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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

Christian Auer

XVI. Religion and Sectarianism

111. Scotland in Eclipse, 1930

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1Andrew Dewar Gibb (1888-1974) was called to the English Bar in 1917. He practised in England after the war and taught as a visiting lecturer at the Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge. He was appointed to the Regius Chair at the University of Glasgow in 1934. He was Leader of the Scottish National Party from 1936 until 1940. In Scotland in Eclipse (1930) Gibb claimed that the Irish were responsible for most crime, and that their population was rising out of control.

2Andrew Dewar Gibb, Scotland in Eclipse, London: Toulmin, 1930, p. 54-58.

If Scotland is conscious of no other grievances; if all that English bureaucratic insolence has been able to do for her has left her supine and indifferent, at least she is conscious and very angrily conscious of the Irish question. Year after year and generation after generation a steady stream of low-grade immigrants of the labouring class has set from the wilds of Kerry and Limerick and from the slums of Cork and Dublin to the West coast of Scotland. From there the immigrants have spread to the Lanarkshire coal-fields, to the coal-fields of Fife and the Lothians and to Dundee. As a rule quite unprosperous, they have in some places displayed special abilities. Thus in Glasgow they are fast developing a monopoly of the priesthood, the pawnshops and the public-houses. They form an appreciable proportion of the population of Scotland, breeding as they do not merely unchecked, but actually encouraged by their own medicine-men. An eminent geographer has recently stated the matter thus: “A large foreign population, chiefly Irish, is taking possession, ousting Scotsmen and doing by peaceful penetration what no previous invaders were ever able to do by force.” [Sir. E.J Russell in Great Britain: Essays in Regional Geography: 1928 (author’s note)]. They are responsible for most of the crime committed in Scotland, which otherwise would be the most law-abiding country in the world. Wheresoever knives and razors are used, wheresoever sneak thefts and mean pilfering are easy and safe, wheresoever dirty acts of sexual baseness are committed, there you will find the Irishman in Scotland with all but a monopoly of the business. Glasgow is cursed with gangs of young loafers who prowl about the East End in Bridgeton and Calton, attacking one another and often attacking the police and strangers. Their names, as the newspaper reports show, are Irish to the extent of at least ninety per cent. According to an account given in Parliament by the Secretary of State for Scotland in December 1929, 22 per cent of all convicted prisoners in 1926 were persons born in Ireland or had an Irish father. This takes no account at all of the criminals of Irish descent, not actually born in Ireland, yet even so it is grossly disproportionate to the Irish population of Scotland.

In Scotland the rule is, once an Irishman always an Irishman. The Irish community is rigorously prevented from intermingling or intermarrying with the Scottish population. Irish streets, Irish quarters and even Irish towns and villages exist. This, of course, is not due to any nice sense of national exclusiveness. The Irish population is incapable of that refinement as of every other. But the priests who hold over their flock the standing threat of hell-fire, a penalty incurred alike by marrying Presbyterians, and by the use of contraceptives, see to it that their sheep do not, by marriage, stray out of the Roman Catholic fold which is the same thing, practically, as the Irish fold. Thus in the heart of a dwindling though virile and intelligent race there is growing up another people, immeasurably inferior in every way, but cohesive and solid, refusing obstinately, at the behest of obscurantist magic-men, to mingle with the people whose land they are usurping; unaware of, or if aware, disloyal to all the finest ideals and ambitions of the Scottish race: distinguished by a veritable will to squalor which is mainly responsible for Scottish slumdom; squatting and breeding in such numbers as to threaten in another hundred years to gain actual predominance in the country. It is said that the flow of immigrants into Scotland has largely ceased, which in the present state of Scotland, may possibly be true, though it is by no means proved. In the years 1921-1926 some 300,000 people emigrated from Scotland, and it has not been suggested that the population has declined by anything like that number. But speculation on this point does not affect the main problem, which is the proper disposal and treatment of the deplorable Irish colony in Scotland. No amount of anti-immigration legislation can prevent Irish labourers from having families of twelve nor Irish priests from telling them that to attend a birth-control clinic is a deadly sin. To this problem modern Scotland is thoroughly awake. It is on the way to becoming a question of practical politics. Questions are asked in Parliament about it. Resolutions urging Government to deal with it are passed at political gatherings, principally of the Conservative party. The Assembly of the Church of Scotland solemnly appoints Committees to see what can be done about it. London papers touch on it, with of course very humorous asides about the Scottish invasion of England. It may indeed be pointed to as the one question exclusively of interest to Scotland which has aroused Scotsmen of all classes and partied to a sense of danger threatening, not the British empire, but Scotland, their common country.

© Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2013

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