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Response to the report from the Working Group on Defining Sectarianism

We note with serious concern both the analysis and recommendations of the Working Group. The analysis is highly contestable and will lead to a very contentious public debate around both the underlying statistical evidence and the definitions used in the report. The document both acknowledges the serious errors in the creation of the Offensive Behaviours Act and then seeks to repeat them. The document treats as empirically equivalent the expression anti-Catholicism and anti-Irish racism with equally wrong but significantly less prevalent of anti-Protestant and anti-Britishness. That is, in itself, an act of prejudice by the Working Group against our community.

The act of a 'sectarian' aggravation would make the statistical evidence harder to interpret and mask the true nature of anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism in Scottish society by formally subsuming it into the contested category of 'sectarianism'.

To the minimal extent that the Working Group consulted with our community, it has failed to reflect the evidence presented to them. This is a breach of the Scottish Government's own Human Rights based approach. There is no other group which would be ignored in these circumstances and talked about rather than listened to. This means the Working Group report has no credibility and is destined to failure.

Finally, these recommendations, if accepted by the Scottish Government, both contradict the detailed, expert report of Lord Bracadale and carry the risk of plunging Scottish society back into an extremely heated and unnecessary debate which will be both damaging and a diversion from addressing the long standing and evidenced reality of anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism in Scotland.


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