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Public say sectarianism is a problem – but not around here

The majority of people in Scotland say they think sectarianism is a problem for our country, according to a new report from ScotCen Social Research. New findings from the Scottish Social Attitudes survey (SSA) show nearly 9 in 10 (88%) say they think sectarianism is a problem for Scotland.  However over two-thirds (69%) say they think it’s only problem in specific areas, most commonly Glasgow and the West.

Findings show that the public say Catholics and Protestants are more likely to face harassment in Scotland as a whole than in their own local area. 35% say they think Catholics are very or quite likely to be harassed or threatened for being Catholic in Scotland, compared with just 9% who say they think this was likely in the area they live in. The figures for Protestants are 28% (Scotland) and 8% (local area).

Around half (54%) of Scots say they think that Catholics experience at least some prejudice - while just 41% say they think the same about Protestants. But when it comes to more specific examples of sectarian prejudice, the public is less likely to believe these remain common in Scotland today. For example only 24%/17% say they think that being Catholic/Protestant stops people from getting a job or promotion they deserve.

When it comes to what the public think contributes to sectarianism in Scotland 88% identify football as a contributing factor, and 55% say they think it’s the main factor. This places football well ahead of the next most commonly mentioned factor – 79% say they think Orange Order marches contribute to sectarianism and just 13% that it is the main factor.

Families (58%) and schools (55%) are most commonly viewed as best placed to tackle sectarian attitudes in Scotland. However, 50% also view either football clubs or football authorities as having a role in this respect.

Other key findings from the report show:

  • The proportion of Scots who do not identify with any religion has increased from 40% in 1999 to 54% by 2013
  • Public views on whether or not Catholic-Protestant relationships have improved over the last decade were divided – 47% thought they had, while 40% thought they had stayed the same. Only 3% felt relationships had worsened
  • 14% of people in Scotland say they think they have experienced some form of religious discrimination or exclusion at some point in their lives.

Rachel Ormston, Head of Social Attitudes at ScotCen commented: “Most people in Scotland think that sectarianism remains – and will continue to remain – an issue for our country. However, people’s views of sectarianism are complicated, and the ‘problem’ of sectarianism is perhaps better characterised as an overlapping, complex set of problems and concerns.”

ScotCen interviewed 1,501 people throughout Scotland between May to August 2014 using random probability sampling. The Scottish Government has committed £9 million between 2012/13 and 2014/15 to tackling sectarianism.

The full report can be found here:


For more information about the Scottish Social Attitudes survey, please contact: / 0131 240 0222


ScotCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.

The Scottish Social Attitudes survey aims to produce high quality survey data to inform both public policy and academic study. It has a long time series (dating back to 1999) on public attitudes towards devolution and independence. Further details about ScotCen Social Research and the Scottish Social Attitudes survey are available