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Last Updated: Monday, 30 January 2006, 19:57 GMT
Schools 'twinned' to beat bigotry
St Mirin RC Primary in Glasgow
First Minister Jack McConnell visits an anti-sectarianism project.
Initiatives to "twin" Roman Catholic and non-denominational schools are to be encouraged as part of an action plan to tackle sectarianism in Scotland.

The plan was unveiled by First Minister Jack McConnell, who said "people power" was vital in stamping out bigotry.

The ideas include the introduction of twinning schemes where pupils would play sport together, meet for music and drama classes and go on field trips.

This summer an anti-sectarian play will be performed to hundreds of pupils.

The action plan was unveiled during a visit to St Mirin's Primary School in Glasgow, which is planning to take part in a twinning initiative with Croftfoot Primary School.

It is ordinary Scots who can make the biggest difference
Jack McConnell
First Minister

The Scottish Executive said it would support and expand a range of initiatives which had emerged from the national summit on sectarianism held in February last year.

The 18 key actions featured in the plan include the funding of an STUC study into the effects of sectarianism in the workplace.

The range of legal options which can be used to crack down on abusive behaviour at marches and parades will be reviewed and the case for football-style banning orders will be examined.

Mr McConnell said: "This is a national effort, and we all have a part to play. But it is ordinary Scots who can make the biggest difference.

"It is in Scotland's communities that bigoted attitudes are born and nurtured. And it is in Scotland's communities that these attitudes can be wiped out for good."

Shared campus

Shared school campuses have already sparked rows in parts of Scotland.

The Roman Catholic Church in North Lanarkshire only dropped its fight against five joint school campuses when the council agreed to its demands on the appropriate use of iconography, the provision of separate entrances and staffrooms in each school area.

In Midlothian, pupils were initially segregated when St David's Roman Catholic High School and Dalkeith High were moved to a shared campus.

If the first minister is serious about tackling this issue in Scotland then he needs to start including, rather than excluding, different groups within Scottish society
Ian Wilson
Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland

Meanwhile, Catholic church spokesman Peter Kearney said: "I spoke to Cardinal Keith O'Brien a couple of weeks ago about this and he made the point that he had not been invited to participate in anything since the summit last February .

"Our view is that there hasn't been a lot of assistance in bringing people together other than that one-off February meeting which we thought was the beginning of a process but which looks more and more as if it was simply an event."

The Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland said it had not been asked to contribute to the plan to tackle sectarianism, despite promises made at the summit.

Grand Master of the Orange Lodge, Ian Wilson, said: "We only found out on Thursday of last week that the first minister had drawn up this action plan.

"We were advised of this in an e-mail which informed us that we would not be invited to the launch of the document.

"If the first minister is serious about tackling this issue in Scotland then he needs to start including, rather than excluding, different groups within Scottish society."

The Campaign for Muslim Schools backed the first minister's proposals but warned that too much emphasis was being placed on schooling in ending prejudice.

Spokesman Osama Saeed said: "The Muslim community already suffers racism and Islamophobia without a single Muslim school being in existence, so it's misleading to put schools at the heart of hatred."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the launch of the sectarianism action plan



SEE ALSO:
Children urged to combat bigotry
22 Mar 05 |  Scotland
'Historic' summit tackles bigotry
14 Feb 05 |  Scotland
Shared campus court action lifted
19 Nov 04 |  Scotland


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