BY Ryan McDougall | May 31 2019 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Six-figure cost to councils as bigots scrawl hateful graffiti across Scotland

Bigots have scrawled almost 1,500 hate-filled messages on Scotland’s streets in the last five years, with the rampant prejudice costing hundreds of thousands of pounds and being labelled as just the ‘tip of the iceberg of intolerance’ by the Catholic Church.

Figures obtained by the SCO under Freedom of Information legislation revealed 1,494 incidents of sectarian graffiti in the last five years, including support for terrorist groups scrawled on chapels and anti-Catholic slurs, with 2019 figures on track to be a record year in one local authority.

The SCO asked every local authority in Scotland for details of sectarian graffiti in the last five years. However, only 14 councils recorded bigoted incidents, leading to calls from the Church for a more comprehensive database.

 

Intolerance

A spokesperson for the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said: “The fact that religious intolerance in Scotland is evident in so many instances of graffiti is very saddening.

“As with other examples of anti-Catholicism, tackling the problem, first requires that it is accurately measured.

“A record of the damage being caused, the costs of cleaning and the nature and location of the graffiti would allow an informed debate on the problem and a targeted response. Current measurements are likely to represent the tip of an iceberg of intolerance.”

 

Glasgow

Glasgow has the most incidences of sectarian graffiti over the five year period, followed by North Lanarkshire. The Glasgow authority said each incident of graffiti results in a £250 call out charge plus a further cost of £25 per squared metre of graffiti removed.

There were 79 instances of sectarian graffiti in Glasgow in 2015, meaning call out charges would have totalled £19,750, 176 in 2016 (£44,000), 192 in 2017 (£48,000) and 171 in 2018 (£42,750).

In 2019, there have been 106 reports of sectarian graffiti in the city up until the end of April this year (£26,500), averaging at 21 a month, suggesting this year could hit a record high.

In total, the 724 counts of graffiti adds up to £181,000 in call out costs alone, with the true costs likely to be significantly higher.

Last year, ‘UDA’ was scrawled across an unspecified Glasgow chapel wall and in April this year Celtic FC manager Neil Lennon was depicted hanged alongside the words ‘fenian scum’ outside the city’s O2 Academy.

Red Hand of Ulster flags were also placed on Springfield road and Dalmarnock road in the city, and ‘f*** the tims’ and ‘f**k the Pope’ were scrawled on the city’s streets.

A spokesperson for Glasgow City Council said: “Every instance of sectarian graffiti is concerning and is something we take very seriously. We fully understand the upset and alarm this clear form of anti-social behaviour can cause within communities and so we commit to remove such graffiti within 48 hours.

“The council is fully committed to tackling all forms of bigotry and sectarianism. The prejudice and hatred that is expressed through sectarian graffiti is not something we tolerate. Therefore we want people to report instances of sectarian graffiti as we understand the negative impact such anti-social behaviour can have. We respond quickly to reports of sectarian graffiti and this may have an influence on the number of reports we receive.

“At a very basic level those responsible also need to understand the burden they are placing upon the taxpayer.”

‘Unacceptable’

In North Lanarkshire, there were 122 reports of sectarian graffiti in 2015, 173 in 2016, 220 in 2017, 102 last year and 43 so far this year, totaling 660 counts across the five year period. The council were unable to provide removal charges.

John Whittaker, assistant business manager of North Lanarkshire Council, said: “This antisocial behaviour is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

“Here in North Lanarkshire, we’ve seen a significant reduction, over 50 per cent, in the number of sectarian graffiti incidents reported on the previous year.

“During 2018, we responded to 102 reports and our squad aims to remove the graffiti within 24 hours of an incident being reported.

“The majority of people living in North Lanarkshire condemn this behaviour and we’ll continue to ensure that North Lanarkshire’s communities remain graffiti free.”

 

Statistics

South Lanarkshire has had 79 incidents over the last five years, Argyll and Bute has had three, Falkirk has had two, East Renfrewshire has had 17 and East Dunbartonshire has had eight.

There were no reported incidents of sectarian graffiti in Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Dumfries and Galloway, the Highland Council, Orkney, the Shetland Islands and the Western Isles.

Other councils in Scotland do not record graffiti as sectarian or not, though Edinburgh City Council said this is under review.

Amy McNeese-Mechan, vice convener of the council’s culture and communities body, said: “Offensive graffiti in all forms is a criminal offense and is not tolerated.

“Whilst we of course treat sectarian graffiti as offensive and completely unacceptable we cannot currently report on this separately.

“There is an ongoing review of how we record instances of graffiti and recording specific categories will definitely be considered.”

 

Police condemnation

Police Scotland has also condemned the figures. Chief superintendent David Duncan of Safer Communities, said: “Police Scotland is fully committed to reviewing and investigating all hate related reports and we recognise the deep personal impact such incidents can have on individuals, their families and wider communities.

“Every incident is assessed on a case by case basis, taking into account the full set of circumstances.”

Police Scotland also encouraged anyone who has been victim or witness to hate crime to contact them on 101 or 999 in emergency circumstances.

Graffiti across Scotland also included slurs towards other minorities, swastikas and references to Adolf Hitler.

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