Scotland’s new Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has said that the alleged attack on a Catholic priest in Glasgow earlier this month is no different to anti-semitism or Islamophobia
And he has pledged to make tackling hate crime in Scotland a key priority with the introduction of a new legal framework around the issue under his direct control.
Canon Tom White claimed he was spat on twice while he spoke to parishioners outside St Alphonsus Church in the east end of Glasgow during an Orange walk a week back on Saturday.
Glasgow City Council has now declared that future Orange parades will not be allowed to pass the church, with hundreds of complaints lodged in the city since the incident about the parades and the routes they take.
Mr Yousaf launched a broadside against attitudes in his native city.
“This anti-Catholicism on the streets of Glasgow is no different from Islamophobia or anti-Semitism,” he told the Sunday Times.
“If it had been an imam or a rabbi that had been abused in the way Canon Thomas White was allegedly abused, there would have been universal condemnation of it.”
Mr Yousaf was promoted to justice Secretary in Nicola Sturgeon’s reshuffle immediately prior to Holyrood’s recess.
He has already been in talks with the SNP-led council in Glasgow about using its power to re-route Orange marches to avoid catholic churches at time of worship.
Council leader Susan Aitken confirmed at the weekend that future marches would be diverted from the site of the alleged attack.
Mr Yousaf’s comments were welcomed by the Catholic Church as “hugely significant”.
“Until now the Scottish Government has refused to describe such behaviour as anti-catholic,” said Anthony Horan, of the Chrurch’s parliamentary Office.
“Humza Yousaf’s comments represent a key milestone in tackling anti-catholicism in Scotland.” Hate crime is now expected to brought under the directly responsibility of Mr Yousaf, instead of the junior justice minister Ash Denham, to reflect the importance of the issue. Mr Yousaf says tackling the issue will be a “huge priority” as he introduces a new legal framework around hate crime legislation following Lord Braccadale’s report on the issue which was published in May.
An online petition calling for all Orange walks to be banned in Glasgow attracted more than 70,000 signatures.
The Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland said their members were not responsible for the attack on Canon White and have condemned it. Police are investigating the attack on Canon White as a hate crime.