The bitter anti-Catholic attack on Dundee MSP Michael Marra by an SNP spokesman is a dangerous glimpse into a very dark underbelly in a city where religious intolerance has, until now, had little place.
Religious bigotry is something which has played very little part in politics in the city, unlike some other areas of Scotland where it has been a festering sore.
We don’t want an Ulsterisation of politics in Dundee, where traditionally folk of all faiths and none have rubbed along together.
The divisive and dangerous road an SNP spokesperson chose to go down with an ill-considered and sectarian blast at Marra cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged – the party must address the issue as a matter of extreme urgency before a very combustible genie gets out of the bottle.
Marra raised concerns about the suitability of SNP council election candidate Siobhan Tolland when it emerged she had made remarks on Facebook in 2010 about shouting abuse at Pope Benedict.
Tolland – who sits on the SNP National Executive and is standing to represent Lochee in May’s council vote – admitted she might have gone a wee bit too far in calling the Pope a c**t as she protested about child abuse during his Papal visit to Edinburgh.
Marra, who as a councillor represents the Lochee Ward (and if you don’t know the links to Catholicism and Irish roots in what used to be known as Little Tipperary, then you’ve only just arrived from Mars) criticised Tolland’s remarks.
What followed from the SNP was a hostile and scurrilous attempt to impugn Marra’s integrity by asking if he condoned child abuse within the Catholic Church.
This is gutter politics of the lowest kind and there’s no place for any candidate or party stooping to such vile depths.
I’ve leaned towards independence for 30 years and have twice been asked to stand for the SNP in Westminster and, while I was still a law lecturer, stood in the council elections for them.
The first time they approached me to stand in the Dundee West constituency, the fact that I was a Catholic was raised as a bonus point.
At that time, the SNP were still well behind Labour as a political party.
Are we now to conclude that as the dominant force in Scotland, their naked contempt for those of the Catholic faith can be waved imperviously?
The organisation Call It Out, which campaigns against anti-Catholic bigotry in Scotland, have been clear in their response to the attack on Michael Marra.
They see the motivation for it as just that: anti-Catholic bigotry.
‘Apologise…or be shown the door’
They’ve called on the anonymous SNP spokesperson to retract the remarks and apologise as a matter of urgency.
Both the candidate and the spokesperson should say sorry publicly or be shown the door.
If these are the types of views harboured by the SNP of the Catholic community, which traditionally has numbered almost one in four of the city’s population, what might those of other faiths have to fear when such unbridled religious hostility can be displayed without consequence?