite the nature of the event images of Celtic supporters being brought down violently and kettling tactics being employed by the police were posted on various Celtic websites.

In this context, how will Celtic supporters vote on the Scottish independence referendum next year? Are they likely to endorse the elevation of the country’s establishment?

Perhaps the Scottish first minister should have made some comment on recent events in Amsterdam — after all, he’s got ground to make up.

The Green Brigade have made their feelings about the SNP clear and they have an influence on many potential voters who currently feel alienated by the government.

Neil Lennon commended the Green Brigade for their support after wrapping up the league title in April. During that same game the fan organisation unfurled, not for the first time, an anti-SNP banner.

Alex Salmond’s comments during the Rangers tax case were another massive own goal. He misjudged the feelings of Celtic supporters when he said: “Celtic can’t prosper unless Rangers are there.”

Those words encouraged an immediate response from the club who underlined Celtic’s priority was Celtic, not the “fortunes” of any other club.

celtic fans-n

Celtic supporters are tired of being misrepresented

Salmond also described Rangers as “part of the fabric of the Scottish nation”. This encouraged one Daily Record columnist to ask: “And Celtic are what exactly?”

Many Celtic supporters have traditionally felt uncomfortable with aspects of Scottish Nationalism. As well as having a Scottish identity, being part of an Irish Diaspora is equally as valid or sometimes more important.

That means feeling connected to other Irish communities be it Liverpool, Belfast or New York.

The idea of separation means a significant detachment from Irish communities in Britain as well as a weakened position in Scottish society which has traditionally had a problem with Irish culture and it’s associations with Celtic supporters.

While players and those working at the club come and go, the unique identity of an Irish Catholic politically aware support endures.

The most recent example of the community feeling a sense of inequality was how the media reported events in Amsterdam.

Like it or not being Irish and Catholic in Scotland is still a problem for many not from that tradition, particularly in times of aggressive secularism.

Des Dillon, writer of Singing I’m No A Billy He’s A Tim, has suggested wearing a Celtic top in Scotland is a statement: it’s “declaring a lot of things: a Catholic morality, whether you’ve got it or not because that’s the root, you’re declaring tribalism, anti-racism and you are declaring that you are not completely locked into this country, your own town and your local team.”

Dillon’s point is one that remains particularly valid during the build-up to the referendum, in that for many Celtic fans, their state of mind transcends Scottish life and affairs.

Many supporters carry a sense of idealism and responsibility in supporting Celtic that might not fit into a Scottish Nationalist agenda. The Offensive Behaviour Act has proved that.

The politics of many Celtic supporters is about issues around the world as much as in Scotland.

Glaswegian Thomas Rannachan recently ran as a single issue candidate in the Govan by-election. He stood against the Offensive Behaviour Act, showing articulate opposition while providing an essential voice for many Celtic supporters.

He explained why he got involved: “In my current role, helping those aged 16-24 into work, I’ve encountered a lot of people who have been charged under this law. It makes it much harder for them to move forward.

“Football fans and those wishing to express their culture and heritage should not be persecuted by people who should be protecting them.”

Alex Salmond would do well to consider that culture and heritage sometime soon. At the very least; let’s open the door to a debate?

Richard Purden is the author of We Are Celtic Supporters and Faithful Through and Through

Irish Post

About Richard Purden

The Irish Post is the biggest-selling weekly newspaper for the Irish in Britain and the voice of the Irish community since 1970. Follow the Irish Post on Twitter @theirishpost


  1. rf davidson

    December 1, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    Your article completely misses the whole purpose of the SNP.and the forthcoming referendum,i.e giving the people of Scotland an opportunity to be masters of their own destiny. The fact that a group of Celtic fans have a grievance and have decided to air it at football grounds around Scotland demonstrates a total lack of respect for the vast majority of Scottish nationals. To compare Bobby Sands to William Wallace,was the act of intentional offence to the Scottish nation and an apology is overdue by Celtic FC. A large number of”Irish diaspora Celtic fans” political activists are getting media exposure disproportionate to their numbers and may well reflect the opinion’s
    of some Celtic Supporters,this saddens me,and would definitely cause division’s across Scotland as they would be seen as supporters of the Establishment out to spike Scottish Independence along with All the other Unionists.

    • Thomas reilly

      March 19, 2014 at 9:11 am

      Good morning RF Davidson unfortunately we do have a problem in Scotland with the sectarian divide.We have a majority of supporters here inanely waving their union jacks singing rule britannia living in some time warp, this is not just directed at supporters in the west of Scotland but probably its a lot worse in the East of Scotland.That’s what their reason of being is, to keep the union, it is inbred.It doesn’t matter that an independent Scotland could offer them much more than the union can, they will never change.Unfortunately that is what we are up against fanatics who think Britain still rules the waves.For most scots it is cringe worthy but these people will blindly vote no and hold back our country, and for the records I know it’s not a one way street, and if Celtic fans can sing for the freedom of one country I would be disappointed if they didn’t do it for their own.

  2. Neil Young

    December 5, 2013 at 10:22 am

    The referendum should not be dragged down to what football team you support. Celtic fans on whole are not atall wary about Independence. Im a Celtic fan and have hung pro Indeopendence banners at Celtic Park. The bill that criminalises people for singing IRA songs at Celtic Park is a farce and hasnt been helped by over the top policing but wont stop myself or any other Celtic fan I know from voting for Independence. Theres plenty of disgust for the SNP for introducing this bill and including politicalsongs merely as a counterbalance to the sectarian sonmgs sung by Rangers but the SNP are not the only political showin town and the Referendumis not about the SNP,its about taking control of our own affairs.

  3. danny mc cafferty

    December 30, 2013 at 12:59 am

    Poorly researched piece of journalism. I doubt very much if the overwhelming Celtic support would agree with much of it. The Green Brigade brought life to Celtic Park and have been highly entertaining. However the minority influencing them for a different agenda misread the support they enjoyed as them being leaders of opinion..They destroyed themselves by letting their personal politica agenda take over. All around me I could hear people saying they have turned into f****** a******s……..They are out of touch with ordinary fans.On the referendum issue I know more pro independence than anti independence supporters among the Celtic support. And why not? Its a contradiction to advocate a united independent Ireland and then argue against an independent Scotland. James Cinnolly would be birling in his grave at the thought.mmmmmmmmmtwhwwhy not ? A bit contradictory to support an

  4. danny mc cafferty

    December 30, 2013 at 1:05 am

    Sorry for the typos. Most important one James Connolly.

  5. Liam Carrigan

    December 30, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Putting it succinctly, a vote for independence is not necessarily an endorsement of the SNP or their policies. The vast majority of intelligent Celtic supporters realise this.
    The offensive behavior act is a ridiculous law that will, in time, be repealled simply because it infringes on freedom of the speech to the point where someone with the sufficient time and money will eventually be able to challenge it in the European courts.

  6. T. Hamilton

    December 30, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Let’s get on with it and if it’s a No then that’s it over forget it let’s move on. As a catholic of irish decent born in Scotland I’ve never felt so alienated in this country and how ironic that Alex Salmond becoming first minister and having the power to bring in the ‘Bill’ could ruin his chances of realising his dream and him being the architect of his own downfall.

  7. M Campbell

    February 17, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    I think you are a little unfair to the Scottish FM.
    He has to keep the huge Presbyterian vote on board so must be careful in what he says.
    I must admit as an Irish Nationalist I like and trust he will be fair and honourable if he gains independence for his country.
    I am sure there is a lot of Scots blood in me probably one of planted stock but I am 100% Irish and as Celtic supporters born in Scotland should feel the same,with a pride in their Irish background as I would be in my Scottish.
    Cut the football out this is more important than Celtic or Rangers.

  8. John Morgan

    February 18, 2014 at 7:59 am

    Alex Salmond had more important things to contend with than the feelings of morons who put football teams so high up in their list of priorities.

  9. Thomas Muir of Huntershill

    March 2, 2014 at 12:51 am

    While appreciating that fans of celtic may have a grievance, let us not lose sight of the ultimate gaol. If you have any doubts i implore you to read the following article. Its your country!

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