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Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK

Composer attacks 'anti-Catholic bigots'

The composer says sport is the main outlet for religious bigotry

A Scottish composer has condemned what he sees as anti-Catholicism in Scotland and has likened it to Northern Ireland "without the guns".

James MacMillan attacked what he views as widespread prejudice against Catholics which can be found in the workplace, academia, the media, politics and sport.

Edinburgh Festival 1999
The leading BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra composer made his scathing remarks during a speech, entitled "Scotland's Shame", at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on Monday.

The address from Mr MacMillan, who is a Roman Catholic and composed fanfares for the opening of the Scottish Parliament, also homed in on racism as well as religious bigotry.

Composer James MacMillan: "Bigotry a defining feature of Scotland"
He said: "If this ingrained, unconscious hostility to that which is regarded as different from the supposed norm remains, the implications for multicultural progress are huge.

"The sense of threat and hostility is there and has huge implications for Scotland's potential."

But Steve Bruce, Professor of Sociology at Aberdeen University, said Mr MacMillan is wrong.

"There is no evidence to assert that anti-Catholic bigotry is endemic in Scottish society.

"Catholics and Protestants live exactly the same lives. It might have been the case in the past but Mr MacMillan is 50 years out of date," he said.

[ image: James MacMillan: A society divided]
James MacMillan: A society divided
The attack also focused on the resignation of vice-chairman of Rangers Football Club, Donald Findlay, who was caught on video singing sectarian songs.

"Donald Findlay is not a one-off," he said.

"Our professions, our workplaces, our academic circles, our media and our sporting bodies are jam-packed with people like Donald Findlay," said Mr MacMillan.

The BBC's Andrew Cassell reports
Fr Danny McLaughlin, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said he would not comment on the rights and wrongs of what was obviously a personal speech.

But he added: "What Mr MacMillan hints at is the suspicion with which people feel they are perceived and what judgements are being passed on them. If we want to move forward all suspicions of that nature have to be put to rest."

Fr McLaughlin went on to say that many Catholics had made a great contribution to Scottish society and they would continue to do so.

Dr Alison Elliot: "Sectarianism still hurts"
A leading figure in Scotland's ecumenical movement, Dr Alison Elliot, said she was not surprised by the speech.

The Convenor of the Church and National Committee of the Church of Scotland said: "Catholic and Protestant jokes are not fun these days. They still hurt people.

She added: "We do have to hear this but I hope there is not counter attacking - it will only make things worse.

"I welcome Mr MacMillan raising this matter. But the way in which it is handled should not end up picking at a scab on a wound which I hope is healing in Scotland."

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