Unfortunately Glasgow and, in fact, Scotland in general have a bad reputation for violence with knives, fists and other simple weapons like two by fours: as a matter of fact anything on hand that will magnify the force of an attacker’s blow. Even more unfortunate is that this reputation is well-deserved. There have been and are presently initiatives to reduce this saddening trend but there is yet more work to be done – violent habits run deep and are well-entrenched in certain Scottish demographics.
So what about Glaswegian churches, and specifically Glasgow Cathedral? Fortunately violence has little penetrated the sacred confines of our religious institutions – and especially the sgian-dubh is still decidely not a cause for concern as yet. A kilt without sgian-dubh is just not complete, so this is a relief! I’m not sure you would be as welcome if you were wearing an enormous hunting knife on your belt, but it seems like your best pocket knife or something similarly innocuous would be okay as well. I emailed the cathedral just in case, and received a quick reply from the Session Clerk letting me know that so far a fuss hasn’t been made about kilted gentlemen wearing a knives in their socks as is traditional. The clerk on duty also mentioned that when he suspects that he might have trouble wearing a knife he substitutes with a sort of fake knife; for all appearances it is a sheathed knife but there’s nothing metal about it (that is, it is bladeless). That way you can even get on an aeroplane fully kilted.
If you are one of those who insists on wearing a kilt as much as possible – and there are those who will even wear one while paddleboarding, for instance (hopefully after you’ve learned and got some balance) – a fake sgian-dubh will open doors that might otherwise be closed. But then there are those who will insist on authentic all the way; they might run into problems now and then. With the way the world is going, security is getting tighter and tighter and even traditional knives, including ceremonial ones like the Sikh kirtan and the Scottish sgian-dubh, are encountering resistance. After all there are those who will take advantage and ruin it for the those vast majority who wouldn’t dream of using any knife in a harmful way. Fortunately, Glasgow Cathedral hasn’t succumbed to the over-cautious and still allows a Scotsman in full kilt to attend services, get married, etcetera within its precincts. I suspect, as Glaswegians with a strong sense of tradition, they will be the last to ban ceremonial knives if, indeed, they ever do.
So, dear Scots, and visitors of Scottish descent who wear a full kilt regalia you can relax when you visit churches in Glasgow and beyond. They are, so far, safe havens that respect and permit sgian-dubhs. However, please exercise caution in the rough and poor areas of town; sadly there are those who are always ready for a fight on the slimmest of pretexts. So enjoy but be aware.