Almost 1000 reports of anti-Catholic abuse have been recorded by police over the past two years, new figures show.

Figures show Glasgow recorded the highest number from 2019-2021 with 262 incidents reported, followed by Lanarkshire, which had 166 - a figure that was evenly split between the north and south of the region.

Police Scotland data shows there were a total of 960 incidents of verbal or physical abuse recorded under hate crime laws, “where the hate reason is listed as ‘Catholic’” from January 1 2019 to September 8 this year.

Falkirk had the third highest number of reports for anti-Catholic abuse, with 79 reports logged.

The lowest number was in the Scottish Highlands where only one report was made to police while Edinburgh recorded 55 complaints.

The Herald:

Previous data from 2018-2019 has shown that Scotland’s Catholic population is more likely to be targeted by abuse than those of any other religious persuasion.

In around two-fifths (42%) of religion aggravated hate crimes the perpetrator showed prejudice towards Catholics. This compared to around one-in-ten crimes (12%) targeting the Protestant community.

The Herald:

Carol Monaghan, SNP MSP for Glasgow North West revealed she had been targeted with ‘incredibly personal’ abusive messages after publicly condemning the disorder in George Square caused by Rangers fans after the club’s title win in May.

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Commenting on the Herald’s figures she said: “Our city has long had an endemic anti-Irish and anti-Catholic problem.

“Nevertheless, the past few months have truly demonstrated the intensity of this bigotry.

"Barely a month ago, video footage emerged of Rangers fans singing an overtly racist chant which referenced the Irish famine and called on Irish people to “go home”.

The Herald:

“Some choose to brand this type of provocation as typical ‘Glasgow sectarianism’ or ‘football-fuelled hijinks.’ I choose to call it out for what it is: anti-Irish racism and a symbiotic anti-Catholic bigotry.

“For meaningful progress, a cultural shift is required in our city. 

“In the last few days, we have seen arrests linked to Orange Walks and breaches of peace - I think that Glaswegians of all backgrounds are growing tired of the same hostilities raising their heads time and time again.”

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The Crown Office said it took prosecutorial action in 89% of the religiously aggravated charges received over 2020-21.

However it does not provide figures for the number that result in a conviction and court proceedings for religiously aggravated hate crimes are said to be at a five-year low.

Writing in The Times earlier this year, Peter Kearney of the Scottish Catholic Media Office said attacks on Catholic schools in the media or by politicians,“create and sustain a climate of hostility towards Catholics, which emboldens those who commit offences.”

He said previously that he believes sectarianism is “bred at home” and not taught in Catholic schools.

In April, Ireland’s President, Michael D Higgins, claimed segregating schoolchildren by religion, via separate schools, is harmful.

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He likened the system to abandoning youngsters “to parcels of hate and memory that others are manipulating”.

Overall, religiously motivated hate crime figures showed a decrease last year during the pandemic, in common with a number of other offences. There were 573 charges with a religious aggravation reported in 2020-21, 14% fewer than in 2019-20.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf Yousaf described scenes in Glasgow after Rangers’ title win in May as “the most disgraceful and shameful display of anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism I’ve ever seen”.

Dozens of people were arrested and charged after trouble flared in George Square on May 15.

Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said: “There can be no doubt that sectarianism is an ongoing and serious problem in parts of Scotland.

“Policing has, of course, an important role in tackling sectarianism, but too often we are simply managing the symptoms of what is a more ingrained, generational problem.

"Prevention needs to start much earlier."