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Sectarianism not caused by denomination schools, says expert group

SECTARIANISM in Scotland neither stems from nor is the responsibility of denominational schooling, the Scottish Government's expert group on the issue has concluded.

As it publishes its long-awaited report, the Advisory Group On Tackling Sectarianism also claims religious bigotry is neither "the biggest nor the most acute social issue Scotland faces" but wants it tackled with the same vigour as racism and homophobia.

Crucially, it states that Scotland requires no new laws to deal with the problem.

Another key recommendation is for football's governing bodies and clubs to financially support work to tackle sectarianism at the sport's grassroots.

However, The Herald understands contact with Celtic and Rangers during the 16 months of the group was minimal, with figures within the governing bodies warning the advisory group of the 'commercial value' of bigotry.

The lack of engagement from either club comes despite both benefitting from millions of pounds in public cash over the years to run anti-sectarianism and community projects, while Celtic and Rangers fans are also the main targets for the controversial Offensive Behaviour At Football Act.

The group has been led by Dr Duncan Morrow, a Northern Ireland academic who headed the Community Relations Council, along with Reverend Ian Galloway, former convener of the Church Of Scotland's Church And Society Council; Dr Cecilia Clegg, theology lecturer at Edinburgh University; Margaret Lynch, chief executive of the Citizens Advice Bureau Scotland; and Edinburgh University sociologist Dr Michael Rosie.

Announced in autumn last year, its remit has been to look at criteria for assessing funding applications, write reports on evidence about sectarianism and develop a research process.

The report will be formally presented to Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham today. The Scottish Government will then consider the advice before issuing a formal response early next year. The report states: "While we have not concluded that sectarianism is either the biggest or the most acute social issue Scotland faces, there is no question that it remains a significant and prevalent force within Scottish society, requiring action to deliver a cultural change and improved lives for all of Scotland's communities."

The group has said that while it upholds the right to participate in marches and parades, it "also recognises the rights that communities have to go about their business undisturbed" and calls upon local government to take action based on a forthcoming academic report.

It calls for a "robust evidence base" on the impact of sectarianism in Scotland, including the monitoring of sectarian attitudes and activity, adding: "The group does not believe that sectarianism stems from, or is the responsibility of, denominational schooling, but recognises the important role that education plays in tackling social issues such as sectarianism."

Dr Morrow said: "Our report suggests sectarianism has left scars on many aspects of Scottish society. But the group has been left in no doubt that Scotland has had enough of any lingering impact and wants change.

"We have a great deal of hope for the future and believe there is a wide consensus among people and institutions across Scottish society that sectarianism has no place in the future and should be addressed where it is found."

Ms Cunningham said: "This is a challenging report for all of us all across Scottish society, Government, local authorities, community groups, clubs and fans alike, and we have a duty to consider its recommendations carefully."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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