A new £500,000 fund is being launched to enable places of worship to install security measures to protect them against hate crime.
The scheme, which will be opened later this year, comes almost a year after the Christchurch mosque attacks sparked calls for the Scottish Government to introduce a security fund similar to that in England and Wales.
Today, on Holocaust Memorial Day, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell will officially announce the new scheme at Garnethill Synagogue in Glasgow, and religious groups will be consulted in the coming months to help develop the workings of the fund.
Mr Yousaf said: “We recently committed to exploring what we could do to ensure safety and security for our faith communities at their places of worship, including developing a security funding scheme. I hope that this scheme will provide reassurance to all faith communities and their places of worship that hate crime and prejudice will not be tolerated.”
Ms Campbell added: “We are committed to ensuring that our communities feel free to practice their religion in a place where they feel safe. No-one should fear being attacked because of their faith and particularly in their place of worship. We are determined that all places of worship should be places of peace and sanctuary and that our faith communities feel safe and secure when they visit them.”
The Scottish Government had been urged to consider establishing a place of worship security fund in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attack last year.
Scottish Labour MSP Anas Sarwar raised the issue in Holyrood where he said the killing of 50 Muslims at the hands of a white supremacist in New Zealand was a “devastating and despicable act – the act of a terrorist”.
Mr Sarwar said the issue of security concerns at places of worship had been raised with him on a number of occasions, and asked the government to look at adopting a fund similar to the places of worship security funding scheme in England and Wales.
Holyrood also held a parliamentary debate in September 19, where MSPs considered a petition to better protect all places of worship in the UK. The petition, launched by Puneet Dwivedi, called on the Scottish Parliament to ‘urge the Scottish Government to address increasing levels of hate crime in Scotland by providing security funding similar to that in place in England and Wales.’
Mr Sarwar said: “This is a very welcome announcement from the government. Faith organisations across Scotland have been calling on the government to introduce such a scheme for many months in light of recent incidences of hate crime and threats against places of worship. It already exists in the rest of the UK so it’s good that Scotland is catching up. We cannot afford to be complacent given the rise of the far right.”