The Scottish Government today announced new funding to the value of £272,000 for organisations working to ‘eradicate bigotry in Scotland’:
This follows the introduction of The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 that came into force earlier this year:
It is hoped that the introduction of innovative community based projects will help to ‘root sectarianism out of our communities’. In discussing these projects, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Roseanna Cunningham said that:
“Hatred of any kind has no place in modern Scotland and we need to do everything we can to stop it wherever and whenever it occurs, whilst tackling the root causes”
Whilst I completely agree with the sentiment, and agree that some initiatives have had merit, I think that too many others have fallen short, or missed the mark completely, and as a result the problem of sectarianism remains very much alive.
Not because insufficient money has been invested in initiatives over the piece, but because the historical root causes of sectarianism in Scotland are often poorly understood, inaccurately represented and more often than not, debated with prejudice, on the street, in the media and in parliament.
There are various root causes that are important to think about:
But here is another one: too many people obsessively refer to such historical events as root causes of sectarianism without fully comprehending their significance or enduring relevance.
And when our distorted historical interpretations are then transferred back on to the current set of problems, as we do when we are in search of solutions, the clarity required to properly address them diminishes, with the result that we create unnecessary laws and support many ineffective projects.
The terms of reference we use today are loaded with so many misleading associations and false assumptions that we are in danger of placing too much emphasis on certain aspects of the problem – such as football rivalry – and less on others – such as sociocultural elitism and psychological depravity.
If the Scottish Government is serious about ‘rooting sectarianism out of our communities’, then it needs to stop trying to patch up the symptoms. It needs to seek clarity with respect to the real causes of the problem, and make some courageous decisions to overhaul the political and economic frameworks that sustain them.
My guess is that they will just keep patching things up. It is much easier that way.