• Scotland;
  • Ireland;
  • devolution;
  • sectarianism;
  • football;
  • identity

A series of developments during the 2010–11 football season has led to an intense public debate over the question of the nature and extent of religious sectarianism in Scotland. The Scottish National Party (SNP) government has responded with a new piece of legislation which has been widely criticised and has prompted some commentators to speculate about a political ‘own goal’. This article provides a guide to the debate around sectarianism and its historical and political dimensions. It also suggests that the Irish roots of the problem in Scotland should be properly acknowledged, and that a possible way forward could involve cooperation between Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland within the structures and procedures of the British–Irish Council (BIC).