Indeed, the mention of religious sectarianism in Scotland generally yields responses that revolve around soccer and the country’s top two teams: Rangers and their city rivals, Glasgow Celtic. For the Catholic-associated Celtic and Protestant-identified Rangers occupy two sides of a divide marred by bigotry and an alleged litany of sectarian-related crime.
And in recent times, critics have been given plenty of fodder. During the 2010-11 Scottish soccer season, hate crime associated with these two clubs stretched to the unthinkable after some bitterly contested matches: Both hoax and live letter-bombs were sent to several high-profile individuals connected with each.
Now, with the 2011-12 soccer campaign under way – and the first Celtic-Rangers match set for Sunday – a raft of new police measures and tougher legislation are being drafted in a bid to root out the problem. And all eyes will turn to Glasgow to see whether the new focus has any effect on the words emanating from the stands.
A new bill going through the Scottish Parliament involves the creation of new offenses, including the incitement of religious hatred at or around a soccer stadium. This would involve a significant raising of maximum sentencing powers available to courts. Offensive songs often heard at grounds, too, are to be banned.
Though Rangers and Celtic have voiced concerns over the tougher legislation – Celtic stated innocent fans could be criminalized – a survey found 90 percent of Scots agree with the new measures.