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The Great Debate: Is Scotland a sectarian society?

Two of Scotland’s leading thinkers on the controversial issue of sectarianism will join together for what promises to be a heated debate at the University of Aberdeen next week.

Professor Tom Devine, OBE, Glucksman Research Professor in Irish and Scottish Studies and Director of the AHRB Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies and Steve Bruce, Professor of Sociology, and Head of the School of Social Science at the University, have both made major contributions to understanding sectarianism but hold dramatically different views on it.
Recent theory has argued that Scotland is divided not by religion as much by arguments about the enduring importance of religious divisions. The so called ‘curse’ of sectarianism is debated in the parliament, the general assembly and in the media. In February the First Minister will host a 'Summit' discussion on the subject and has made action on sectarianism a key feature of the Scottish Executive's programme.
On Tuesday, February 8, academic heavyweights Professors Tom Devine and Steve Bruce will take centre stage to address this contentious issue in ‘The Great Debate’, at King’s College Centre, at 7.00pm. The event has proved so popular that tickets have completely sold out with 250 people expected to attend.
Tom Devine is the author or editor of some two-dozen books and over 80 articles on varied topics. His book, The Scottish Nation (1999) became an international best-seller and for a time in Scotland, even outsold the adventures of Harry Potter. His latest books are Scotland’s Empire, 1615-1815, published in 2003 and a co-edited volume The Transformation of Scotland (2005). He has won all three major prizes for Scottish historical research.

He was appointed OBE in the New Year Honours List 2005 for services to Scottish history. His book Scotland’s Shame? Bigotry and Sectarianism in Modern Scotland, by Tom Devine (ed.) is published by Mainstream, 2000.

Steve Bruce is the author of 19 books on the sociology of religion, religion and politics and terrorism. His latest book, Sectarianism in Scotland, for which he collaborated with colleagues from institutions across the UK, is published by Edinburgh University Press, 2004.
This book tests the exaggeration with historical and social scientific data, describing and explaining the changing patterns 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.

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: You are invited to send a photographer and/or reporter to ‘The Great Debate’ on Tuesday, February 8, 2005, at 6.40pm, King’s College Centre.

Further information on Professor Tom Devine is available at and Professor Steve Bruce at


Notes to Editors

Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen. Tel: (01224) 272014.

Issued on: Tuesday 1st of February 2005

Ref: 1577 Great Debate

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