SECTARIANISM is defined by the Oxford English dictionary as “strong support for one particular religious or political group, especially when this leads to violence between different groups”.

In Glasgow and the West of Scotland, sectarianism has been used as a palatable euphemism for racism.  What we’ve seen on our streets over the last weeks and months is racism against Catholics and people of Irish decent.

This form of racism has been tolerated for far too long in Scotland. Spurious pleas in mitigation that it’s a complex cultural or historical divide, or the problem of separate schools have been misused and abused.

I moved to Glasgow in my late teens from the East Coast.  My mother was a Catholic and my father a Protestant.

We had separate schools in Dundee; and religion by the shed load too. But we never had the kind of acceptable every day racism that takes place against Irish Catholics in Glasgow.

People are in denial about many things. The idea that because of a public gathering against a Home Office removal of immigrants who’d overstayed their work visas in Pollokshields we are somehow an inclusive and saintly country.

We aren’t. Scotland has as much racist bigotry, hate and intolerance as anywhere else on these islands. Occasional acts of kindness are like throwing a pound in a beggar’s bowl and thinking you’ve helped cure poverty and homelessness.

I don’t seek to undermine anyone’s acts of solidarity and kindness; but we need to get real. We need to fess up and stop pretending there is a nirvana of sublime tolerance north of Hadrian’s wall. 

Islamophobia is still alive and well in Scotland; although I believe it’s now less morally acceptable thanks to the efforts of many activists and campaigners, including my friend Anas Sarwar MSP.

Yet mass public demonstrations on the glorification of racism and the incitement to harm Irish Catholics remains morally acceptable to a significant number of my fellow Glaswegians and Scots.

How many police investigations are ever carried out into these incidents, and how many ever result in prosecutions? This isn’t about alcohol abuse. Excessive alcohol may fan racist flames but isn’t the cause of hate. 

A first step to tackle this injustice must be to introduce a new criminal offence of racist abuse against Catholics and people of Irish decent. Such an offence would need to be skilfully drafted to work effectively.

The overarching purpose of such law reform would be to help end the moral and legal acceptability of racism against Irish Catholics in Scotland. A line in the sand has to be drawn.

The operational purpose of such law reform would be to do justice against those who incite violence and harm to Irish Catholics with impunity. 

There is a wicked thread of hate and fear that runs through all forms of racism.  The Tories exemplified this in government by creating a hostile environment for asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants.

The UK hostile environment was introduced by the then Home Secretary Theresa May in 2012. The rationale was to make life as difficult as possible for migrants and those seeking asylum.

For migrant workers this meant making it illegal to work without proper documentation; cutting-off access to public services such as the NHS and police. Forcing employers, banks and landlords to spy and report on those who didn’t have the right paperwork.
For asylum seekers it was even worse. Notwithstanding the UK is a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the Tories sought to dehumanise asylum seekers.

Take full control of where they could stay – generally substandard accommodation – with the help of private companies and property owners.
Take full control of how they could exist with a pittance of subsistence and frequent home inspections.

These approaches turned human beings - with hope, aspiration, the desire to work and have a decent life - into objects of fear, hate and loathing. Illegal immigrants. Failed asylum seekers.

The Tories were responsible for the Windrush generation scandal. These were British subjects from the Caribbean who arrived from 1948 to 1973 and were wrongly detained and deported after 2012.

The hostile environment meant they had to find paperwork to prove their pre-1973 residency. Who keeps every document in their life going back forty years?
The Home Office dawn raid approach to snatch people from their homes in our communities is another device to create fear and alarm. 

No-one should ever turn a blind eye to hostile environments created for human beings – whether asylum seekers, migrants, Irish Catholics or anyone else.

Creating hostility, fear and alarm fosters racism and abuse. It’s the most despicable scourge on our society in the 21st century.