WHEN I started on this journey to combat sectarianism, I knew there were going to be several avenues available to me. One thing that was never lost on me was that this fight was a fight which would only be won if we all worked together.

The politicians, the third sector organisations, public sector and the many more who are committed to ending the ills of sectarianism and bigotry would have to be brought to the table to share ideas and common goals. There is, in my opinion, no better way to do this than through the creation of a cross party group on tackling sectarianism.

A cross party group allows elected members to work collaboratively above the din of party politics and with a sense of collective purpose. Not only that, it’s also an opportunity for round-table discussion with the other sectors who are doing so much already; their research and knowledge not only helps us understand the background to the problem, but will without a doubt be the key to finding a solution.

Over my many years as a politician I’ve witnessed many educational and third sector efforts trying to make a difference. A relentless amount of work has been done, especially in reaching some of our younger generations, to try and change the attitudes around religious segregation, bigotry, sectarianism and how it can have a negative effect on all of our lives.

An example of this is Divided City, where kids come from non-denominational and Catholic faith schools to work together to create a brilliant theatrical production. They work with each other and often play roles which would, in the past, have made them uncomfortable; but the Divided City project taught our young people to see past barriers and work together to create something valuable. We need to know more about amazing projects such as this, and start to develop new ones.

By close of business on Friday, May 4, every Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) had been notified of my intention to establish this particular group; when the proposal receives the required cross party support, then we will have the inaugural meeting and set the agenda.

I have never been shy in saying that sectarianism and bigotry are perpetuated at football grounds, but many of my colleagues have been sceptical and claim that there is more to be done within wider society.

So that’s what I intend to do. The cross party group is only one line of a multi-pronged attack on this plague on our society. There has been over £12 million spent since 2012 on trying to better understand sectarianism through academic research, and with the Lord Bracadale report being conducted in order to review hate crime legislation, now is the time to act.

With so many organisations in receipt of government funding, I suggest it’s their responsibility to ensure that there is no evidence of sectarianism within their organisations. If they fail to, they should face the possibility of a financial penalty. That’s one of the approaches I will be investigating.

If, as has been generally agreed, this is indeed a societal wide issue then we must take a strong line and ensure that all relevant sectors work together to get rid of it, and if not they have to recognise the price for their failure to do so.