Sectarianism has plagued Scotland for centuries. With a basis in conflict between the sects of Christianity, sectarianism in Scotland is now widely regarded as a broader social issues. Since Nil by Mouth was acheived the status of a registered Scottish charity in 2000, some progress has been made in challenging this type of prejudice…
Employment Law – Until 2003 it was legal for employers in Scotland to discriminate on grounds of religion and belief (and no belief). Over the course of Scottish history many people suffered from this lack of protection by being subject to direct and indirect discrimination both in the workplace and in their search for employment. The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations introduced in 2003 sought to bring an end to these injustices. The Equality Act 2010 is the most recent piece of legislation relating to equality in employment and brings together various strands of existing legislation, while enhancing some areas of protection.Most provisions of the act are effective from October 2010.
Sectarian Crime – In 2003 sectarianism became what is commonly known as a ‘hate crime’ under Scottish law. Anyone who commits an offence such as an assault, murder, or breach of the peace is likely to be given a stiffer sentence if the act was motivated by religious hatred – just as it would be with racial hatred.
The change in law, supported by Nil By Mouth, was enacted in Section 74of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 by an amendment from Donald Gorrie, the Liberal Democrat MSP for Central Scotland. A 2006 Crown Office report on the use of this legislation is available at www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2006/11/24133659/0
Policy on Parades- Organisers of Orange Order walks and Republican parades signed up to an agreement in 2005 with Glasgow City Council and Strathclyde Police to work together to reduce public disorder at these events. The policy aims to ensure that people who attend public processions do not indulge in abusive sectarian behaviour. The document can be viewed at www.glasgow.gov.uk
The number of Orange walks in the west of Scotland continues to far outweigh any other walks and parades.
The debate continues today regarding the purpose, benefit and impact of such parades and marches in Scotland.
Old Firm Initiatives - Rangers and Celtic football clubs both run a number of initiatives to tackle sectarian attitudes and behaviour amongst their supporters in recent years. The Glasgow clubs’ campaigns seek to educate young people about the problems of prejudice, and encourage fans to support their team without indulging in sectarian behaviour. More information can be found on the clubs’ websites, and feedback on this work should be directed to the relevant football club.
Football Banning Orders are part of the Police,Public Order and Criminal Justice ( Scotland) Act 2006, introduced on the 1st of September 2006. These Banning Orders exist for the purpose of banning violent or abusive trouble-makers from games and associated flashpoints, across the UK and abroad, for up to 10 years. Banning Orders existed in England and Wales before being introduced in Scotland, and one of the drivers for their introduction was sectarian motivated bahaviour. Work continues today on ensuring these measures are fully understood and appropriately applied.
Scottish Government Action Plan – The previous administration, The Scottish Executive, in 2006 launched an 18-Point Action Plan on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland. The strategy focused on a wide range of areas including education, research, football and churches. The plan can be viewed at www.scotland.gov.uk
The current Administration have commited to a continuation of work in this field. Refer to their website and publications for more information on this work.
In November 2009 Fergus Ewing, Community Safety Minister, said:
“For far too long sectarianism has plagued the lives of many of our people. Tackling discrimination, wherever and whenever it arises, is the responsibility of us all.
“This Government’s strategy on tackling sectarianism is based on funding key projects and bringing together organisations to work together to send a clear message throughout the country that sectarianism is never acceptable, never excusable.
“We are already funding Nil By Mouth, Sense Over Sectarianism and Show Racism the Red Card, working directly in our communities to tackle sectarianism and discrimination. We have also set up The Working Group on Racial and Religious Intolerance, The Fooball Banning Orders Monitoring Group and The Promoting Citizenship through Football Partnership.
“Football Banning Orders are an important weapon in tackling abusive behaviour in or around our football grounds. Statistics show that there is a higher use of FBO’s south of the border. Although England and Wales have had FBO’s for longer, I want us to look at their experience to see if any lessons can be learned.
“I want to ensure that they are sought on every occasion that sectarian abuse, violence or disorder occurs and that is why I will be asking the FBO Monitoring Group to look at their use to date.
“Scotland has many marches and parades every year. Although the vast majority of them pass without incident, a minority of them can be the cause of public disorder and other forms of antisocial behaviour which can disrupt our communities. I want to work with the police and local authorities to ensure that we can work together for the good of all our communities.
“Sectarianism has blighted Scotland for too long. But working together we are committed to building a Scotland where sectarianism is consigned to the dustbin of history, a Scotland that recognises and celebrates that all our faiths and cultures make us a better, stronger nation.”
Popular Support – Perhaps the most crucial achievement of all is that the wall of fear, acceptance and silence surrounding sectarianism which confronted Cara when she launched Nil By Mouth is slowly but steadily being eroded. Many people are gaining the courage to debate the issue with each other in streets, homes, pubs and workplaces across Scotland. Many schools and community groups have joined the campaign and are running their own initiatives to challenge sectarianism. More individuals are gaining the courage to speak out against bigotry and stand up for their belief in a changing and more tolerant, multicultural society. This has helped to put the issue in the media spotlight and on the agenda of politicians and organisations with the power and resources to help rid Scotland of religious hatred.
But there is still much work to be done.