National charity Nil By Mouth has this week told the Hawick News that sectarianism “has no place” in modern Scotland.
The criticism follows the arrest of a local Rangers fan who made racist comments and sung hate songs after watching his team lose to Celtic in the recent Old Firm game.
Twenty-six year-old Jamie Gent has been warned he now faces jail after admitting singing sectarian songs, making racist comments and threatening Hawick police with violence on the night of Sunday, February 1. He also pleaded guilty to struggling violently with two officers at the police station.
Dave Scott, the spokesperson for Nil By Mouth which champions respect for diversity in Scotland, told the Hawick News: “Sadly, the Old Firm fixture often becomes a focus for offensive behaviour and in recent weeks we have seen its return used by some as an excuse for sectarian chanting, abuse and assaults. These people seem to think that laws and common decency do not apply on matchdays and they are free to abuse others from different religious and cultural backgrounds to their own.”
And alluding specifically to the arrest of Gent, of Fairhurst Drive, he commented: “This individual’s behaviour breached religious hate laws and he now must face the consequences of his actions. This is not the first conviction for sectarianism in the Borders but the swift and effective action of the police and courts on this occasion sends out a very clear warning that it will not be tolerated.”
Mr Scott asserted: “Our message should be loud and clear: Sectarianism has no place in 21st-century Scotland. ‘
After appearing from custody at Selkirk Sheriff Court last Monday, in his team’s away strip, the accused was warned by Sheriff Peter Paterson: “These are serious offences. It is a nonsense which will not be tolerated. I have to consider all options, including a custodial sentence.”
Local police boss, Inspector Carol Wood, told the Hawick News: “Racial abuse and sectarian behaviour is unacceptable and Police Scotland deals with all reported incidents robustly. Thankfully this type of behaviour does not occur on a regular basis in the Borders but when it does Police Scotland makes every effort to put offenders before the court.”
Gent was freed on bail and will be sentenced at Jedburgh Sheriff Court on March 9 after background reports have been prepared.
Rangers were beaten 2-0 by Glasgow rivals Celtic in the Scottish League Cup semi-final tie.