CRAIG Whyte, the new owner of Rangers, has launched a robust fightback against the football club's critics on sectarianism, making clear that it will "not be made the whipping boys for society's failings".

Ahead of next week’s meeting of the Scottish Government’s joint action group on sectarianism, chaired by First Minister Alex Salmond, Mr Whyte has tasked his friend Jack Irvine, executive chairman of Media House International, to spearhead a “more aggressive” response to Rangers’ critics within and outwith the political world.

Mr Irvine said: “What we won’t be is knocked around by knee-jerk politicians and by others across the city. We’re drawing a line in the sand. Sectarianism is a problem but not the sole problem of Rangers Football Club.”

A decision to be more assertive was made following a meeting between Mr Whyte and members of the all-party Rangers Group at Westminster, which includes chairman John Robertson, the Labour MP for Glasgow North West, Peter Robinson, the Northern Irish First Minister, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, the Advocate General, and Eleanor Laing, the Conservative backbencher. Sectarianism was high on the meeting’s agenda.

Mr Irvine, a former editor of The Scottish Sun, said Rangers’ views were clear: that it fully supported Mr Salmond and the SNP Government to rid Scottish society of bigotry and that it applauded his decision not to rush through new legislation.

Mr Irvine added: “However, we are clear in our own minds that there are elements both in Glasgow and abroad, who are desperate to lay the blame for Scotland’s ills at the doors of Ibrox.

“I would have thought these politically motivated critics might use their energies to analyse the chief problems in our society such as poor education, unemployment, drugs and youth crime.

“All respectable Rangers supporters, and that is the vast majority, condemn bigotry and sectarianism but we will not be the whipping boys for society’s failings.

“For too long, Rangers have taken it in the neck. It’s a new owner, new management, new rules. Craig wants a more robust challenge to ill-informed critics. He does not intend for Rangers to be pushed around.”

Without naming names, Mr Irvine added: “I have a message for those who would denigrate Rangers: if you stop telling lies about us, we’ll stop telling the truth about you.”

Brian Donohoe, Labour MP for Central Ayrshire, who is the all-party Rangers Group secretary, supported Mr Irvine’s sentiments, saying: “We should be on the offensive not the defensive. Our record is there to speak for itself. This has to be taken forward on the basis of fairness to all.”

In April, Rangers was fined £71,294 by Uefa for sectarian chanting and will not have any of its fans at the first away match of next season after charges of inappropriate chanting were brought in both legs of a Europa League tie against PSV Eindhoven. It has been estimated Rangers could lose more than £2 million in lost gate receipts.

The issue of sectarianism came to a head earlier this year when Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, became the victim of a hate campaign and was attacked during a game away to Hearts in Edinburgh. A 26-year-old man was subsequently charged with breach of the peace and assault, both aggravated by religious prejudice.

In May, the high-profile Glasgow lawyer and former Rangers chief, Donald Findlay QC, was targeted when a suspicious package, thought to be a knife, was sent to Cowdenbeath FC, where he is now chairman.

Meanwhile, two men are to face trial after suspected bombs were posted to Mr Lennon as well as other leading supporters of the club.