IT’S the town that has hit the headlines for its aversion to the colour green.

Major firms like Subway, Moss Pharmacy and Telewest have quietly overhauled their emerald livery to conform, while there has even been talk of drunken youths setting fire to the grass.

In Larkhall, green has an association with the colours of Celtic, the club founded by Irish Catholic Brother Walfrid.

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Between 2004 and 2007, South Lanarkshire Council reportedly spent £17,000 repairing green traffic lights believed to have been smashed by bigoted vandals.

It is the former mining village that has become historically linked with Orange Order flute bands, Rangers football tops and has been perceived as being a hot bed of loyalism.

Half the 14,000 population identify as Church of Scotland, according to a recent census, compared to just over 1,200 Catholics.

But now new research suggests the town’s alleged preoccupation with the religious divide that blights parts of the west of Scotland may be subsiding.

A Government-funded project aimed at discussing religious intolerance could not find anyone in the town who believed sectarianism was an issue in their lives.

Dubbed Larkhall: Past and Present, it featured a series of weekly workshops which played host to more than 40 hours of discussion about the town’s issues in which talk about food, fashion, music and education dominated proceedings.

But throughout the entire period not one of the residents uttered a word about sectarianism, bigotry or religion.

Paul Hayward, of Community Links (South Lanarkshire), which organised the project, said: “We were quite explicit from the start that this was a community safety project about hate crime and anti-sectarianism.

“We thought that might spark some conversation about those issues but, to be honest, it just didn’t come up. There are issues that are more important to people in Larkhall and it was not a priority for them.

“Even though the town has been perceived as having a strong association with sectarianism, the people who live there don’t identify it as such.”

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Bellshill Protestant Boys at the 2014 Larkhall Parade

The discussions involved more than 20 people aged between 14 to 70, including pupils from Larkhall Academy, the youth group, members of a lunch club and community organisations.

They were told open up about what it was like to grow up in Larkhall – and perceptions about the town.

“We thought that [sectarianism] would be one of the themes to come out of it and were quite surprised that it wasn’t highlighted as an issue,” said Mr Hayward.  

Larkhall councillor Jackie Burns said the project shows that despite its reputation, the town has increasingly become a place where people want to live.

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Local MSP Christina McKelvie said sectarian attitudes that infected a swathe of Scottish towns were “slowly seeping away”.

"The tribalism that once divided people - that once blighted entire generations - doesn’t carry the same resonance in 2017," she said.

“This project builds on other several initiatives to change the image of Larkhall, all of which recognise the great strides that have been made in the town.

“Whilst I recognise that we all still have some way to go before sectarianism is completely eradicated, we must pause and recognise the real progress that is taking place in Scotland."

Bill Weir, of Voluntary Action Fund (VAF) which funded the project, said: “While it’s pleasing to see that the issue appears to have less relevance in Larkhall than perhaps it did in previous generations, we remain committed to working to ensure it has no place in Scottish society.”