A Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament has called on Holyrood to recognise the growing problem of anti-Catholicism in Scotland. It follows a government report which suggests that Catholics are the victims of 57 per cent of all religiously aggravated offences reported in the country.
Elaine Smith MSP raised the subject in the Scottish Parliament last week, following an incident in which a church near Glasgow was vandalised and the Blessed Sacrament desecrated.
Smith noted that not only are Catholics now the victims of more hate crime than all other religious groups in Scotland combined, but that this is also an increasing trend (a 14 per cent increase in one year).
Smith continued, calling on the SNP Government to “go out to the Catholic population and listen to their concerns”, adding that while Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have prominent places in public debate the same cannot be said of anti-Catholicism.
Speaking on behalf of the Government, the SNP’s Annabelle Ewing emphasised the existing commitment to tackle such crimes, saying that £13million had been invested since 2012 to tackle sectarianism.
In response, Smith quoted Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, who has said: “Our problem is not so much sectarianism but anti-Catholicism”.
Last year a Church official made a similar warning. Anthony Horan, director of the bishops’ Catholic Parliamentary Office, told a committee at the Scottish Parliament: “My overriding concern is the culture of fear that runs right through society and which makes people feel at best uncomfortable and at worst totally frightened to be open about their faith.”
In 2015’s Social Attitudes Survey 15 per cent of Scots said they were Catholic and 35 per cent that they belonged to the Church of Scotland, while slightly more than half of Scots were not religious at all.