Tuesday, 13 December 2011
Offensive behaviour and threatening communications
We all want to see a Scotland that is free from hatred and bigotry. This will take time and effort, and the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill alone will not in itself be enough.
It will be locally led and locally delivered community initiatives that will drive social and cultural change. Churches, schools, charities, police and statutory agencies need to be at the heart of a national anti-sectarianism strategy. It is for the Scottish Government to facilitate co-ordination and agenda setting, with all stakeholders, and for a national strategy to be visionary, long-term and attract cross-party support. This issue is too important to be used to try to seek political advantage; once this Bill has finished its progress through Parliament, MSP’s from all parties need to work together on a programme of action to combat sectarianism.
We know that sectarian attitudes and behaviours are not only found at football matches, and we know that the tackling of sectarian attitudes and behaviours cannot only be through the criminal justice system. So how are our schools resourced to teach about and explore the issues behind bigotry? What are the most effective interventions? How can leadership – spiritual, political, local community and football role-models – express clearly that there is no place for intolerance in Scotland.
I warmly commend the important work that has already taken place funded by churches, football clubs, the Scottish Government, local authorities, the police and charitable groups. It therefore should be recognised that we are not starting from scratch, however, a more co-ordinated strategy, with appropriate leadership and which has broad support, could lead to meaningful change.