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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Old Firm tackle bigotry
Jack McConnell
The first minister met Celtic and Rangers officials
The Old Firm have teamed up for a government-backed initiative aimed at stamping out sectarianism.

Following talks with the first minister, Celtic and Rangers have agreed to work together on anti-bigotry projects in schools.

Jack McConnell has also called for a crackdown on street traders who sell paramilitary paraphernalia outside football grounds.


It is an issue that needs to be tackled head-on in Scotland and we are delighted to play our part

Ian McLeod
Celtic chief executive
Rangers chairman John McClelland and Celtic chief executive Ian McLeod were invited to Mr McConnell's official Edinburgh residence, Bute House, to discuss new measures.

The first minister said he was "impressed" by the efforts being made by the two clubs.

"We have agreed that my office and the clubs will join together in joint activities," he said.

"Initially that will be in the field of education, where the two clubs joining together with government will take a lead and will try to ensure that the next generation of young Scots are tolerant, respect traditions and ensure that we make sectarianism in Scotland a thing of the past."

He said communication between the justice system and the Old Firm had to be improved so that those arrested for sectarian behaviour could be quickly banned from football grounds.

High profile

And he added: "I think that the sale of, particularly, paramilitary memorabilia outside of the grounds is something that should be covered by licensing conditions for the street traders.

"I believe that is something that government can act upon and the clubs both want us to act upon."

Mr McLeod welcomed the high profile being given to the problem of sectarianism.

Old Firm fans
Mr McConnell wants action from clubs
He said: "It is an issue that needs to be tackled head-on in Scotland and we are delighted to play our part."

Mr McLelland said Rangers were "heavily and actively involved" in fighting sectarianism among supporters.

"I think having the first minister's leadership in this area is absolutely ideal and we look forward to continuing this dialogue and seeing other initiatives develop," he said.

A Scottish Executive-backed working group has been examining ways of targeting sectarianism and is expected to recommend legislation as part of the new Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill.

Breached law

Wednesday's meeting took place amid continuing controversy over party funds in Mr McConnell's Motherwell and Wishaw constituency.

On Tuesday night Mr McConnell said it was "shocking" that his own local party had breached the law by failing to declare union donations.

He insisted that he had done nothing wrong and stressed that he would put the law before the Labour Party.

However, the Scottish National Party and Tories have been eager to keep up the pressure on Mr McConnell.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Political Editor Brian Taylor reports
"This is going to be tough. Bigotry appears ingrained."
See also:

15 Oct 02 | Scotland
15 Oct 02 | Scotland
14 Oct 02 | Scotland
13 Oct 02 | Scotland
11 Oct 02 | Scotland
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