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Sectarianism in Scotland

Steve Bruce, Tony Glendinning, Michael Rosie


Is Scotland a sectarian society?

Scotland is divided not by religion as much as by arguments about the enduring importance of religious divisions. The 'curse' of Sectarianism is debated in the Parliament, the General Assembly and in the media. What we have not had until now is a serious assessment of the evidence.

This book tests the rhetoric with historical and social scientific data, describing and explaining the changing pattern of relations between Catholics and Protestants over the 20th century. It concludes that Catholic integration in Scotland has been far more successful than most commentators would have us believe. While there were once deep social, political, economic and cultural divisions, these have now all but disappeared. In Scotland's increasingly secular society, religious identity has steeply declined in social significance.

The book is informed by both a considerable body of evidence from new historical research and major social surveys, and by the authors' understanding of what the mixing of religion and politics looks like elsewhere - in America, Australia and New Zealand, as well as in Ulster. Presenting a reasoned argument and up-to-date information, the book aims to contribute to a better-informed view of sectarianism in Scotland.

Key Features

  • Steve Bruce - the main author - is a well-known figure in this field.
  • Written in clear, accessible, arresting prose.
  • The first book to challenge the view that Scotland is a society deeply divided by religion.
  • A controversial take on a controversial subject - challenged long-held assumptions.


1. The Nineteenth Century
2. Into the Thirties
3. 1945 to 2000
4. Ulster, Football and Violence
5. Conclusion.

About the Author

Steve Bruce was born in Edinburgh and educated at the Queen Victoria School, Dunblane. He studied sociology and religious studies at the University of Stirling. He taught at The Queen’s University, Belfast, from 1978 to 1991 when he became Professor of Sociology at the University of Aberdeen. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Tony Glendinning is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Aberdeen.

Michael Rosie is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh.


A clear, well written and researched exposition of the myths of the past and present. A cogent study, it provides an informed basis for discussion.
- Review of Scottish Culture
A fascinating historical and sociological analysis ... the book avoids a dry, mathematical style. It is pithy and engaging ... Careful attention to detail is a hallmark of the volume ... the style of the book is superb … Sectarianism in Scotland deserves to have a very wide readership both amongst academics and those with a general interest in Scotland … Perhaps Jack McConnell should read this book.
Sectarianism in Scotland deserves to have a very wide readership both amongst academics and those with a general interest in Scotland... It demonstrates sectarianism, very convincingly, to be a myth and does so using detailed argument and a style that makes it a pleasure to read.
- Edward Dutton, University of Aberdeen, Scotia
This is a subject which has generated much impassioned commentary, not a little emoting and much high-profile assertion, but there has been scant academic analysis. The gap is there for all to see. This book fills it.
- Harry Reid, author of Outside Verdict: An Old Kirk in a New Scotland
This book is an important contribution to the ongoing debate on this subject and should be of interest to all those who desire to study sectarianism in Scotland ... One of the prime objectives of the book is to stimulate debate on this somewhat contentious subject, and the authors, by throwing down the gauntlet and asking opponents to provide empirical evidence to support their claim that 'Scotland is endemically sectarian' may achieve that end.
- Political Studies Review