SNP condemns ‘vile anti-Catholic bigotry’ after Rangers celebrations in Glasgow

Nicola Sturgeon ‘disgusted’ by sectarian prejudice, violence and vandalism on display

Adam Forrest@adamtomforrest
Monday 17 May 2021 12:18
Rangers fans forced from Glasgow George Square after celebrating win

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon and her deputy John Swinney have condemned the actions of the Rangers fans who rampaged through the streets of Glasgow in celebration at the club’s title victory.

Mr Swinney said some fans had expressed “vile anti-Catholic bigotry” and breached Covid rules in a “loutish and thuggish fashion” on Saturday.

“I’m limited as to what I can say this morning because there’s an ongoing police investigation but the conduct … was absolutely reprehensible,” the SNP minister told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Monday.

“Some of them went on to behave in a loutish and thuggish fashion in George Square – devastating property, circulating and expressing vile anti-Catholic bigotry in the centre of the city of Glasgow.”

Around 15,000 Rangers fans defied Covid warnings against large gatherings and massed in George Square to celebrate their team lifting their first Scottish Premiership trophy since 2011.

Images showed George Square strewn with hundreds of broken bottles and spent flares, after flag-draped fans had been seen launching missiles at lines of riot gear-clad police officers.

Ms Sturgeon said she was “utterly disgusted” by the scenes on Saturday, which led to five police officers being injured and 28 fans being arrested.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, the SNP leader also condemned the “vile anti-Catholic prejudice” on display.

Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), tweeted images on Sunday night of some of the injuries sustained by officers – including broken bones and lost teeth.

He described the scenes as “horrific”, also telling Good Morning Scotland: “There are almost no polite words left to describe how bad the events (were) in Glasgow at the weekend.

“Many of the officers who are quite long in the tooth have probably quite rightly described it as some of the worst violence that they’ve experienced in over 20 years of police service.”

Commentators in Scotland were highly critical of the policing effort in March, when Rangers’ title victory was confirmed and similar scenes played out in George Square.

“People being critical of the police, that’s nothing new, and those that don’t have an appreciation and understanding as to what’s involved in the policing tactics are rarely shy in holding back their points of view,” Mr Steele.

“The notion that the very limited resources of the police service would go into a crowd of that size to enforce the dispersal, without any consideration of the inevitable consequences of such action, I think shows just how narrow the thinking of those that are critical of the police in those circumstances are.”

Rangers fans celebrate in George Square on Saturday

Police Scotland’s assistant chief Constable Gary Richie also said: “If we’re going to actually take preventative action, it’s going to actually cause a huge amount of disruption to the city, because we will need to close off roads and access points.

“I’m absolutely sure that the policing response that we put in place for the events in Saturday was absolutely the right one.”

In a statement, Rangers FC said club officials had “worked closely” with police and Scottish government authorities for two weeks before Saturday’s final home match.

“Sadly, a small minority of people behaved inappropriately and in a manner not reflective of our support,” said a spokesperson. “Some of the scenes were unacceptable and have besmirched the good name of Rangers Football Club.

“These so-called ‘fans’ should reflect upon the values and ethos of our club, and consider the damage this does to the reputation of the club. We will continue to engage with authorities as required.”

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