NICOLA Sturgeon has paid tribute to the “great dignity” of Hibs manager Neil Lennon after he spoke out about bigoted abuse.

Mr Lennon was struck by a coin during a match against Hearts on October 31.

He later condemned suggestions he had goaded fans, and insisted Scotland has a problem with anti-Irish racism.

He said: “You call it sectarianism here in Scotland, I call it racism.”

Speaking during First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon condemned the attack and said Scotland must be united in stamping out all forms of bigotry.

She said: “Let me say at the outset and unequivocally that I condemn the attack on Neil Lennon that took place last week. Of course that is a matter for the police to thoroughly investigate.

“I saw some of Neil Lennon’s press conference at the end of last week and thought he conducted himself with great dignity.

“Nobody should have to suffer the abuse and the attacks that he has had to suffer, and I’m sure all of us would agree with that.

“I unequivocally condemn anti-Catholic bigotry, anti-Irish racism – I condemn sectarianism in any shape or form.

“This Government will continue to take the action we need to take to ensure that Scotland is a country that demonstrates zero tolerance of any of that kind of bigotry.

“Whatever your footballing loyalties, or whether you don’t have any footballing loyalties, that kind of conduct has no place in modern Scotland, and all of us must unite to make that absolutely crystal clear.”

The First Minister was responding to a question from Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly, who branded the attacks on Neil Lennon “wholly unacceptable”.

Addressing the media last week, Mr Lennon said he was “fed up” of the bigoted abuse he had endured in Scotland.

The former Celtic manager said: “If a black man is abused, you are not just abusing the colour of his skin, you are abusing his culture, his heritage, his background.

“It’s the exact same when I get called a Fenian, a pauper, a beggar, a tarrier.

“These people with the sense of entitlement or superiority complex. And all I do is stand up for myself.

“I’ve been subjected to this for 18 years. I’m 47, I’m fed up of it. I’m the manager of Hibs now and I’m still getting it.”