Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today marked the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act by calling on the Scottish Government to seize this opportunity to engage with “communities, local authorities, churches and football clubs” as opposition parties united to repeal the bill.
Speaking after the vote, Mr McArthur said:
“Today we have removed from the statute book a piece of legislation that has proved itself to be ineffective, counter-productive and illiberal.
“No MSP or party condones sectarian or offensive behaviour. We all recognise the importance of confronting and combating hate crime in all its forms and wherever it takes place. The simple fact is, however, that the 2012 Act did nothing to tackle the underlying issues. Instead it created a false sense of reassurance will driving a wedge between fans and the police.
“Legal experts have made clear there will be no gap in the law or in protections available against offensive behaviour or threatening communications. Police Scotland is in no doubt that existing statutory offences and common law will be used to deal with cases in future.
“SNP Ministers must now stop making ludicrous claims that opponents of the 2012 Act are apologists for sectarianism. They must also stop irresponsibly stirring up anxiety about gaps in the law that do not exist.
“Instead the government should now commit to working with communities, local authorities, churches, football clubs and others in taking forward preventative measures and education that all the evidence shows can be effective in tackling the scourge of sectarianism and hate crime.“