BY Peter Diamond | December 14 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Labour MSP says there is a ‘rise in anti-Catholic sentiment’ in Scotland

A Catholic MSP said she feels a ‘rise in anti-Catholic sentiment in the country,’ after receiving ‘hateful’ Tweets about Catholic education during a Scottish Parliament event to highlight religious persecution.

Elaine Smith, MSP for Central Scotland, said it was ‘very disappointing that during a week in November in which the positive contribution of the Church was highlighted,’ she still has to deal with anti-Catholicism.

The Labour MSP was attending the Red Wednesday event on November 28 at the Scottish Parliament, where Aid to the Church in Need, a Pontifical charity, gave a presentation on religious freedom and persecution around the world.


Online abuse

Mrs Smith said the report failed to acknowledge anti-Catholicism within Scotland and that within the previous hour she had suffered abuse from a Twitter ‘troll’ over Catholic schools in Scotland.

She added that in the past year the monstrance in her own parish of St Patrick’s in Coatbridge had been stolen, meaning a parishioner now has to be present when the church is open.

“I feel a rise in anti-Catholic sentiment in the country and also I don’t think it’s taken seriously enough either,” said the MSP, who sponsored a stall in the parliament in November which celebrated the success of Catholic schools.

“I’ll just give you one example of this: I’ve just received a tweet which says: ‘Religion based schools are an evil that needs to be stopped. It is about indoctrination of children. It is child abuse.’”

“Now that has just came in while I’ve been sitting here this evening. It’s completely anti-Catholic, it’s hateful and I’m going to report it.”


Religious hate crime

In a report released by the Scottish Government this year, more than 600 religiously aggravated offences were reported in Scotland, 50 per cent of which were against Catholics.

Dr John Newton, senior press officer for Aid to the Church in Need, responded to Mrs Smith at the event, saying the charity does ‘look at anti-Catholicism in Scotland’ but that ‘incidents of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are of a more severe nature’ in the UK.

People are ‘getting attacked on the street just for wearing kippas,’ he said, and ‘there was one Muslim woman who was ran over by a man in a car and backed over several times.

“So we identify Islamophobia and anti-Semitism because the sorts of thing we’ve seen not only in the United Kingdom but in France, and in other part of Western Europe have been more egregious in their nature but we haven’t ignored by any means the issues of anti-Christian and anti-Catholicism,” he said.


Red Wednesday

On Red Wednesday, buildings across the UK are lit up in red to highlight religious persecution.

Mrs Smith also said it was ‘unfortunate’ that a request to have the Scottish Parliament lit up in Red was refused.

“The Red Wednesday event that took place in the Scottish Parliament at the end of November was very successful and indeed, very important,” she said.

“People around the world are persecuted for practicing their Christian Faith and this was an opportunity for members of the Scottish Parliament to show commitment to condemning religious persecution in all its forms.

“It’s unfortunate that a request to light our building was refused; particularly given that other iconic buildings at home and abroad were lit up red for example Westminster.”


Further action

Mrs Smith also called for the Scottish Government to review its latest One Scotland initiative to tackle hate-crime, which sees posters placed around the country addressing ‘Bigots,’ ‘homophobes,’ ‘transphobes,’ and others, and signed ‘Yours, Scotland.’

She said: “I welcome any initiative that endeavours to tackle hate crime. I am aware of the anti-hate crime posters and hope they will be effective in reducing the number of Catholics and people of all religions facing religious intolerance in the future.

“However, I am aware that some concern has been raised that some of the posters suggest that people with religious convictions are bigoted against others. That is unacceptable and something that the Scottish Government must consider when reviewing the posters.”

Mrs Smith expressed disappointment at still having to speak about anti-Catholicism in 2018, ‘a year in which we have celebrated so much of the Catholic Church’s excellent work.’


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