Catholics in Scotland Primary Target of Hate Crimes

by Alexander Slavsky  •  •  March 20, 2018   

14 percent rise in attacks against Catholics

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EDINBURGH, Scotland ( - The latest government report is showing a spike in hate crimes against Catholics in Scotland.

The report is based on the number of religiously aggravated attacks in the country that reveals 57 percent of all reported crimes have been against Catholics, and there has been a 14 percent rise in offenses. Catholics make up 16 percent of the population as compared to the Church of Scotland, which accounts for 32 percent. Government officials are hesitant to adopt a "targeted strategy" to confront the crimes.

Labour member of Scottish Parliament Elaine Smith has insisted on greater protections for Catholics in Scotland and that anti-Catholicism can be treated as important as Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. She thinks that individual policies regarding hate crimes should be revised to pinpoint such offenses against particular religions.

"The first thing the government should do is look in more detail at what are the underlying causes and attitudes behind anti-Catholicism in Scotland," commented Smith. "The government needs to go out to the Catholic population and listen to their concerns."
Labour MSP Elaine Smith

She continued, "Issues relating to Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are given prominence, and rightly so, but the issue of anti-Catholicism needs a prominence it does not have."

Her comments came a day before the death of Cdl. Keith O'Brien, the church's most senior leading prelate in the United Kingdom, who served as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh between 1985–2013. Cardinal O'Brien resigned in 2013 following allegations of sexual misconduct, involving three priests and a former priest in the 1980s.

Church leaders believe that anti-Catholicism is a result of the Scottish Protestant Revolution of 1560 and its denunciation of Catholic doctrine and worship. At least some Catholics in Scotland think that anti-Catholicism still happens in the country today.

Journalist and author Matt McGlone thinks "sectarianism is rife" in the country, saying, "There is no way that sectarianism has changed; there is an inherent hatred for Catholics in the west of Scotland and other parts of the country."

"I work at the hard end of this, and I see a lot of this behavior socially in the streets, pubs, workplace and Scottish society in general," McGlone observed.

Daniel Harkins, the editor of the Scottish Catholic Observer, noted his experience of anti-Catholic persecution in Scotland: "last month we reported on 15 employees of a local authority who had complained to their union of anti-Catholic discrimination by their supervisor — a convicted bigot. Our evidence is anecdotal, not statistical, but it has always been difficult to accurately measure levels of anti-Catholicism in Scotland."

In November, it was reported that 188 complaints of anti-Catholic graffiti popped up around Glasgow at twice the rate than the previous year. This comes after James MacMillan, a well-known Scottish classical composer and conductor, claimed 20 years ago that anti-Catholicism in Scotland was "endemic."

A Scottish government spokesman explained the role of politics in confronting Catholic prejudice:

There is no place for any kind of prejudice in Scotland, and we are committed to tackling all forms of discrimination, which is why we are concerned and disappointed at Parliament's vote [last week] to repeal the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act [sectarianism in European football]. We are working to tackle prejudice and build cohesion in communities, and this has been supported by a £13m [$18.2 million] investment over the past six years to tackle sectarianism, which included work by the Conforti Institute to listen to the experiences of the Catholic community.

"The church wants the Scottish government to issue a retrospective apology in order to build, repair and renew bonds between communities harmed by historical wrongdoing," remarked Peter Kearney, the director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office.


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