Indeed, Prof Bruce reminds me of a scholarly Canute, standing
firm and resolute as the waves of contrary opinion gather around
him. Those who believe sectarianism is a continuing problem in
parts of the country not only include the Scottish Executive,
the First Minister and all the churches, but organisations as
varied as the Association of Chief Police Officers, the
Commission for Racial Equality, the Scottish Council for
Voluntary Organisations, all political parties and all TV, radio
and print media - and this is by no means an exhaustive list.
In 2003, NFO Social Research conducted a detailed
investigation into perceptions of sectarianism in Glasgow. A
mere 9 per cent of the large sample of respondents agreed with
the proposition "discrimination along sectarian lines no longer
exists", while less than 32 per cent thought "sectarianism is
becoming a thing of the past".
How is this extraordinary contradiction between the Bruce
view and that of the overwhelming majority of contemporary
expert and lay opinion to be explained? I believe the problem
stems from his research method. Prof Bruce is much more
interested in social structures than in relationships, emotions,
mindsets, prejudices and attitudes. But it is in this more
complex and intangible area that bigotry flourishes.