THE Kirk has moved to express regret for its actions before, and 15 years ago made an historic apology over its past role in sectarianism.

The General Assembly of 2002 also took the step of setting up a joint group with the Roman Catholic justice and peace commission to examine the issue afresh to combat bigotry in Scotland.

The Rev Alan McDonald, then convener of the church and nation committee, had recounted some of the worst examples from the church and nation's report to the 1923 assembly entitled: ''The menace of the Irish race to our Scottish nationality."

He said: ''It accused the Irish Roman Catholic population of taking employment from native Scots, of being part of a papist conspiracy to subvert Presbyterian values, and of being the principal cause of drunkenness, crime and financial imprudence.

''It suggested the control of immigration from the Irish Free State, deportation, and preference being given to native-born Scots in public works because 'Scotland was over-gorged with Irishmen'.''

Mr Macdonald had said: ''I am ashamed when I read how badly we got it wrong."

''We have to be honest about the past so that we can move forward.

"Let's be honest but let's move away from the blame culture. It is not their fault, their problem: sectarianism is everybody's problem.''

He added then that it was time to ''consign bigotry to the history books, where it belongs''.

At the time Trevor Reid, an elder from Castle Douglas but who was originally from Belfast, said: ''The future is what is important, the past is the problem.

"I've been blown up, I have had my business blown up. I know what sectarianism can do.''

Rev Roderick Macdonald said: ''Most schoolchildren do not know what it is all about.

"They are told by their parents that they are Prods, that they are Rangers supporters and they do not like Catholics. That's sectarianism."

The Kirk's move at that time followed a similar public admission to the assembly by the former Catholic Cardinal Keith O'Brien - who was later shamed over inappropriate and predatory sexual conduct with junior priests - for the Catholic Church's refusal to respond to ecumenical talks for nearly 400 years.