; Sectarianism in Scotland

Sectarianism is not someone else’s problem. It is an issue for all of us.

And to address this issue, we need to understand it. Read more about the history of sectarianism in Scotland and get details on current legislation.

Let’s start with a bit of sectarianism myth-busting...

It’s not just about football related incidents or violence.  (In 2012, the Scottish Government’s figures for football-related  hate crime saw a rise of 16%, but they say this is because more are reported than ever before, indicating a growing intolerance for this.)

  • It’s not confined to the west of Scotland/central belt.
  • It’s not about marches (just 2 per cent of reported incidents related to marches/parades).
  • Its not confined to young working class males.

Overt verbal abuse, violence and in-your-face sectarianism does still manifest itself in our schools and on our streets. You will still see graffiti about Irish Politics in some places in Scotland, and you might still be unwelcome at the local sports club because of your surname.

But it is also necessary to be aware of, and be ready to recognise and challenge, the more subtle sectarianism lying below the surface of everyday life in Scotland today.

  • Like everyday conversation/language
  • Like learned behaviours
  • Community/family/peer pressure – “entrenched hostility”
  • ‘white collar’ discrimination in the job market
  • institutionalised sectarianism
  • abuse via social media/networking sites

To challenge sectarianism today, you need relevant, current responses. Stand Up aims to equip workers/teachers with the information and resources to explore beneath the overt and tackle ingrained attitudes and behaviours.

Offensive sectarian language is still used in Scotland on a daily basis, with abusive terms such as “Hun” and “Orange bastard” being used negatively against Protestants (or those perceived to be) and others such as “Fenian” and “Tim” used negatively against Catholics (or those perceived to be). This reinforces religious and racial stereotypes as well as fuelling the divisions and conflict between the denominations and poeple of no religious denomination. Children commonly use words without any knowledge of their meaning, but with an understanding that these words are a means by which to insult others.


Sectarianism as we know it in Scotland today is perhaps most visible in relation to football. The historical links of some clubs and the traditional ethnic and religious make-up of their supporters have led to them being held as symbols of religious, cultural and political beliefs. An element of supporters following premier league clubs such as Glasgow based Rangers FC and Celtic FC, and Edinburgh’s Hibernian and Hearts use songs, chants and banners on match days to express abuse or support towards the Protestant or Catholic faiths. In a similar way, some football fans proclaim a political commitment, and they promote their support for Northern Irish based terrorist groups such as the IRA and UVF. At some matches this can generate an atmosphere of hatred, religious tension and intimidation which continues to lead to violence in communities across Scotland. This has been widely reported in the media over the years.


Scottish government (national outcome)

"We take pride in a strong, fair and inclusive national identity."

"Scotland's national and cultural identity is defined by our sense of place, our sense of history and our sense of self. It is defined by what it means to be Scottish and to live in a modern Scotland in a modern world. It is the tie that binds people together."


The other pages in this section look at the historical roots of sectarianism and links to more about UK and Scottish Government legislation relating to sectarianism, including the new ‘football act’.

But relying on legislation is not enough. A change in culture is necessary. Attitudes require to be challenged.


youth scotland