Tackling Sectarianism Across Scotland

Written by
Alan Mairs
Tagged as
Sectarianism, CBT
Paul Wheelhouse MSP with Sacro's Anti-sectarianism team

Sacro has been awarded £67,000 funding by the Scottish Government to deliver its Anti-Sectarianism Service on a national basis.

The announcement was made today by Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs on a visit to Sacro's Motherwell office. The focus of the Scottish Government and Sacro is to reduce the criminalisation of football supporters who display sectarian attitudes and behaviours.

The minister said: "Today I am acting on recommendation by providing additional funding for Sacro to develop their Diversion from Prosecution programme on a Scotland-wide basis and, where appropriate, make available an alternative disposal that will allow less serious or first time offenders committing an offence under the Act to avoid being caught up in the criminal justice system while providing a suitable and proportionate response to the offence committed."

Sacro’s service manager Sandra Lindsay said: “Thanks to this additional funding, Sacro will be able to develop its Diversion from Prosecution Service as a national service for people who are charged under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communication (Scotland) Act 2012.

“Sectarianism has no place in modern day Scotland. By engaging directly with people, we help them to identify their behaviours and understand these behaviours and attitudes are not acceptable. Sacro’s structured programme encourages positive behaviour change to bring about a reduction in offending.”

Sacro currently delivers an Anti-Sectarianism Service – funded by the Scottish Government – to tackle Intra-Christian sectarian offending within North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, Glasgow, Falkirk and Stirling. Engagement with the programme is voluntary and criminal charges are still subject to the criminal justice process, should the person 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 Anti-Sectarianism programme is based around modules which can be completed within a group environment or on a one-to-one basis. The structured programme is based on behavioural and attitudinal change, using cognitive behavioural intervention techniques. The sessions support the individual to understand why they behave in a specific way and take ownership of their attitude and behaviours to ensure positive changes.


Sacro spent 12 months piloting the programme within areas across the central belt of Scotland where sectarian offending clusters were reported by the Scottish Government (Official Hate Crime Statistics for Scotland (2012-2013). At the conclusion of the pilot, Sacro was in a position to report that the programme was able to effect positive changes in attitude and behaviour to the point where none of the referrals who successfully completed the programme committed further sectarian offences; nor did they re-offended in any other capacity. SASS was awarded continued funding for 2015-2016 and is currently providing the service in Glasgow, North and South Lanarkshire, Falkirk and Stirling.

2013 – 2014 Official Hate Crime Statistics for Scotland
Religious Crime: 587 charges
Over 70% of 203 people charged with the Offensive Behaviour at Football & Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, Section 1 (Football) are aged 12-24 years.