Scotland politics

Culture of denial over sectarianism in Scotland, report says

Football fans Image copyright PA
Image caption Dr Duncan Morrow said football was only one part of the jigsaw of sectarianism

A culture of denial about the extent of problems caused by sectarianism still exists in Scotland, a new report says.

The report, written by academic Dr Duncan Morrow, said this culture remained an obstacle to progress.

Dr Morrow, who headed an advisory group on tackling sectarianism, also called for a review of hate crime legislation.

The Scottish government said it was clear that more work was needed on sectarianism and that it was committed to taking forward the recommendations.

Dr Morrow said recent work had demonstrated the issue could be addressed through "active leadership and concerted effort".

He said a review of hate crime legislation should consider how sectarianism incidents could be integrated into a more general approach.


Report recommendations

  • The Scottish government should continue to make clear that the priority is to end the behaviours, attitudes and structures that underpin sectarianism
  • The focus should move away from naming and shaming individuals or groups
  • Local authorities should ensure that formal policy and practice guidelines are developed to address sectarianism at local level
  • A review of hate crime legislation should consider how sectarianism and sectarian incidents could be integrated into a more general approach
  • Every effort should continue to be made to involve football authorities, clubs, supporters organisations and youth organisations directly in active measures to address sectarian behaviour and attitudes in football
  • Local partnerships between schools of different backgrounds should be encouraged, including sharing of resources and topics of interest
  • Highlighting the importance of monitoring equalities within inspection in schools should be considered

Dr Morrow called on the Scottish government to shift its emphasis away from historical blame.

He said the focus should be on ending the behaviours, attitudes and structures which underpinned sectarianism rather than naming and shaming any individual or group.

His recommendations include sharing of best practice across the relevant authorities, greater community involvement and a commitment to tackling the issue as part of equalities education in schools.

Lack of urgency

He also said there had been a disappointing lack of urgency from local authorities to the findings of his group, published in 2015.

"Local authorities should actively consider how best practice in tackling sectarianism can be shared more systematically across Scotland," he said.

Dr Morrow said football was only one part of the jigsaw of sectarianism.

He said he was sceptical as to whether government proposals to tackle the problem were sufficient to change the evident sectarian behaviour in Scottish football.

"I remain seriously concerned that the primary concern of the authorities remains to avoid responsibility rather than to take action," he said.

Community Safety Minister Annabelle Ewing said: "It is very clear from Dr Morrow's report that work remains to be done in eradicating sectarianism from sections of our society.

"Considerable work has been taken forward over the past few years and I am very pleased to note that some progress has been made since the final report by the advisory group, but more needs to be done."

'Obstacle to progress'

She added: "The Scottish government cannot eradicate sectarianism in isolation and while we are committed to taking forward the recommendations that are for us, we must also continue to work with local authorities, the third sector, community groups, football clubs and more to foster a Scotland where sectarianism is consigned to history.

"Together we can nurture a modern nation that isn't weighed down by the prejudices of the past. I will now carefully consider Dr Morrow's report and respond in due course."

Dave Scott, campaign director of anti-sectarianism charity Nil by Mouth, said: "The contents of Dr Morrow's report highlights there is much to be optimistic about in terms of how Scotland is tackling sectarianism.

"Fifteen years on from Jack McConnell's 'secret shame' speech we now see many sections of society pulling together to show Scotland to be bigger, better and bolder than bigotry.

"However, it's clear from the report that Scottish football continues to be an obstacle to progress and it's consistent refusal to manage its own environment undermines efforts in wider society.

"Given the millions of pounds of public money the sport benefits from each year this cannot be allowed to continue and our political parties must ensure that the game steps up to the plate or faces the consequences of its inaction."

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