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Thursday, 27 January, 2000, 17:20 GMT
Protestant trust stirs sectarian debate

Trust rules The rules make clear the Protestant-only condition

Glasgow University has defended the advertisement of a trust fund which bans applications from Catholics and other non-Protestants religions.

The rules of the Mile End or Clark Trust - which was set up by Victorian philanthropist John Clark - specify that only Protestants can benefit.

This particular fund, which specifies that beneficiaries have to be Protestant, causes a lot of students to be upset
University spokesman
A university spokesman said that while the educational establishment did not approve of the discriminatory rules, it would be wrong not to advertise it along with other trusts.

Several students have voiced complaints about the fund and the university's weekly newspaper has written on the matter.

Mr Brown said he was aware of the concern of students, but he stressed the university did not have direct links to the trust and was never promoting it outright.

He explained: "The Mile End Trust is one of dozens of trusts which are published in a list each year.

Upset students

"We admit this particular fund, which specifies that beneficiaries have to be Protestant, causes a lot of students to be upset.

"It is an anachronism and its rules are not applicable to the 21st century, but we feel we cannot ignore it."

John Clark John Clark: Prominent Paisley citizen
The university's Church of Scotland chaplain, Fiona Mathieson, said about two students each year asked her to be referee for their Clark Trust applications.

She admitted it placed her in an awkward position.

Ms Mathieson added: "It must be stressed that this a personal trust and not a church trust.

"Ultimately, anyone can set up a trust and place very specific requirements on it.

I don't approve of the trust's rules, but at the same time I don't want students to miss out financially
Fiona Mathieson, Glasgow University chaplain
"However, this is a product of the 1800s, and although I cannot say that sectarianism is no longer around in Scotland, this is a very different climate.

"I don't approve of the trust's rules, but at the same time I don't want students to miss out financially in what is a very tough educational climate."

The Catholic chaplain at Glasgow University, Father Robert Hill, would not be drawn on whether the trust could heighten sectarian sentiment in Glasgow.

He said: "I haven't had anyone complaining to me that this trust exists, and exists only for Protestants."

Father Hill added that the Archdiocese of Glasgow operates a trust for impoverished students but does not ask the religion of applicants.

Prominent manufacturer

The trust was set up in the 1868 at the bequest of John Clark - a thread manufacturer and prominent citizen from Paisley and is available to students who attend either Glasgow or Strathclyde universities.

John Swinney, the Scottish National Party's further and higher education spokesman, said: "This is an anachronistic situation and if the Scottish Parliament can play a role in changing it then the SNP is behind that.

John Swinney John Swinney: "Funding should be available to all"
"As a party we believe that education and the funding of it should be available equally to all, regardless of gender, race or religion.

"Our bid to repeal the Act of Settlement shows that we want the country to be rid of age-old pieces of discriminatory legislation.

"I am aware that we are dealing with a legal minefield, but that should not be put off doing something.

"Trusts of this kind should be accessible to everyone and we will fight to make sure they are."

Donald Findlay singing Donald Findlay was accused of anti-Catholic bigotry
The sectarian debate in Scotland, and particularly in Glasgow, has been fuelled recently by comments from prominent figures in the arts and sport.

Leading composer James Macmillan caused controversy when he used his Edinburgh Festival fringe address to attack what he said was a widespread prejudice towards Catholics in Scotland.

And the lawyer, Donald Findlay, was forced to resign as vice-chairman of Rangers last year after being caught singing an anti-Catholic song on videotape.

He later apologised publicly.

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See also:
09 Aug 99 |  Edinburgh Festival 99
Composer attacks 'anti-Catholic bigots'
12 Jul 99 |  UK
Brown denies bigotry claims
31 May 99 |  Scottish Premier
Resignation in sectarian football row
02 Jun 99 |  UK
The bitter divide
21 Sep 99 |  Scotland
Violent reminder of Glasgow sectarianism

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