Labour Wants Football Act Scrapped

1 August 2016, 07:49 | Updated: 1 August 2016, 08:05


Labour will today launch an official bid to scrap legislation that outlawed offensive singing at football matches.

MSP James Kelly said the ''illiberal'' Offensive Behaviour at Football Act has damaged trust between football fans and the police, without doing anything to combat sectarianism.

The law, which went through the Scottish Parliament in 2011, was the first passed in Holyrood with no cross-party support.

The Scottish Government states that while the vast majority of football supporters are well-behaved, the Act has given police and prosecutors an extra tool to tackle sectarian offending since it came into force in March 2012.

Mr Kelly has lodged proposals to repeal the Act with the Parliamentary authorities and will today launch a public consultation seeking the views of football clubs and members of the public.

As part his campaign the Glasgow MSP intends to write to every football club in Scotland, as well as supporters groups and other stakeholders. The deadline for responses, which can be submitted via an online survey, is October 23.

He said: ''The SNP's Football Act has damaged trust between football fans and the police without doing anything to combat sectarianism and intolerance in our country.

''Sectarianism in Scotland has existed for hundreds of years but the Government's approach was to try and fix it in 90 minutes.

''The SNP arrogantly bulldozed this piece of legislation through. Opposition parties, supporters groups, legal experts and academics opposed it.

''Now the SNP have lost their majority in the Scottish Parliament we can scrap the Football Act and get real about tackling sectarianism off the pitch, in our classrooms and communities.''

In 2014-15 there were 79 convictions under the Act, which criminalises threatening and offensive behaviour at and around football matches.

An SNP spokesman said: ''James Kelly and Labour could not be further out of step with public opinion in Scotland.

''The Offensive Behaviour Act - which has proved to be an effective tool in reducing crimes of racial, religious and sexual discrimination - has the support of 80% of the public and the overwhelming majority of football fans.''

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: ``The Act sends out a clear message that Scotland will not tolerate any form of prejudice, discrimination or hate crime, and it gives police and prosecutors an additional tool to tackle this behaviour.

''The Scottish Government has made it clear that we are willing to discuss how any legitimate concerns about the Act can be addressed.

''We have invited stakeholders to submit evidence about how the Act could be improved, but to date no one has done so. Repealing the Act in the absence of a viable alternative is not an option.''