There have been appeals for a Parades Commission to be set up in Scotland following a weekend of provocative sectarian displays by Orange Order marchers at the weekend.
More than 30 parades were held by the anti-Catholic organisation in Glasgow alone. At least three of the routes included marching past Catholic churches, including one where last year a priest was spat at.
Police said there were several incidents of racist and sectarian singing leading to arrests, but the Scottish government’s overall failure to respond to anti-Irish hate has drawn increasing international attention.
Earlier this month, anti-racism charities condemned the failure to intervene as a group of over 100 soccer fans marched through Glasgow city centre openly singing the anti-Irish tune ‘The Famine Is Over, Why Don’t You Go Home’.
Pressure for action to tackle the issue has been building ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), which is being hosted in the city. Thousands of visitors from around the world are expected to attend, including hundreds from Irish and Catholic backgrounds.
Jeanette Findlay, from the Call It Out campaign, which opposes anti-Irish and anti-Catholic bigotry, said the Orange Order marches “absolutely should be rerouted” so they do not pass Catholic churches.
Responding to pressure, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there is “no place” for anti-Catholic bigotry in “a modern Scotland”.
She said that she would consider a Scottish Parades Commission which would be empowered to reroute sectarian parades.
She added that “peaceful public assembly and freedom of expression” are important rights, “but it is also a fundamental right of any person and any community to go about their daily business without fears for their safety.
“I know that members will join me in unequivocally condemning all instances of anti-Catholic bigotry, which we have seen on our streets in recent times.
“There is no place for it in a modern Scotland and we must all show zero tolerance towards it.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s Maolíosa McHugh has said it is “disappointing and beggars belief” that a loyalist flute band was allowed to parade through the predominantly nationalist area of the County Tyrone town of Castlederg this week.
The failure to reroute the parade comes decades after the Parades Commission was set up, and marks a reversal of the trend to move loyalist parades out of communities where they are not wanted.
The West Tyrone Assembly member said it was the first time in 15 years that the ‘Castlederg Young Loyalists Flute Band’ annual night-time parade was allowed to march through the predominantly nationalist Ferguson Crescent/Killeter Road area of the town.
“It is a backward step and represents a reversal of previous agreements and understandings which substantially reduced community tensions and brings contention back into the issue of parading in the town.”