The number of people being found guilty of sectarian hate crimes has soared to a record high across Scotland.

Figures obtained by Glasgow MSP Anne McTaggart show that 518 people were convicted of sectarian offences during 2011/12: a rise of over 30% from the previous year.

The figures show a record number of guilty verdicts across the country since anti-sectarian legislation was passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2003. Numbers rose right across the country but the West of Scotland remains a hotspot with 80% of the total number of convictions.

The figures have prompted renewed calls from anti-sectarian campaigners for a compulsory rehabilitation scheme for offenders.

Nil By Mouth Campaign Director Dave Scott said:

“One of the most tragic things about these figures is that a fair proportion of those involved will have used abusive words, songs or phrases that they don’t really understand.

“A fine, community service or custodial sentence may help curb criminal behaviour but we also need to address the underlying attitudes.

“That is why we are renewing our calls for a compulsory rehabilitation scheme for those convicted which would achieve this and we will be lobbying politicians, the Crown Office and the police to make this a reality.”