Scotland

Scottish football 'a cause of sectarianism'

Old Firm match at Hampden Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fans of both Rangers and Celtic have been accused of sectarianism over the years

Almost nine out of every ten Scots believe football is a cause of sectarianism in the country, according to a Scottish government survey.

More than half of those who responded to the social attitudes survey said football was the main factor.

Overall, almost 90% said they believed sectarianism was a problem in Scotland.

But 69% said they believed it was only a problem in specific areas - mainly Glasgow and the west of Scotland.

And while 79% said they thought Orange Order marches contributed to sectarianism, just 13% believed that it was the main factor.

About half (54%) of the 1,500 people surveyed said they thought that Catholics experienced at least some prejudice, with 41% saying they thought the same about Protestants.

Public processions

The survey also suggested people believe families, schools and football clubs were best placed to tackle sectarianism.

A separate study into the community impact of public processions, including Orange and Irish Republican marches, found that they were viewed negatively by people surveyed in the locations they were held.

But it said police data did not show evidence of "spikes" in antisocial or criminal behaviour around the marches.

However, the study said processions organised by the Scottish Defence League and emerging Loyalist organisations, often taking the form of "static" demonstrations, created problems and significant disruption for local authorities and Police Scotland, as well as upset to local communities.

Both research projects had been recommended by the independent Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland.

Community Safety minister Paul Wheelhouse said the studies were helping to build a comprehensive understanding of the nature and impact of sectarianism.

'Lowest level'

Mr Wheelhouse added: "This research also shows us that there is a gap between the perception of sectarianism and the reality of people's experiences, and this is something I know the advisory group will be considering in the coming weeks and months.

"Sectarianism has no place in Scotland in the 21st century and we are fully committed to help rid Scotland of the prejudices of the past and tackling this problem which has blighted many communities.

"Religiously aggravated offending is falling and is now at its lowest level in a decade, last year alone there was a 15% decrease, but we will always seek to do all we can to stamp out this problem.

"That's why the Scottish government has invested £9m over three years to tackle this issue, including supporting 44 community-based projects in their efforts to tackle sectarianism in Scotland."

Anti-sectarian group Nil By Mouth welcomed the research, but renewed its call for Scottish football to implement the recommendations of the sectarianism advisory group and introduce "strict liability" - the UEFA standard for tackling offensive behaviour at games which has already been adopted by the English FA.

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