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Sectarianism: Update on Action Plan on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland



Scotland's faith communities have a long history of positive work to build bridges between and within communities. Charitable and voluntary groups are therefore an important vehicle for tackling the sectarianism that Christian and other religious groups have experienced at community level. There are a whole range of initiatives which are underway and some of these are highlighted below:

ACTION 9: The Scottish Executive will work in partnership with the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations to establish a network of anti-sectarian groups and will host annual meetings to facilitate information sharing and the promotion of good practice.

  • The Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations, in partnership with the Executive, held their first conference on this issue on 27 November at St Mungo's Museum for Religious Life and Art, Glasgow.
  • The event brought together more than twenty small groups, local organisations and community-based projects that are working to tackle sectarianism covering such diverse interests as community cohesion; all years education; religion; sport; working with young offenders; residential visits; twinning of schools and local authorities.
  • The conference recognised the need for such a network and helped to identify the barriers to bridging divides.
  • As the network is developed and expanded it will allow all voluntary and community groups to link into an established network and ensure that theanti-sectarian message is getting through to communities across Scotland.

ACTION 10: The First Minister will meet with Action for Churches Together in Scotland on an annual basis to support the development of co-operative partnerships at the highest level.


  • Action of Churches Together in Scotland ( ACTS) brings together the most senior figures from nine Christian churches in Scotland.
  • This year's meeting brought together Keith Patrick, Cardinal O'Brien, Roman Catholic Church; Most Rev Dr Idris Jones, Primus, Scottish Episcopal Church; Rt Rev Alan McDonald, Moderator, General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; Major Alan Dixon, Salvation Army; Pamala McDougall, Religious Society of Friends; Dr Bill Reid, Methodist Synod of Scotland, Rev Jeremy Balfour, Baptist Union; Rev Andrew McMillan, United Free Church of Scotland; and Dr J Merrilees, United Reformed Church.
  • ACTS is a conduit to allow discussions on a range of issues to take place between the Executive and senior church representatives.
  • Sectarianism is a regular feature of the discussions at ACTS meetings and group members have been involved in addressing this issue within the communities they serve.
  • The First Minister met with ACTS on 14 August 2006 at Bute House.
  • The meetings with the First Minister are held on an annual basis, and there is also a range of less formal meetings and discussions which take place between the Executive and ACTS to ensure they are aware of ongoing issues which are of interest to them.

Core Liaison Group:

  • One of the ways in which dialogue between the Executive and faith groups is maintained is through the Core Liaison Group ( CLG).
  • The CLG was set up to allow for closer working and consultation with church and faith groups and specifically:
    • Equality of access to policy and decision makers.
    • Open and transparent dialogue between government and church and faith groups.
    • To use as a vehicle for collating and disseminating information.
    • As an early alert for issues of concern that members may wish to bring to the table.
  • As well as being a good vehicle for inter and intra faith working the CLG provides opportunities for other faiths to meet with Christian church representatives and develop new routes of communication between them.
  • The group is drawn from representatives of the Scottish Christian Churches; the Scottish Jewish Community; and the Scottish Inter Faith Council.
  • All faith communities in Scotland can contribute to the CLG.

Inter-faith Liaison Officer Pilot:

  • The Executive is also partnering Glasgow City Council to run a 3-year inter-faith liaison officer pilot.
  • The main aim of the pilot is to develop good working relationships between the City Council and the seven main faith communities in Glasgow. These communities are Baha'I; Buddhist; Christian; Hindu; Islamic; Jewish; and Sikh.
  • Specifically the pilot will help to ensure that faith communities are aware of policy development which impacts on them and are able to feed in their views and opinions. It is also about breaking down barriers between the different faith groups and fostering closer working relationships.
  • Tom Harrigan MBE was appointed as the Inter Faith Liaison Officer in August 2005 and is currently based at St Mungo's Museum for religious Life and Art.
  • We are considering the potential for rolling out the pilot on a Scotland-wide basis.

ACTION 11: The Scottish Executive will work in partnership with the National Union of Students Scotland and the Scottish Trades Union Congress Youth Committee to hold a conference bringing young people together to discuss breaking down barriers and developing participation in present-day Scotland. Tackling sectarianism will be high on the agenda.

  • The Who do you think you are? Being a young person in Scotland in the 21st century conference was held in Glasgow on 11 December 2006 as a direct result of this action.
  • By working together the National Union of Students Scotland, Scottish Trades Union Congress Youth Committee and the Executive have managed to develop an interesting and exciting event which will engage young people from all communities and stimulate discussion on the issues of identity and what it means to be Scottish in the 21st century.
  • The delegates came from a broad range of backgrounds including youth groups, schools, young trade unionist and student activists.
  • It event also considered the benefits of democratic participation and the need to tackle racism and sectarianism.