CONCERNS have been raised about the millions Scotland is spending on anti-bigotry projects as it emerged expert advice on funding will not be ready until the end of the year.

The extension of work by the Scottish Government's academic group on sectarianism for another six months means most of the £9 million committed to tackling the problem will have been spent by the time ministers receive guidance on the best use of resources.

Ministers now face accusations of spending public cash on "photo opportunities and sing-alongs", with voluntary groups creating an anti-sectarianism industry as they chase dwindling resources.

One group has received almost £140,000 to be shared, in part, among three gender and sectarianism projects. Another sporting scheme, which received £85,000, gives youngsters a 15-minute talk on the ills of bigotry, while two youth-orientated groups have nearly £140,000 for two websites on religious prejudice. Despite receiving £85,000 six months ago, one of these is yet to be up and running.

A "civic cafes" project running during the Edinburgh Festival received £9000, and while Scotland's specialist police football unit, FoCUS, has received nearly £2m, no other funded project is geared towards sectarianism among football fans.

One MSP has accused the Scottish Government of failing to prioritise education to tackle sectarianism, while the Catholic Church said with hate crime statistics rising "none of the public money committed to date has improved, resolved or remedied the underlying problem of religious intolerance".

The Scottish Government has confirmed its advisory group, headed by Northern Ireland-based academic Dr Duncan Morrow, will continue its work for another six months to allow it to continue gathering evidence before giving its advice to ministers.

One core aim of the group, which was set up last September and was due to have reported back last month, is to advise on the benchmarking of projects. However, the revised timescale means two years of funding will have concluded and further funds committed before the experts report.

One source said: "The poverty industry is becoming a 'peace and love industry' of photo opportunities and sing-alongs. Money is being thrown at sculpture projects and midnight basketball sessions. Funding is at a premium and voluntary groups are now badging their 'problems' as sectarian for those funds."

John Downie, director of public affairs at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: "The Scottish Government is taking a multi-pronged approach to addressing sectarianism in communities right across Scotland.

"It's important all organisations receiving public funding are given a set of aims and objectives so they can show they are delivering and making a difference to people's lives."

Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon said the FoCUS funding showed the SNP Government believed sectarianism originates in the football ground, and pointed out that one group funded last year had no track record in the field.

She added: "I hope the Scottish Government will now provide an answer as to why substantial amounts of money were awarded to these groups. It is guilty of complacency on this issue. The Offensive Behaviour Act does not make any attempt to address the underlying societal problems which lead to sectarianism, and resources must be redirected to the classroom."

Claiming support for anti-sectarian initiatives was "inversely proportional to their success", a Catholic Church spokesman said: "Since the offence of aggravated sectarianism was introduced in 2003, Crown Office statistics have shown crimes motivated by religious intolerance have increased every year.

"The Scottish Government must urgently establish a set of meaningful criteria against which all publicly funded initiatives should be judged," the spokesman added.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the advisory group had given advice on projects funded in the last financial year based on the monitoring and evaluation of information collected on those projects.

She added: "All projects funded to tackle sectarianism will be subject to a robust and independent evaluation process."