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BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor
"Donald Gorrie says he was stirred into action by the recent row which became known as Grottogate"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 2 May, 2001, 18:41 GMT 19:41 UK
New move to end sectarianism
Sectarian warning
Sectarianism has led to violence in Scotland
Scotland's parliament is to be asked to outlaw sectarianism by making it an offence which could result in a jail term of up to seven years.

Donald Gorrie MSP plans to draft a Bill which would make sectarian harassment a specific offence.

Mr Gorrie said: "Sectarian harassment is as bad as racial harassment, and should come under the criminal law."

The Lib Dem, for Central Scotland region, has framed a draft Bill, modelled on a section on racially-aggravated harassment in the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act.

Donald Gorrie
Donald Gorrie is hoping for support for his Bill
He said his interest in combating sectarianism had been "rekindled" by bad publicity Scotland received in the Carfin grotto affair.

In January this year there was a row over whether or not a planned visit by the Irish Prime Minister to the Roman Catholic landmark in Lanarkshire would have raised sectarian tensions.

Mr Gorrie said he aims to define sectarianism as "malice and ill-will" to one or more members of a church or religious group.

His definition would also extend to culture or traditions arising from a church or religious group.

Consultation

Mr Gorrie said when the 1998 Crime and Disorder legislation was going though the Commons, he was unhappy that the section on racially-aggravated harassment specifically said that harassment because of a person's religious grouping was not an offence.

"I have therefore focused on one aspect of sectarianism by rewriting section 33, replacing racially-aggravated harassment with 'harassment aggravated by sectarianism' throughout," he said.

Anti-sectarianism poster
There have been efforts to end sectarianism in Scotland
"The aim is to cover harassment of people who may not go to church but take part in activities or support football teams which their opponents see as being derived from a religious group."

He is to send a copy of his draft Bill to churches and league football clubs for comment.

Under Member's Bill procedures at Holyrood, Mr Gorrie's first hurdle is to gain the support of 11 colleagues, who must give formal backing to the move within a month.

Ministers have said they will look closely at the plans, and they have not delivered their views at this stage.

However, ministers pointed out that sectarian offences can already attract heavy penalties under the common law.

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See also:

08 Feb 01 | Scotland
Fury at MP's Taoiseach warning
29 Apr 00 | Scotland
Woman's bid to beat bigotry
22 Sep 99 | Scotland
Violent reminder of sectarianism
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