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Labour MSP James Kelly takes bid to repeal Football Act to fans

James Kelly MSP
James Kelly MSP

A Labour MSP is kicking off a grassroots campaign as part of his efforts to scrap controversial laws aimed at tackling sectarianism at football grounds.

James Kelly has already launched a proposal for a Bill to repeal the controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act.

The Act, which came into force in 2012, criminalises behaviour which is “threatening, hateful or otherwise offensive at a regulated football match including offensive singing or chanting”.

Mr Kelly, who will be speaking to fans outside Fir Park stadium in Motherwell this afternoon ahead of the club’s game against St Johnstone, said: “The SNP arrogantly bulldozed this piece of legislation through.

“It was the first law passed by Holyrood without any cross-party support. Opposition parties, supporters’ groups, legal experts and academics opposed it.

“It’s time to show the Football Act the red card. Labour are launching a grassroots campaign to spread the word about our plans to scrap the Act.

“Sectarianism has been a problem in Scotland for more than a hundred years. The SNP are wrong to think it can be solved in 90 minutes on a Saturday.”

The Glasgow MSP added: “This generation can be the one that stamps our sectarianism for good, but there needs to be trust between the authorities and football fans and a renewed push towards tackling sectarianism in classrooms and the communities.”

The Scottish Government believes the legislation “sends out a clear message that Scotland will not tolerate any form of prejudice, discrimination or hate crime”, and that it also gives police and prosecutors an additional tool to tackle the problem.

When Mr Kelly launched his proposal for a Bill, a government spokeswoman said: “‘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.”


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