Scotland

Sectarian advisory group set up

An independent advisory group on tackling sectarianism is to be set up by the Scottish government.

The group, chaired by Dr Duncan Morrow, will be tasked with a range of work to inform policy on sectarianism.

Dr Morrow is a former chief executive of the Community Relations Council in Northern Ireland.

Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham also announced a range of projects tackling sectarianism would share more than £900,000.

She made the announcements while visiting a project in Shotts, North Lanarkshire, which brings older and younger people together through story and song.

Ms Cunningham said: "We are committed to eradicating the scourge of sectarianism from Scottish society and we have been testing out a variety of approaches to help us achieve this.

"The establishment of the Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland will form a key plank of this wider work.

"I'm also delighted to announce further funding to support a wide range of projects across Scotland which are tackling sectarianism in an innovative way.

"We have always said that tackling bigotry and hatred isn't just about legislation, but about wider action to help bring communities together, and that's why we set aside £9m over three years to take this forward."

Consensus figure

She said the government would be gathering evidence on the nature of sectarianism in Scotland as well as the impact and effectiveness of these different interventions, and the Advisory Group would play a crucial role in this work.

Dr Morrow has 10 years experience working in Northern Ireland as a member and chair of the Community Relations Council.

He has worked with many organisations tackling sectarianism in Northern Ireland and represents a strong consensus figure who commands the respect of both Protestant and Catholic communities.

Dr Morrow said: "I am honoured to have been asked by the minister to chair this group on such an important but controversial topic.

"The advisory group will work hard to ensure that our advice is rooted in real evidence and practical experience.

"We look forward to engaging with those who have worked to reduce sectarianism over many years and with organisations, agencies and people who have to deal with the reality of ongoing violence and exclusion in coming to our conclusions."

Anti-sectarianism charity Nil By Mouth welcomed the decision to set up an advisory group.

Campaign director Dave Scott said: "This is an interesting development and certainly a welcome change from the times when Nil By Mouth was a lone voice calling for change.

"We have been saying for some time now that Scotland needs to have a real debate about sectarianism and this group can contribute towards this."

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