BY SCO Admin | May 3 2013 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

1-SCOTTISH-MONEY

Anti-bigotry boost is being misspent

Labour MSP and Church spokesman question use of anti-sectarian millions without expert advice,

The Scottish Government’s approach to anti-sectarianism has been labelled ‘meaningless’ this week after it emerged hundreds of thousands of pounds had been given to organisations with no prior experience of reducing religious hatred.

Politicians and a Church spokesman were among those who were concerned when details emerged on where the millions of pounds the Scottish Government had allocated to anti-bigotry measures had gone.

Details of anti-sectarian spending came to light after Scottish Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon pressed Communities Minister Roseanna Cunningham on the issue.

Ms McMahon said that the funding details revealed that the Scottish Government had little understanding of the true nature of  sectarianism.

“Nearly £800,000 has been awarded to the Football Co-ordination Unit Scotland (FoCUS) clearly demonstrating that this government thinks that sectarianism originates in the football ground,” she said. “We will never tackle the scourge of sectarianism in our society with such an approach. This is not only worrying but highly depressing.

“I asked this question as we must be proactive in tackling the scourge of sectarianism. We must look beyond the football stadium and acknowledge that the way to break this societal cycle is to educate young people from an early age in its ills.

“I believe this approach is wholly unsatisfactory and does nothing to comprehensively tackle the underlining societal problems which allow sectarianism to flourish.”

The Scottish Government has given several million pounds to 24 different organisations, but critics—such as Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office—say that the money is  ‘meaningless’ without organisations being forced to achieve set targets.

“Unlike most areas of public funding, taxpayer support for a wide range of ‘anti-sectarian’ initiatives appears to be inversely proportional to their success,” he said.

“Since the offence of ‘aggravated sectarianism’ was introduced in 2003, Crown Office statistics have shown that crimes motivated by religious intolerance have increased every year.

“None of the public money committed to date has improved, resolved or remedied the underlying problem of religious intolerance.”

The Scottish Government has also said its advisory group, headed by Northern Ireland-based academic Dr Duncan Morrow, will continue gathering evidence for another six monthd before giving its advice to ministers.

This means that much of the current allocation of anti-sectarianism funding will be spent before it delivers its final report.

 

— ian@sconews.co.uk

— This story ran in full in the May 3 print edition of the SCO

 

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