Statement from Michael Matheson on sectarianism

Michael Matheson

“I wish through the medium of the SNP website to clarify recent statements taken out of context by sections of the national media in a manor that does not reflect ether my personal views or the views of the Scottish National Party on the issue of sectarianism.

I was approached by a journalist to give a reaction to word on the internet that some fans were seeking to resurrect outdated meanings to the children’s song and dance, The Hokey Cokey ahead of the forthcoming Old Firm match.

I have spent my whole adult life fighting discrimination and intolerance and I deplore anyone’s religion, race or creed being used in a manner that is mocking or disrespectful. There is no place in society never mind sport for such disrespect to fellow human beings.

However, that does not mean that I wish to see the Hokey Cokey banned or those who sing it arrested. I view this song as an inoffensive party song sung mainly by children and it should be left as such. Unfortunately the central thrust of that does not make good print for the some sections of the media who have completely misrepresented my views on the matter.

Much progress has been made in tackling sectarianism within society and the vast majority if Old Firm fan’s organisations deserve great credit for the manner in which they have sought to influence fans in this direction. Of course much more needs to be done before we can say that sectarianism is no longer a problem within our country.

The SNP has been criticised by some as being less in your face in tackling sectarianism than the previous Scottish Executive. Our approach is to work with rather than preach to groups and I firmly believe that is the correct approach to take.

I am more than happy to meet and work with the Rangers Supporters Trust on this front and regret any offence the unhelpful and inaccurate press coverage has caused them and their members. There are times when you have to put your hands up and admit mistakes and I should have anticipated that the media would be looking for a particular line ahead of an Old Firm match, live and learn as they say.

I would like to thank the likes of the Real Radio phone in who allowed me the opportunity to clarify what was said and fill in the edited blanks. I hope those who listened to that show will understand my meaning.”

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