It's January 2010, Mr. Salmond.

Last updated : 04 January 2010 By Number Eight

I respond in kind of course, and there`s usually some spice, and indeed humour, when goodwill is exchanged between us and them. I know that many Rangers supporters have Celtic connections and although this should be normal in a free society, in a separated society, it often isn`t.

My own links to the other side go back to childhood, and even now when I meet with Celtic-supporting friends, we congregate at times conveniently distant from Old Firm fixtures. Old habits die hard.

When the wind-up patter is put to one side and the serious issues get debated openly, it is revealing to delve deeply into what are widely believed to be contentious areas.

While there is broad agreement that we were fortunate to have enjoyed Scottish football at a better time than in the present era, there are still heated differences of opinion on a variety of Old Firm matters, but there is one area in which there is a retreat from past hard-line opinion, and that is on the issue of sectarianism in our schools.

Even amongst those who are Celtic because they are Roman Catholic, there is a growing feeling that state-sponsored sectarianism in our schools cannot be defended or sustained indefinitely, and yet here we are in 2010 with the segregationists in our midst holding sway.

The hypocrisy of Alex Salmond and Jack McConnell on this issue is staggering, and yet neither is held to account publicly for propping up sectarianism in education. The Scottish people have had enough of this needless and pointless separation of our children, and while the Roman Catholic community is more ready to integrate than it has ever been, Scottish politicians would rather bow down to the demands of Roman Catholic leaders than to be democratic and genuinely inclusive - and yet all the while they`ll hammer Rangers FC for our slightest indiscretion, eager and determined to lay the problem of what they like to call the scourge of sectarianism fully at our door.

As Rangers supporters, it is our duty to broaden the sectarianism debate out to include the near-religious apartheid which still exists in Scotland`s schools.

The nationalists keep telling us that Scotland needs to take responsibility for itself and stand on its own two feet, and yet it runs a mile from addressing the issue of separate schools. This cowardice is increasingly noticeable, and it goes against the settled will of the Scottish people.

We don`t want separate schools any more. We want schools to do what they have been failing to do for far too long - give our young people a proper education, free from sectarian religious indoctrination.

I`m not even coming to this debate as someone who is intolerant of religion. Only a fool would believe that religion plays no part in the lives of several billion people across the world, but it is the duty and function of the state to educate its youth in how to function as literate, numerate and well-rounded people, able to exploit the education the state has provided for them - and it`s not doing that.

What hope is there for a sovereign Scotland when those who advocate independence are running scared from doing what is essentially the right thing to do - to phase out sectarian education in our schools?

My life is better for having friends across the the religious divide, but our friendships had to endure being sent in opposite directions to attend different schools.

I`ll take no more lectures from the likes of Salmond and McConnell on the issue of sectarianism. They have each been in a position to end the ongoing disgrace that is sectarianism in education in Scotland, and both were too frightened to go near it.

It`s January, 2010, Mr Salmond.

End this national disgrace or go. If an independent Scotland is too fearful to tackle issues like this, and that certainly appears to be the case judging by your time as Scottish First Minister, then an independent Scotland will be just one more pointless talking shop - a waste of time, energy and money.

Rid us of state-sponsored sectarian education, Mr Salmond.

It`s what the people want.