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Religious Discrimination Sectarianism in Scotland: A Brief Review of Evidence (2002 - 2004)



Annex A

This briefing was prepared for the Equality Unit by Linda Nicholson, Central Research Unit, March 2002.


You asked for information about research relating to the issues of sectarianism, religious hatred and discrimination particularly in a Scottish context.

I undertook a scoping exercise based on the following:

  • Planning Exchange databases
  • Home Office Research
  • JRF database
  • ESRC Regard database
  • Runnymede Trust website
  • Websites of relevant Universities: Warwick, Bristol, Bradford
  • Relevant CRU research: Audit of Research on Minority Ethnic Issues
  • Liaison with CJ research branch
  • Personal contact with Scottish Academic research community


Overall, very little research evidence exists on these issues in the contemporary Scottish context. The searches undertaken revealed scant research attention to religious hatred/discrimination in Scotland, with limited focus (mostly historical) on issues of sectarianism.

The lack of a robust statistical evidence base to underpin research exploration is likely to have curtailed progress to date, and the forthcoming 2001 Census data may open up new possibilities for research. Another new major data source of relevance is the 2001 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey module on religious belief and behaviour. I attach a relevant handout (hard copy) from the recent Conference which we both attended and at which preliminary analysis of the data was presented. The SSAS data is not, however, likely to stand up to detailed disaggregation and interrogation of the data, for example, to geographical area level.

Within Scotland the relevant but limited research work appears to have been undertaken within the policy domains of governance/sociology (Edinburgh Univ. - Dave McCrone, Lindsay Paterson/Aberdeen Univ. - Steve Bruce, Tony Glendinning), Sport (Stirling Univ. - Joseph Bradley), Health (Glasgow Univ. - Rory Williams) with ad hoc work in the spheres of social care and education. Details of key research studies/publications identified by the search are listed below.


1. Religion in Modern Scotland

ESRC funded current work being undertaken by Steve Bruce and Tony Glendinning, Aberdeen University.

Commissioning of a module on religious belief and behaviour in the 2001 SSAS, with the aim of addressing, inter alia, a) sectarianism (how relevant is religion for other forms of identity and how important is religio-ethnic identity in modern Scotland; and b) conventional religion (how popular is church attendance and how is it related to social-economic, political and demographic characteristics).

The research is underway with a completion date of end Jan 2003.

2. Class, Creed and Community Integration in the west of Scotland 1918-85

ESRC funded completed work undertaken by Tom Gallagher, Bradford University

Project monitoring the relations between the host community and Irish immigrants and their descendants from 1918 onwards and an examination of why community divisions failed to reach critical proportions although many of the ingredients of the N.I. conflict were present on Clydeside. Key factors encouraging gradual absorption and integration are identified and the failure of sectarianism to be completely eradicated is discussed.

3. Sectarianism in Glasgow and Liverpool

An essay by Damer,S (1989) reviewing research by Gallager,T on religious tension in modern Scotland and Neal,F on Sectarian violence: the Liverpool experience 1819-1914.


A few relevant items identified:

4 . Bruce, S (1999) "Social Divisions and the Social Impact of Catholic Schools" in Scottish Affairs, No. 29, 1999, pp 1-8.

This discusses the recently stated assertion that Scotland remains a bigoted and sectarian society with the descendants of early twentieth century Irish migrants still experiencing social, political and economic discrimination. This assertion is challenged by examining social-economic status and reviewing the clear convergence that exists between Catholics and non-Catholics in Scotland. It looks at the situation in N.I. and compares it with attitudes in Scotland. It considers marriage patterns and cultural identity. It discusses the social impact of schooling and the declining divisiveness and influence of segregated schools throughout the country.

5. Hemming,H and Saeed, A(1995) "Religious Education for Muslims: Opinions from second generation Pakistani Muslims in Scotland" (Applied Social Studies Department, University of Paisley).

6. Gordon, S (1998) "Meeting the religious, personal and social needs of Muslim children in Scottish primary schools" (Aberdeen Campus, Northern College).

Social Care

7. Millen, D (2000), "The relationship between religion and services to children in Scotland" (Edinburgh: Children in Scotland).

Focused on the extent to which minority religious beliefs were acknowledged and met within mainstream services of adoption and fostering, education and non-statutory social support (e.g. services to young people who were affected by HIV/AIDS).

8. Glasgow University Centre for the Study of Child and Society and Muslim Network (1995) "The needs of Muslim Women" (Glasgow: The Muslim Network).

Research reports on the high percentage of women who felt discriminated against because of their religion and concludes that there is a high demand of Muslim women specific services in the areas of social work, leisure and health.

9. Samuel, E and Pearson, C (1999) "The Jewish Community of Greater Glasgow: Population and Residential Patterns" (University of Edinburgh).

Focuses on the importance of planning housing, care and support services which take into account the cultural and religious needs of an ageing community, who were increasingly living apart from their family.


Research by Mullen and by Williams has considered the role of religion and religious discrimination in health and health-related behaviours in those of Irish descent e.g.:

10. Mullen,K et al (1996) "Irish descent, religion and alcohol and tobacco use", Addiction Vol. 91, no. 2: pp242-254.

11. Williams, R (1993) "Religion and Illness", in Radley, A (ed.) Worlds of illness (London: Routledge).

Criminal Justice

12. CRU criminal justice branch is considering a new major study of violence with a focus on the west of Scotland. Likely start date is May/June with an expected completion in 2004. Although not a central focus of the work, the issue of religious hatred may emerge and could be pursued if appropriate. The research developed from discussions with Strathclyde police and has ACPO(S) endorsement.


Home Office

13. Weller,P et al (2001) "Religious Discrimination in England and Wales" (University of Derby)

Research based on fieldwork in Blackburn, Cardiff, Leicester and Newham and a postal questionnaire to a range of religious organisations in England and Wales. Aimed to assess the evidence of religious discrimination both actual and perceived; describe the patterns emerging; indicate the extent of overlap with racial discrimination and identify suitable policy options. Muslim organisations most likely to say that ignorance, hostility and discriminatory practices had worsened over the last five years. Christian and Jewish respondents thought things had stayed much the same. Respondents in Wales thought less progress had been made compared to counterparts in England (Scotland not covered by this study). Discrimination most likely to be experienced in education, employment and the media. Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus frequently reported unfair treatment in areas such as immigration, policing and prisons.

Associated "Policy Options" documented in:

14. Hepple,B and Choudhury, T (2001) "Tackling religious discrimination: practical implications for policy-makers and legislators".


15. Established the "Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia" in 1996 and produced a 1997 consultation paper " Isamophobia its features and dangers". The report " Islamophobia: a challenge for us all" (1997) was based on this exercise. The document contains 60 recommendations and focuses on Muslim communities.

16. Anti-Semitism tackled in the Runnymede's Commission on Anti-Semitism's report " A very light Sleeper: The persistence and dangers of anti-Semitism" (1994 reprinted 1997).

Since Sept 11 a new section of the Runnymede website has been developed to focus on islamophobia ( www.runnymedetrust.org/meb/islamaphobia/index.html)


Overall, little Scottish focused work with main emphasis on sectarianism, religious hatred/discrimination. 2001 Census data may open up new possibilities for exploration. SSAS data likely to stimulate new research analysis along the lines of "religion not the most pressing social divide in Scotland". The new CJ study may inform issues around the significance and manifestation of religious hatred although these are not the main foci of study.

Overall, little Scottish focused work with main emphasis on sectarianism, religious hatred/discrimination. 2001 Census data may open up new possibilities for exploration. SSAS data likely to stimulate new research analysis along the lines of "religion not the most pressing social divide in Scotland". The new CJ study may inform issues around the significance and manifestation of religious hatred although these are not the main foci of study.