Scotland’s first minister has condemned the “violence, vandalism and vile anti-Catholic prejudice” displayed by thousands of Rangers fans on Saturday, after supporters breached lockdown restrictions to celebrate the side’s first Scottish Premiership victory in a decade.
Police were forced to disperse large crowds just after 9pm, which had gathered hours earlier at Glasgow’s George Square and quickly descended into chaos, after fears were raised about the potential spread of coronavirus.
Some 28 arrests have been made – largely for antisocial behaviour – with police confirming today that five officers were injured.
“To say I’m utterly disgusted by the Rangers fans who rampaged through the city would be an understatement,” she wrote.
“I’m also angry on behalf of every law-abiding citizen. In normal times, the violence & vandalism, & the vile anti Catholic prejudice that was on display, would have been utterly unacceptable. But mid-pandemic, in a city with cases on the rise, it was also selfish beyond belief.”
Reminding Glaswegians of their city’s dangerous Covid status, Ms Sturgeon said people were “rightly furious at the irresponsible actions of a thuggish minority” considering people across the country “still live under the most difficult restrictions, [and are] not able to see family or attend weddings and funerals”.
The Scottish government is fearful enough of the situation that Glasgow has been barred from entering the next phase of Scotland’s lockdown easing, taking place on Monday, which will see groups of six allowed to gather indoors at pubs and restaurants.
Residents were told last week they and those living in Moray would be the only parts of the country to remain in strict level 3 restrictions, giving officials time to get the current outbreak under control.
Thanking Police Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said she would be “reflecting” on what more the government could do to prevent similar incidents from happening again. “However, ultimate responsibility lies with those who behaved in such a thuggish, sectarian and selfish manner. And that’s why we must let the police do their job,” she tweeted.
On Saturday, as the scenes unfolded, Scotland’s justice secretary branded those involved “selfish and irresponsible”.
Humza Yousaf said Rangers fans’ “behaviour endangered the lives of others – supporters, the police on duty and the wider community”.
“We have already discussed this with Rangers and will liaise with Police Scotland and the football authorities to consider what further action can be taken,” he said.
Speaking out today, Mr Yousaf added it was “disgraceful” that officers were subject to “the kind of thuggery we saw last night”.
He tweeted: “Incidents of violence, disorder, anti-Catholic & any other hatred will be followed up.”
Historically, Rangers has a large Protestant fanbase while its main Scottish rival team – Celtic – attracts Catholic supporters. Ex-Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s side played Aberdeen on Saturday, not Celtic, but there were still reports of faith-fuelled violence.
Police Scotland, in multiple statements over the weekend, described some fans’ behaviour as “disgraceful”.
Chief superintendent Mark Sutherland said in a statement that “officers became the focus of the crowd’s attention” when streets were attempted to be cleared.
“Missiles were thrown and officers came under direct attack as George Square and the surrounding area was cleared,” he told reporters.
Disgruntled residents of the city have also voiced their grievances, with many asking why fans were not cleared sooner – they had been mostly gathered since Rangers beat Aberdeen 4-0 in the early afternoon and fans marched from Ibrox to the city centre.
“Celtic have been champions of Scotland for 9 years winning a quadruple treble and not once has Glasgow seen violent scenes like this,” one woman wrote.
Meanwhile one man, who appeared to be in disbelief, said simply: “I’ve supported Rangers for 45 years … thought we’d turned a corner with the sectarian stuff, and there are probably more Catholics playing for Rangers than other faiths.”
He added: “While ashamed of yesterday, these louts will not define my club or stop me supporting.”
Both Ms Sturgeon and Mr Yousaf have called on Rangers FC to work harder to prevent such conduct from its fans.
“I hope @RangersFC will also reflect on what more must be done to tackle this behaviour by fans, albeit a minority,” the first minister tweeted.
While the football club has remained silent on the incident so far, The Independent has approached a representative for comment.