By Bill Heaney
Nil by Mouth has launched the ‘Writing on the Wall’ campaign to encourage local people to report incidences of sectarianism and for offenders convicted of religion hate crimes to be ordered by courts to clean up offensive graffiti as part of community service orders.
Nil by Mouth which was founded after a young Celtic supporter, 16-year-old Mark Scott, was murdered after an Old Firm game by a fan of the opposition., Jason Campbell from Northern Ireland.
The charity has brought their new, hard-hitting new campaign to West Dunbartonshire to hammer home the impact of sectarian graffiti on the area.
Their aim of encouraging people to report incidents they see, and to push for those convicted of hate crimes to be forced to scrub walls clean of offensive slogans.
Earlier this year vile anti-Catholic messages were sprayed at locations throughout Dumbarton, including the Denny Tank Museum and Lidl.
Offensive stickers were also plastered around the Dumbarton East Swing Park football pitch, just hours before Dumbarton Harp held a tournament to raise supplies for lifeline local foodbanks.
Nil by Mouth has undertaken research using Freedom of Information legislation into the extent of the problem in Scotland.
Using evidence provided by 30 local authorities it revealed that one in five reported cases are recorded as being offensive, with 2,716 hate incidents being recorded from 12,996 reported cases between April 1 2020 and September 30 2021.
Against this background, the charity visited Dumbarton with their campaign van to highlight its research and looked into the impact of graffiti hate crime on both community relations and taxpayers pockets.
Nil by Mouth director Dave Scott said: “‘Sadly, we’ve been contacted by numerous people and media outlets in last few months about this sort of hateful behaviour in West Dunbartonshire as one moron tries to outdo another in the hatred stakes.
“Our research uncovered that 20 percent of all reported graffiti incidents to councils have been recorded as being offensive and it’s’ been clear for a while now that this is a growing problem.
“Several people approached us whilst the van was parked to say they were glad to see some action being taken as they were fed up of their area being besmirched by bigoted idiots in this way.
“Not only are these incidents stoking resentment and hatred but are also costing taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds each year to clean public spaces.
“We are calling for courts to use Community Payback Orders to ensure that anyone convicted of any form of hate crime is made to clean off these hateful slogans from our walls to ensure polluters pay.
During 2022 Nil by Mouth have worked in 15 schools in West Dunbartonshire encouraging pupils to consider how sectarian attitudes can impact on individuals and communities.
Dave added: “We know that these are the actions of cowardly individuals. We are the many and they are the few and they will never speak for us.”
Dumbarton councillor Karen Conaghan has led efforts to tackle sectarianism locally, including through greater education in schools.
SNP’s new leader Councillor Karen Conaghan and her predecessor Jonathan McColl.
She is part of the SNP decision not to speak directly to The Democrat and is the new leader of the SNP group on the Council. She has succeeded Clr Jonathan McColl
One SNP member however told a journalist from a local newspaper: “I was glad to hear that Nil by Mouth were visiting Dumbarton as part of their efforts to highlight the scourge of hateful graffiti.
“It’s a sad fact that some people within our communities hold such views about their neighbours and even worse that they feel it’s acceptable for them to deface both public and private property with such horrible language and images.
“The cost of cleaning up this vandalism is money which could be better spent for the benefit of local communities so it’s a crime that affects us all.
“Nil by Mouth are having a positive impact with their educational input in our West Dunbartonshire schools but wider education is needed as many of our young people hear negative and downright hateful attitudes expressed at home and where they socialise.
“It’s up to all of us to speak out and challenge those who spread hatred, as the more who do the louder the message.
“I wish Nil by Mouth continuing success and commend the essential work they do throughout Scotland.”