28 October 2015

Mr Wheelhouse with pupils who took part in the event, Selkirk HS Rector Wilma Burgon and Modern Studies Teacher Ms Jenna Swan.
Paul Wheelhouse MSP with Selkirk HS Rector Wilma Burgon, Modern Studies Teacher Ms Jenna Swan and pupils who participated in the event

The Scottish Government has thrown its weight behind efforts to encourage young people to think twice before they post sectarian abuse online.

The ‘Pause B4U Post’ campaign has been devised by anti-bigotry charity Nil by Mouth and students from City of Glasgow College and was launched last month.

On the 23rd October Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Paul Wheelhouse MSP helped launch the campaign’s educational package at a special event attended by more than 70 pupils at Selkirk High School.

The campaign targets young people who frequently use social media as their main method of communicating with friends. It uses highly recognisable images such as the ‘Facebook’ notification screen to highlight the consequences of posting sectarian, racist or other abusive comments online.  Posting such material in Scotland can result in a prison sentence and in recent months there have been a number of high profile cases involving footballers and celebrities.  In addition to the distress caused to those targeted, this behaviour can have serious consequences for the perpetrator’s reputation and employment prospects.

Nil by Mouth first commissioned research into online bigotry in 2005 and it has become an increasing problem over the past decade. In May the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Sectarianism highlighted the growing problem as a key battleground in the war against bigotry.

The event saw pupils explore the impact of the internet on our lives and habits and come up with their own social media campaigns aimed at warning other young people of the dangers of posting abuse online.

Pupils devised their own social media messages to support the campaign

Nil by Mouth Campaign Director Dave Scott said:
‘This campaign is all about making sure young people are aware that their online actions can have very real consequences in the real world. The internet is a huge part of their lives but sadly we are increasingly seeing people use the internet, and social media sites in particular, to spread hate and bigotry. Having worked with a number of offenders, victims and families over the past few years it’s clear to us that some people do not think there are any consequences for abusing people online. Young people are at particular risk as they tend to be the biggest users of social media. That’s why we want young people to come up with campaigns to get this important message across. We want this campaign to hammer home to people the very real consequences of posting abusive material online and hopefully it will encourage them to pause before they post. ‘

Paul Wheelhouse MSP Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs said:
“It gives me great pleasure to attend Selkirk High School today to support Nil by Mouth’s work with young people and the wider communities through their two projects, Beyond Religion and Belief and Champions for Change. Sectarianism is a very complex and difficult issue, but the Scottish Government is determined to find innovative and appropriate ways to create a modern, sectarian-free Scotland that help to rid us of the prejudices of the past. We are committed to creating and supporting safer and stronger communities – where we live, work and play – in which we all take responsibility for our actions. ‘Pause B4U Post’ is a fantastic campaign, warning of the dangers and potential consequences of posting online bigotry and asking people, such as the pupils here in Selkirk, to take a step back before they put material online.

I am sure that this event and the ‘Pause B4U Post’ campaign will provide a stimulating and engaging interaction between pupils, teachers, parents and the wider communities across Scotland to explore sectarianism and other forms of hate crime. As a parent living in the Borders I am very pleased to see such an important issue being addressed to ensure that young people locally do not have their lives affected by bigotry and that all young people understand the potential impact of their actions and the importance of treating each other with respect.”