Concerns no-deal Brexit could fuel sectarian violence in Scotland

Police wearing Anti-Sectarian Initiative jackets at the Old Firm match between Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic at Ibrox, Glagow. Picture: PA
Police wearing Anti-Sectarian Initiative jackets at the Old Firm match between Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic at Ibrox, Glagow. Picture: PA
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Sectarian violence could surge in Scotland in the wake of a no-deal Brexit, ministers have warned.

They say they’re “aware any changes in the levels of sectarian behaviour in Northern Ireland could impact Scotland” just weeks after violent street clashes between Republicans and Loyalists in Glasgow.

The Scottish Government warned of more trouble linked to sectarianism after a council dossier, outlining the potential impact of Britain crashing out of the EU without an agreement, said an end to peace in Northern Ireland could lead to “greater sectarian tensions” in the west of Scotland.

The Scottish Government said: “Sectarian hatred is completely and utterly unacceptable to the Scottish Government and the vast majority of Scots. We remain determined to ensure that any instances of antiquated bigotry are eradicated from modern Scotland, and we support Police Scotland in taking appropriate and proportionate action to safeguard public safety.”

North Ayrshire Council’s Brexit risk register, updated on 17 September, said: “The legal status of the Irish border in a no-deal is unclear, danger of recurrence of Irish troubles. Greater sectarian tensions in west of Scotland, including North Ayrshire.”

Terrorism expert and award-winning writer Kevin Toolis, author of Rebel Hearts, said: “It is strange that the rise of these sectarian marches in Glasgow seems to be occurring even though the violence of the Troubles is 20 years behind us.

“Somehow Brexit has unleashed these forces that were dormant. The tragedy of Brexit is that we have lost a national consensus.”

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Dave Scott, director of anti-sectarian campaigners Nil by Mouth, said: “It would be naïve to think events across the water don’t have an impact here.

“One in four people in Scotland have family from Ireland or Northern Ireland and, when you consider all the history - good, bad and ugly - that comes with our shared and complex past, the situation across the Irish Sea will always have ripple effects here.

“Those trying to predict what happens if no-deal occurs can’t just ignore these realities as Scotland won’t be immune to them.”

On Friday it emerged over £8 million has already been spent by Police Scotland on contingency planning for Brexit.

The spending includes the creation of a “force reserve”, which has already been deployed at football matches and protests. A total of 360 officers are on standby to deal with Brexit-related incidents.

Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, said: “Clearly anything that risks heightening tensions in Northern Ireland has a very obvious potential to spill over into the west of Scotland.

“One need only look at events in Glasgow over the past weeks to see how tensions on the other side of the North Channel can have a direct bearing on activities on this side of it.”