FM meets Old Firm in anti-sectarian talks


The Old Firm are to work hand in hand with the Executive in tackling football-related sectarianism, First Minister Jack McConnell said today after meeting representatives of the two football clubs at Bute House in Edinburgh.

Rangers chairman John McClelland and Celtic Chief Executive Ian McLeod were there to discuss the potential for involvement in anti-bigotry projects with schools, and ways of discouraging street traders from selling paramilitary paraphernalia outside football grounds.

First Minister with representatives of Rangers and Celtic in Bute House

Afterwards, the First Minister said: "We have agreed that my office and the clubs will join together in joint activities.

"Initially that will be in the field of education, where the two clubs joining together with government will take a lead and will try to ensure that the next generation of young Scots are tolerant, respect traditions and ensure that we make sectarianism in Scotland a thing of the past."

He added:

"I think that the sale of, particularly, paramilitary memorabilia outside of the grounds is something that should be covered by licensing conditions for the street traders.

"I believe that is something that government can act upon and the clubs both want us to act upon."

Earier this month (October 7) following events surrounding a weekend Celtic-Rangers match in Glasgow, Justice Minister Jim Wallace talked about the need to remove the "ugly spectre" of sectarianism from Scottish society.

He said:

"So many people in our country are working hard to make Scotland a more tolerant place but there is no doubt that religious hatred frequently casts a dark shadow over those efforts. (First Minister) Jack McConnell and I will take a firm stance against sectarianism.

"We already have a Working Group examining the need for legislation to combat religious hatred. That Group is due to report very shortly. Ministers will consider the views of the Group very carefully but if we believe that legislation can help us to tackle sectarianism then we will not hesitate to go down that road.

"Changing the law has two factors in its favour. Firstly, it could strengthen the existing legal position. Secondly, it would send out a very clear signal from the Scottish Parliament that religious hatred has no place in a modern Scotland and will not be tolerated.

"I expect to receive the Report from the Working Group very shortly. The progress of the Criminal Justice Bill through the Parliament means that it will be important for Ministers to take a prompt decision on how to proceed. That is exactly what we will do."