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Sunday, 13 October, 2002, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
Scots given bigotry warning
Football fans
Sectarianism and football are linked in Scotland
Sectarianism could become "synonymous with Scotland" unless people take swift action to stamp it out, First Minister Jack McConnell has warned.

Mr McConnell said football clubs, politicians, police and local councils should work together and use their influence to vanquish the generations-old blight of bigotry.

Violence and arrests at the Celtic-Rangers Old Firm clash in Glasgow last week showed Scotland's "darkest side" and was a "wake-up call" that bigotry was alive and well.

He said: "An Old Firm football match, once again, was the trigger that resulted in a very public display of the deep-rooted sectarianism that permeates much of Scotland's society."

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell has been touched by bigotry

"Football clubs must ban those who are responsible for whipping up the frenzy of hatred and violence and they must act against the sale of symbols of hatred at their grounds."

The problem was not just confined to the West of Scotland, the Motherwell and Wishaw MSP insisted, but infected communities everywhere north of the border.

Writing in the Sunday Herald he added: "I have become convinced that this is not just a scar on Scotland's past, but a reality today."

The Scots Labour leader, who is from a Church of Scotland family but married into a Catholic family, said he had himself encountered bigotry when he left home and went to university.

"I quickly learned that being asked which school you went to was not a casual inquiry into your background, it was a short way of asking your religion," he wrote.

'Culture of shame'

"I also have first-hand experience of the repercussions that follow when you make a stand against sectarianism, the whispering behind your back as people try to work out what religion you are."

He said that police officers and the judiciary must be seen to be impartial and above suspicion of sectarian motivation.

And he welcomed initiatives by local councils to develop joint denominational and non-denominational schools.

Mr McConnell warned: "To eliminate sectarianism everyone must accept that this is not harmless banter - this is mindless violence and a culture of shame."

See also:

17 Sep 02 | Scotland
22 Sep 02 | Scotland
17 Sep 02 | Scotland
11 Oct 01 | Scotland
02 May 01 | Scotland
08 Feb 01 | Scotland
29 Apr 00 | Scotland
22 Sep 99 | Scotland
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