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Politician recognised for leading fight against bigotry

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Nil by Mouth have praised the work of Lord Jack McConnell, who introduced measures to tackle religious intolerance

A politician has been recognised for his work in leading the fight against sectarianism.

Former First Minister Lord Jack McConnell has been given a Champions for Change award by Nil by Mouth for his work in challenging bigotry and intolerance in Scotland.

This week sees the 15th anniversary of Lord McConnell’s seminal Scotland’s Secret Shame speech, where he signalled his intentions to force the country to face up to a problem which had blighted it for decades.

His administration went on to introduce tough new laws making it a criminal offence to subject others to sectarian abuse. He also convened several high profile summits with football clubs, religious leaders and cultural organisations and delivered an action plan for tackling religious bigotry.

The award was presented at the House of Lords by Nil by Mouth founder Cara Henderson.

Henderson set the charity up in response to the brutal sectarian murder of her friend Mark Scott in 1995 as he returned from a football match in Glasgow.

She said: “Jack was hugely supportive when we were trying to get Nil by Mouth started and the clear public leadership he has always shown on sectarianism is hugely significant and a ceaseless source of encouragement to those working to build bridges between communities.

“I am pleased that his government’s subsequent work to provide practical measures to challenge this problem has been continued by his successors. It is perhaps the forging of this political consensus that stands as the greatest legacy of his efforts.”

“Receiving this award from Cara Henderson makes the honour even more special,” said Lord McConnell.

“It was Cara who came to see me before I was First Minister to convince me that something more had to be done by the country’s leadership on the issue of sectarianism.

“We tried to take a balanced approach but I was always firm that bigotry, abuse and violence were unacceptable in modern Scotland and that eradicating this secret shame had required consistent, determined commitment from everyone in football, the education system, at work and in the wider community.”