The SNP’s struggles with sectarianism

The SNP's struggles with sectarianism
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It's not been a great week for James Dornan. On Saturday the SNP MSP was forced to apologise (again) for suggesting Lothian Buses' decision to cancel travel services over anti-social behaviour was linked to St Patrick's Day, with the implication that the company blamed Catholics for the problem. 

Then on Wednesday Mr S showed the lengths the Hate-Finder General had gone to investigate the now debunked Tik Tok video of Rangers players allegedly singing a sectarian song, requesting information for his constituents which he then appears to have not subsequently disclosed.

Now one of Steerpike's readers has got in touch to point out Dornan's comments made during the Holyrood election back in May. The gaffe-prone Glaswegian spoke at a hustings organised by the Irish Voice newspaper at which he said that the terms 'anti-Catholicism' and 'anti-Irish racism' would be used by the SNP in place of 'sectarianism.' 

Advocates for such a change argue that using 'identifying' language will encourage greater awareness of the specific discrimination members of the Irish community experience, amid concerns the existing label has been used 'as a palatable euphemism,' tacitly encouraging political complacency on this issue.

Steerpike was therefore keen to see whether the Scottish government had done anything to see such changes introduced in law. Since 2011, all government policy or process changes in Scotland have required an Equality Impact Assessment to be made beforehand – therefore, if such proposals were to become law, an EIA would exist.

But a Freedom of Information response from the Scottish government has now revealed that no such assessment has been made. On the contrary, it confirms that no policy change has occurred, and that therefore no EIA is required. Instead the current definition of sectarianism is still the one adopted from the independent Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland in 2015.

The response added that 'While we continue to use the term ‘sectarianism’ in appropriate circumstances this does not preclude the use of more specific terms – such as ‘anti-Catholic’; ‘anti-Protestant’; ‘anti-Irish’; or ‘anti- British’ – when circumstances merit the use of these terms' with a spokesman subsequently confirming to Mr S that there were no plans for the existing guidelines to change.

Let's hope those who attended the Irish Voice hustings don't become yet another group who feel let down by SNP election rhetoric.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to

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