There has been a steep rise in cases of religious hatred and religiously motivated crime in Scotland, mainly targeted against Catholics
Official figures yesterday revealed that the number of sectarian incidents reported to police jumped by 50%, with more than 440 Scots convicted of religiously motivated verbal and physical assaults in one 18-month period.
The Roman Catholic church said the statistics provided proof that religious bigotry was embedded in parts of Scottish society. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the Scottish church's senior cleric, said: "Sadly, this document shows that Catholics in Scotland are still many times more likely to be the subject of a sectarian attack than any other group. During the period of this study Catholics were five times more likely to be the victims. This is of great concern to me."
The report from Scottish executive statisticians is the latest in a series of initiatives to combat sectarianism involving police, churches, political leaders and the owners of Glasgow's two largest football clubs, Rangers and Celtic.
The figures analysed 726 cases between January 1 2004 and June 30 2005 where people were charged with religiously aggravated offences, and found that in 64% of cases the abuse or assaults were motivated by hatred against Catholics, and by hatred against Protestants in most of the remaining cases.
More recent figures show that in 2005-06 there were more than 700 racially aggravated crimes handled by prosecutors, up from 479 the previous year.
Row over religious crime figures
Anti-Catholic bigotry is deep and pervasive, says Cardinal