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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 20:21 GMT
MSP angers Catholics over schooling
Newspaper headline
A task force has been set up to fight sectarianism
A Scottish politician who wants new legislation to combat sectarianism has suggested that ending Catholic schooling could help solve the problem.

Liberal Democrat MSP Donald Gorrie said "society might be better" if the Catholic schools system was ended in Scotland, but only through detailed discussion and agreement.

But Mr Gorrie's comments were described as "insulting" by a Catholic educationalist, who said the schools were dedicated to teaching tolerance.

Donald Gorrie
Donald Gorrie: Suggested end to segregation
Mr Gorrie's comments came as an anti-bigotry task force met in Edinburgh to consider whether Scotland needs an anti-sectarianism law.

The Central Scotland region MSP pledged to continue efforts to combat sectarianism, after a meeting with the Scottish Executive, police chiefs and racial equality campaigners in the group.

Mr Gorrie also said segregated schooling may have to considered.

He said: "Society might be better if they (Catholic schools) were phased out but it has to be done by agreement all round and it's up to other people to persuade the Catholics or get together in some way."

The comments prompted an angry reaction from John Oates, of the Catholic Education Commission

He said: "I find it quite insulting really to associate Catholic education and particularly Catholic schools with sectarianism and bigotry.

Modern society

"We are totally opposed to them, we are the very opposite of what they are.

"We actually stand for something which is good."

The Scottish Executive's working group has been set up to consider whether the law on sectarianism in Scotland needs updating, or even replacing with new legislation, in view of modern Scottish society.

An executive spokesman said there was no commitment to any change in the law ahead of the working group's conclusions, which are expected in the summer.

The meeting was chaired by current Deputy Justice Minister, Dr Richard Simpson, and included MSPs from the four main parties, the Commission for Racial Equality in Scotland and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland.

John Oates
John Oates: Found the remarks "insulting"
A spokesman for the anti-sectarianism charity Nil by Mouth said: "We commend the executive for this and hope this will bring about effective changes in legislation to deter people as well as offer a facility for courts to deal with crimes motivated by sectarianism."

He said one of the most important issues was education and urged people involved in the group to look at this issue.

Mr Gorrie, who has already introduced a bill to tackle sectarianism, said he was "pleased" with the meeting.

His private bill aims to give courts powers to impose additional penalties on those perpetrating offences motivated by religious hatred.

He said: "There was a good preliminary discussion on the issue at the meeting and people agreed that I should continue to promote my bill.

"I now know where I stand and I am currently analysing the close to 100 responses to my consultation I put out in October."

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 ON THIS STORY
Alan Mackay reports
"The MSP's comments may spark a fresh debate"
See also:

08 Oct 01 | Scotland
MSP learns about sectarian divide
02 May 01 | Scotland
New move to end sectarianism
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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