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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 May, 2003, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Many Scots 'still face sectarian abuse'
Celtic and Rangers fans

Sectarian abuse remains a widespread problem in Scotland with 13% of people claiming to have suffered some form of it, according to a BBC poll.

The survey suggests that Catholics are nearly four times as likely to have been victims of sectarianism as Protestants.

Many victims said they had been targeted by light-hearted abuse, but more than one in five said they had been physically assaulted.

The poll for Radio Five Live follows moves to combat sectarianism by Scotland's First Minister Jack McConnell.

He described sectarianism as the nation's secret shame and said it was a phenomenon many people were still unwilling to acknowledge.

Immigration

The polling organisation, System Three, interviewed more than 1,000 people in January and February for the survey.

They found sectarianism was at its worst in the west of Scotland.

Fred Forrester, former deputy secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, believes the abolition of Catholic schools could ease bigotry.

"I'm very concerned that the separate school system is a contributory factor here," said Mr Forrester.

"I'm not saying it's the only factor by no means but it is certainly a contributory factor to sectarianism."

In Scotland, because of its peculiar history, the whole issue of sectarianism is rooted back in the history of the Irish immigrant community
Michael McGrath

But Michael McGrath, the Catholic church's education representative in Scotland, dismissed the claim.

"In other parts of the world the Catholic school system is well recognised as making a significant contribution to society, it's not under attack, if anything it's acclaimed," he said.

"In Scotland, because of its peculiar history, the whole issue of sectarianism is rooted back in the history of the Irish immigrant community."

Modern day Irish immigration into the west of Scotland started in the 19th century.

In December Mr McConnell urged Scots to consign bigotry "to the dustbin of history".

He promised tough new laws to tackle sectarianism and said everyone had a role to play.

Football supporters

Mr McConnell said new laws would deal with all crimes motivated by prejudice against other religions, with recommendations including better communication between the police, the Crown Office and football clubs.

It was suggested that football supporters warned, suspended or banned from matches as a result of sectarian behaviour should be named and shamed.

Mr McConnell said most faiths had come under threat from "bigoted and ignorant" people in Scotland.

It's only when people realise that there's a cost to their actions that they are unprepared to pay that their behaviour will change
Peter McLean,
Nil by Mouth

"We cannot have a situation where people are stabbing, or murdering, or causing violence on a Saturday night in Scotland simply as a result of other people's religion," he said.

Peter McLean, from anti-sectarian group Nil by Mouth, said he was "not surprised at all" by the findings.

He also said Old Firm clubs Rangers and Celtic had made some "good moves" recently to stamp out religious bigotry among their supporters.

"But while these are fine words it's really now time for the clubs to demonstrate their principles by acting in terms of removing people from the ground when they behave in a sectarian manner, removing their season tickets and putting bans in place and publicising them," he added.

"It's only when people realise that there's a cost to their actions that they are unprepared to pay that their behaviour will change."




SEE ALSO:
Have your say: Sectarianism
25 May 03  |  Scotland
'Tsar' to promote church schools
20 May 03  |  Scotland
Bigotry study raises racism fears
11 Feb 03  |  Scotland
Scots must 'unite' to beat bigotry
05 Dec 02  |  Scotland
Tackling bigotry: the proposals
05 Dec 02  |  Scotland
Old Firm tackle bigotry
16 Oct 02  |  Scotland
Scots given bigotry warning
13 Oct 02  |  Scotland


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