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An Examination of the Evidence on Sectarianism in Scotland: 2015 Update

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Section 2: Experiences Of Sectarianism

Summary

  • In contrast to the strong perceptions of sectarianism in Scotland, there is evidence to show that personal experiences of it are relatively uncommon in terms of harassment, discrimination and criminal victimisation.
  • The Scottish Household Survey (2013) reported very low levels of self-reported sectarian discrimination and harassment in the last 3 years. Overall, 7% of the sample reported that they had experienced any kind of discrimination - and 6% of adults reported experience of any kind of harassment. However, only 0.3% of the sample reported sectarian-related discrimination and 0.2% reported sectarian-related harassment.
  • The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey found a higher prevalence of discrimination than the Scottish Household Survey, with Catholics much more likely to have ever been the (self-reported) victims of employment discrimination. Fourteen percent of Catholics said they had been refused a job or promotion (compared to 1-5% for other groups) and had also experienced more harassment or threats because of their religious beliefs (15% compared to 2-10% for other groups). The higher reported prevalence in the attitudes survey is likely to be due to the fact that this is based on a longer time frame and may include historical experiences as well as recent experiences.
  • Relatively few people are worried about being personally insulted, pestered or intimidated for any reason. Just 3% of respondents in the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) said they were worried about being personally victimised for 'ethnicity/race' or 'sectarianism' reasons. The level of worry appears to decrease with age. Young people were more worried about being harassed for sectarianism reasons (5% of those aged 16-24) than older people (1% of those aged 60 and over), although this may be connected with the higher perceived risk of general victimisation among younger people.
  • Over recent years the SCJS has reported relatively low levels of sectarian crime. In 2008/09 1% of crimes were thought to be motivated by sectarianism, falling to 0.5% in 2009/10. In 2010/11 it was 1% while in 2012/13 (the most recently available figure) it was again 1%.
  • Religious hate-crime accounted for around 10% of all hate crime charges in Scotland in 2013-14 (racial hate-crime accounted for 69%), and is at its lowest level since 2009-10.
  • Roman Catholicism has been the religion most commonly cited in reported 'religiously aggravated' charges in the last four years since these statistics have been presented. In 2013-14, 63% of charges included reference to behaviour that was derogatory towards Catholicism - although this represents a year-on-year reduction in 'Catholicism' related charges since 2010-11, and a 5% decrease in 2013-14 from the previous year.
  • In 48% of cases the religious prejudice was directed towards a police officer, in 26% of cases it was directed towards the general community, in 27% of cases towards a member of the public and in 11% of cases to someone else working in their official capacity. The fact that so many incidents were directed towards the police or someone acting in their official capacity suggests that, in many cases, the accused was unlikely to have known the religion of the victim and that the religious abuse may have been arbitrary in nature.

Introduction

This section considers evidence about personal experiences of sectarianism in Scotland, including information about the people and groups who are most likely to have experienced it, and in what situations.

Proportion of people experiencing religious discrimination or exclusion

In contrast to the strong perceptions of sectarianism in Scotland, there is evidence to show that personal experiences of it are relatively rare. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2014, showed that 14% of people have experienced a form of religious discrimination or exclusion in their lives. This finding is based on a question which asked whether any of the following situations had ever happened because of people's attitudes towards their religious beliefs or background: being excluded from a social event, being refused a job or promotion, or being harassed or threatened. However, the long time frame asked about in this survey - i.e. if this had 'ever' happened to them - may have identified historic experiences reflective of times when sectarianism was more present and prevalent, as well as more recent experiences.

The Scottish Household Survey (SHS) (2013) however contained questions which explored peoples' experiences of discrimination and harassment (based on age, gender ethnic group, religion, disability, sexual orientation or sectarian or other reasons) limited to a more recent period of time - the last 3 years. This showed very low levels of self-reported sectarian discrimination and harassment. Overall, 7% of adults reported that they had experienced any kind of discrimination - a similar proportion reported by men and women. Similarly 6% of adults reported experience of any kind of harassment (experienced equally by both genders)[19]. In terms of perceived reasons, of the 664 people who reported having experienced discrimination, sectarian reasons were cited by 4% (around 0.3% of all adults), while religion was cited by 8% (0.5% of all adults) (see table 3 below). Levels of discrimination based on 'sectarian' or 'religious' reasons were much lower than 'ethnic group', which was the most commonly cited reason, with just under a third saying this (31%).[20] In terms of perceived reasons for harassment, of the 554 people who said they had experienced this, the proportion who said 'sectarian' reasons was again low, 4% (around 0.2% of the whole sample), while a similar proportion (5%) believed it was due to their religion (around 0.3% of the whole sample). Echoing the findings on discrimination, a much higher proportion said they had been harassed because of their ethnic group (18%)[21].

Table 3: Perceived reasons for discrimination and harassment, (Note, percentages are only for the sub-sample in the survey of people who said they were victims of harassment or discrimination in the last 3 years, not the whole sample) SHS 2013

Discriminated against Harassed
Age 13% 7%
Disability 7% 4%
Gender 8% 7%
Ethnic Group 31% 18%
Religion 8% 5%
Sexual orientation 4% 4%
Sectarian 4% 4%
Other 30% 50%
Don't know 2% 6%
Base 664 554

Further breakdown of these figures by religion[22] shows that 133 of those who said they had been discriminated against i.e. not the whole sample, were Roman Catholic and that of this sub-sample just over a fifth (n = 29 or 22%) said they had been discriminated against due to their religion (note, this is not 22% of Roman Catholics, but 22% of the 133 people who said they had been discriminated against).

Relatively few (8% (n=11)) Roman Catholics, who said they had been discriminated against, said they had been discriminated against due to 'sectarian' reasons, compared with 5% (n=6) for Protestants[23]. The most commonly cited specific[24] reason for discrimination given by just over a quarter of Roman Catholics however was related to their ethnic group (n=35 or 26%), while just under a fifth of protestants said this was on the basis of age (n=20 or 18%).

A similar pattern was evident in relation to the figures for harassment broken down by religion. Of the 100 Roman Catholics who reported having been harassed, 16% said this was due to their religion, higher than the 2% of (108) Protestants. A further 9% of Roman Catholics, who reported having been harassed, said they had been harassed for sectarian reasons, again slightly higher than the 5% proportion of Protestants who said the same. While these numbers are too small to draw firm conclusions upon, they do highlight that while the incidence of discrimination or harassment on the basis of religion or sectarian reasons was relatively low, Roman Catholic and Protestant groups were most likely to report discrimination on this basis.

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey also 2012/13 also contained a series of questions exploring respondents experiences of harassment over the last 12 months (whether they had been insulted, pestered or intimidated). A total of 9% (n=524) said they had been harassed in some way. However, this varied with age and a lower proportion of older people said they had been harassed compared with younger people (16% of those aged 16-24 compared with 3% of those aged 60 or over).

Of those who had been harassed, the vast majority, 81% of adults said this took the form of verbal abuse directed against them whereas around a third (34%) said this involved threats of violence. In terms of the perceived reasons for harassment, while most commonly people were unable to say the reason (76%), religion was cited as a reason by 3% (2% of males and 4% of females said this). Sectarianism was given as a reason by 3% (4% of Males and only 1% of females). Harassment on the perceived basis of religion or sectarianism was less commonly cited than ethnicity/race (8%), age or gender/gender identity (5%). Of the 9% who had been harassed, 3% said they were members of ('belonged to') Church of Scotland and 5% who said they were members of Roman Catholic churches.

Differences among religious groups

Discrimination reported in the SHS may be motivated by many factors, and we do not have information about the cause of the discrimination, or if this was related to an individual's self-reported religion. However, Catholics were much more likely to have been the (self-reported) victims of employment discrimination in both the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey and the Scottish Household Survey. Fourteen percent said they had been refused a job or promotion (compared to 1-5% for other groups) and had also experienced more harassment or threats because of their religious beliefs (15% compared to 2-10% for other groups)[25].

The relative strength of religious feeling also appeared to be a relevant factor. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey found that nearly 1 in 5 Catholics who say they are 'very' or 'fairly' religious said they had experienced job discrimination at some point in their lives, compared with 7% of those Catholics who said they were 'not very' or 'not at all' religious. More religious Catholics were also more likely to say that they had not been invited to or attended social events because of their religion (10% compared with 5% for less religious Catholics). However, people's strength of religious feeling did not make a difference to their reported experience of harassment or threatening behaviour - both more religious and less religious Catholics were equally likely to say they had been threatened or harassed at some point in their lives (14-15%).

In the Scottish Household Survey respondents who were Roman Catholic were more likely to report experiencing discrimination than those of the Church of Scotland (10% and 4% respectively, and those belonging to 'another religion' (i.e. any religion apart from Church of Scotland or Roman Catholicism) were much more likely to report experiencing discrimination than either group (21%)[26].

In 2011 the Scottish Household Survey asked about experiences of any kind of harassment, bullying or violence in the last two years. Eight per cent of people said they had experienced this (n=922). Of this group 8% believed it was because of their religion. Analysis of this figure showed that of the 71 people who said they had been harassed, bullied or subjected to violence because of their religion, 28 were Catholics and 4 were affiliated with the Church of Scotland[27].

In recognition of the perceived relevance of football culture and religion in Scotland, the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey also analysed the results of personal experiences of sectarianism by the football teams supported. Supporters of Celtic (a football club with historical associations with Catholicism) were much more likely than fans of other clubs to say that they had experienced sectarianism. 16% of Celtic fans have experienced job discrimination, compared with only 2% of Rangers fans and 3% of those who support other Scottish clubs. Celtic fans were also more likely to say they had been excluded from social events because of their religious beliefs than were fans of Rangers (8% compared with 3%). 22% of Celtic supporters compared with 4-8% for supporters of other teams said they had experienced harassment or threats at some point in their lives because of their religious beliefs or background.

Figure 7: Religious discrimination by football support

Religious discrimination by football support

This may mean that some of the general perception that Catholics are more usually the victims of sectarianism is true, however because this question also includes experiences that may have happened a long time ago, there is no evidence about how recent these are.

Worry about victimisation

A small proportion of people in the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey were worried about being personally insulted, pestered or intimidated for any reason. Just 3% of respondents said they were worried about being personally victimised for 'ethnicity/race' or 'sectarianism' reasons. A further 2% said they were worried about harassment on the basis of religion, disability/condition or age, while only 1% said they worried about being harassed due to gender/gender identity or sexual orientation.

The level of worry appears to decrease with age. Young people were more worried about being harassed for sectarianism reasons (5% of those aged 16-24) than older people (1% of those aged 60 and over), although this may be connected with the higher perceived risk of general victimisation among younger people.

Self-reported exclusionary behaviour

Some of the more subtle impacts of sectarianism might include self-imposed exclusionary behaviour, self-censorship. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2014 addressed this question by asking people if they ever 'think twice' about telling someone that they were a Catholic/Protestant/other religious affiliate.

Very few people reported ever doing this - only 3% said they had ever done it and 11% said they had occasionally done it. Catholics and those with no religious beliefs were however significantly more likely to think twice about sharing their religious views with others (27% of Catholics and 15% of those with no religion compared with 6% for Protestants).

Crime and criminal victimisation

The report has so far discussed evidence about perceptions of the prevalence of sectarianism, and also self-reported experiences of sectarian victimisation. This section now talks about sectarian-related crime and criminal victimisation.

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) provides data on the proportion of crimes perceived as related to sectarianism. This is a national survey, and representative of the Scottish population, and which aims to provide a more accurate estimation of the real levels of crime than may be provided from the police crime statistics - which only include incidents that have been reported to them.

Over recent years the SCJS has reported relatively low levels of sectarian crime. In 2008/09 1% of crimes were thought to be motivated by sectarianism, falling to 0.5% in 2009/10. In 2010/11 it was 1% while in 2012/13 (the most recently available figure) it was again 1%.

Despite the well-documented limitations of using police crime data to provide a full account of the extent of crime, official statistics may provide some useful information about the scale and nature of religiously aggravated hate crime that is typically reported to prosecutors by the police.[28]

This information is captured within an annual official statistics publication: 'Hate Crime in Scotland', published by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). The most recent figures available are for 2013-14. As in previous years, the most commonly reported type of hate crime was on the basis of race (with more than double the number of charges than the other four categories combined). In 2013-14 race crimes accounted for 69% of the total, 4,148 charges overall. Ten per cent involved a religious aggravation[29], 15% fewer than in 2012-13 and the lowest number of charges since 2004-5[30]. When religious charges included under the Offensive Behaviour at Football legislation, religiously aggravated charges are at their lowest since 2009-10.

Figure 8: Hate crime in Scotland, 2008-2014

Hate crime in Scotland

A more in-depth analysis of religiously aggravated offences in provided within the Scottish Government 'Religiously aggravated offending in Scotland 2013-14' report[31]. This provides further insight into the nature of religious offending by providing a breakdown of the religiously aggravated charges reported in the hate crime publication including information on the nature of the religious belief that formed the offensive conduct[32].

A number of points should be noted about the data. First, the analysis does not provide a comprehensive picture of the prevalence of religiously offensive conduct in Scotland. Not all incidents of religiously aggravated offending come to the attention of the police, or in circumstances where they are able to charge offenders with a religiously aggravated offence (for example on occasions where there are large groups of people singing religiously offensive songs). Second, the research relied on information provided in police reports submitted to the COPFS. These reports are designed to provide prosecutors with sufficient evidence to prosecute an accused person and did not always provide information which, although relevant to research, may not have been relevant to prove a charge. Third, this study may not have provided a complete account of charges aggravated by 'sectarian' prejudice because some of these types of incidents may have been reported to COPFS as racial aggravations rather than religious aggravations. This might be the case if the incident was directed at, for example, an Irish Catholic. Finally, the report was not based on analysis of the religious beliefs or affiliations of the people who were the reported victims of the offensive conduct. Legislation defines a religiously aggravated offence as an incident where the offender evinces towards the victim "malice and ill-will based on the victim's membership (or perceived membership) of a religious group or a social or cultural group with a perceived religious affiliation" and so the actual religious affiliation of the victim is not relevant to securing a Section 74 conviction. In fact, there is no separate section within police reports for the police to state which religious belief was targeted. An assessment, of the religion that was the focus of the charge was therefore made by the researchers involved in the research, based on a description of the incident and the details about what was said or done by the accused.[20]

As Table 4 shows, Roman Catholicism has been the religion mentioned in most reported 'religiously aggravated' charges in the last four years since these statistics have been presented. In 2013-14, 63% of charges included reference to behaviour that was derogatory towards Catholicism - although this represents a year-on-year reduction in 'Catholicism' related charges since 2010-11, and a 5% decrease in 2013-14 from the previous year.

Protestantism was the next most commonly cited religion in religiously aggravated offending, with 29% of charges including reference to behaviour that derogatory towards Protestantism. Although the overall proportion has remained the same between 2012-13 and 2013-14, the number of charges has decreased by 15%.

Table 4: Religions that was the focus of religiously aggravated charges from 2010-11 to 2013-14:

2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14
Religion targeted No. of charges % of total charges No. of charges % of total charges No. of charges % of total charges No. of charges % of total charges
Roman Catholicism 400 58 509 58 388 57 367 63
Protestantism 253 37 353 40 199 29 169 29
Islam 15 2 19 2 80 12 48 8
Judaism 16 2 14 1 27 4 9 2
Christianity (general) 4 1 3 0.3 5 1 4 1
Unknown 8 1 2 0.2 4 1 5 1
Other 0 0 0 0 3 0.4 2 0.3

Note: Charges do not add up to the total number reported as some charges relate to conduct that targeted more than one religion.

The research team also looked at who the religiously aggravated offending was directed at in the view of the police who reported the incidents. In 48% of cases the religious prejudice was directed towards a police officer, in 26% of cases it was directed towards the general community, in 27% of cases towards a member of the public and in 11% of cases to someone else working in their official capacity. The fact that so many incidents were directed towards the police or someone acting in their official capacity suggest that, in many cases, the accused was unlikely to have known the religion of the victim and that the religious abuse may have been arbitrary in nature.

Most charges took place in the west of Scotland, (35% in Glasgow) and the most frequent places where charges took place included police cars/stations, town/city main streets, and residential areas. Only 16% of charges related directly to football. Religious aggravations were most commonly added to 'threatening and abusive behaviour' charges (this was the main charge for 71% of aggravations) and 12% of aggravations involved a charge of breach of the peace. Only 6% of aggravations involved an assault charge. The vast majority of the behaviour that involved a religious aggravation may therefore be better categorised as 'anti-social', rather than violent. Of the accused, 90% were male and 47% were aged between 16 and 30. Alcohol was a factor in the offending, and 59% of all charges with a religious aggravation were reported as being alcohol-related.

As already mentioned, crimes aggravated by 'sectarian' prejudice may be reported to COPFS as racial aggravations rather than religious aggravations. To explore whether there has been any increase in incidents directed towards Irish victims, data on racist incidents were examined. Figures on the number of racist incidents recorded by the police are published annually by the Scottish Government and contain some information about the ethnicity of the victim[21]. Racist incidents are defined as "any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person". (It should be noted at that not all of these incidents will result in a charge.) The most recent figures are for 2012-13. Over 5,000 racist incidents were recorded - 10% higher than in recorded in 2010-11. One percent (75 of 5132 incidents) of the victims of racist incidents recorded by the police were defined as 'White Irish'. This proportion has remained fairly stable since 2006-07.

Another recent source of information about sectarian crime and harassment is the analysis of charges under Section 1 of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012[23]. The Act criminalises hateful, threatening or otherwise offensive behaviour that is likely to incite disorder and is associated with a regulated football match. The analysis reveals that of the 203 charges in 2013-14, 60 (36%) included an element of religious hate crime and, of those, 46 (77%) were derogatory towards Catholicism and 11 (18%) towards Protestantism. This represents a decrease in the real number of charges from 2012-13 when there were 106 religious charges, 88 (83%) derogatory towards Catholicism, and 16 (15%) derogatory towards Protestantism.