Stamping Out Sectarianism

Written by
Alan Mairs
Anti-Sectarianism graphic

Sectarianism blights many of our communities as a destructive force that has no place in modern Scottish society.

Sacro is delivering a new service with the aim of tackling the problems caused by intra-Christian sectarianism in Scotland and reducing its corrosive effects on society. This service is for individuals who commit sectarianism offences, defined as behaviours: “...expressed in destructive patterns of relating which segregate, exclude, discriminate against or are violent towards a specified religious other, with significant personal and social consequences.” 

The main strand of the service is a Diversion from Prosecution Programme, suitability for which is decided by the Procurator Fiscal and/or Early Effective Intervention Team. On receipt of a police report, the Procurator Fiscal or Early Effective Intervention Team can choose to divert the individual to Sacro’s Anti-Sectarianism Service (SASS), or other service provider. 

“Sectarianism is outdated and has no place in Scotland. The new programme by Sacro aims to tackle this through working with individuals, who participate in the pilot, to make a positive effect on their attitude and behaviour. The plan is to engage with the individual(s) and work with them comprehensively using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques. This will enable the individual to identify, themselves, that their behaviour and attitudes are not acceptable within the community as well as Scotland” (Sacro Worker).

Engagement with the programme is voluntary and criminal charges are still subject to the criminal justice process, should the individual fail to complete the programme to a satisfactory level. The service can also be used as part of a sentencing disposal within a Children’s Hearing or Sheriff Court and is suitable for any individual from the age of 12 years who has been charged with committing a sectarianism offence. 

The programme is based around six modules which can be completed within a group environment or on a one-to-one basis. The structured programme will be based on behavioural and attitudinal change, using Cognitive Behavioural Intervention techniques. The sessions will support the individual to understand why they behave in a specific way and take ownership of their attitude and behaviours to ensure positive changes so as not to repeat the crime. At the end of the module, the individual will complete an action plan, which will involve ongoing support and identify further needs, which may need to be addressed through other services provided by Sacro or other agencies. The length of the programme will vary depending on the individual and groups, although this should be completed within a 14-week timescale. 

Tackling Intra-Christian Sectarianism is funded through the Scottish Government and is currently available in North & South Lanarkshire, West Lothian and Fife & Forth Valley.

Procurator Fiscal, Early & Effective Intervention Teams, Criminal Justice Social Work and Children’s Hearing/Reporter can make referrals to the project. 

For further information contact Rachelle Walker or Kate Ritchie at Sacro on 01698 337208 or E-mail: