Wednesday, November 14th 2018

Final report of the working group on defining sectarianism in Scots Law

Published today by Scottish Government

This Working Group was established for a short and defined period to explore the potential for establishing a legal definition which might function as a useful mechanism for providing clarity.

Their purpose was to advise on a potential definition of sectarianism that the Scottish Government could use as the basis for wider consultation with communities and interest groups across Scotland. The findings in this report were reached after discussions with a range of interest groups.

The issue was most recently raised through the evidence-gathering sessions held by the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee while considering the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Repeal) (Scotland) Bill, which was subsequently passed by parliament and came into effect in April 2018. The Committee heard from a range of sources of a need to establish a legal definition of the term sectarianism to aid application of the law by police and prosecutors, and on 18 January 2018 recommended that:

The Committee considers it important that the Scottish Government gives consideration to introducing a definition of sectarianism in Scots Law, which – whether or not the 2012 Act is repealed – would help any future parliaments and governments in taking forward laws to tackle sectarianism .

In response, the Scottish Government established this Working Group to provide some evidence which could be used as the basis for finding an answer to the Justice Committee’s recommendation with the remit:

To consider and weigh up the pros and cons of establishing a legal definition of “sectarianism” in Scots Law. Report the findings of these considerations to Scottish Ministers making clear recommendations on whether such a definition should be introduced and, if so, propose the text of such a definition.


Final Report of the Working Group on Defining Sectarianism in Scots Law

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