Published: 06/02/2018 07:00 - Updated: 01/02/2018 16:57

Football bigotry row goes into extra time

Written byIain Ramage

 

David Stewart
MSP David Stewart wants existing bigotry legislation scrapped.

A Highland politician – and Caley Thistle fan – wants an urgent rewrite of legislation to tackle the bigotry that continues to hang about Scottish football like a bad smell.

Labour’s David Stewart has spoken out following a decision by the Scottish Parliament to repeal the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, which was meant to tackle sectarian abuse.

The legislation is being re-examined by senior judge Lord Bracadale as part of a review of hate crime law.

His remit is to consider whether existing law is the most effective way of dealing with crime fuelled by hatred and prejudice.

All four opposition parties at Holyrood want a repeal of the law. The Scottish Government said it would not do so without a "viable alternative" being in place – and lost a vote on it.

Mr Stewart said: "In the last parliament, the legislation was rushed through by the SNP when the party had a majority – the first law passed without the support of any other party in the history of Holyrood.

"This Act was not thought through. All it did was put a sticking plaster on this serious religious bigotry issue. In 2016-17, of 719 charges for religious aggravation only 46 were reported under the Act."

Highland SNP MSP Kate Forbes claimed the challenge would erode police powers to tackle bigotry "in order to land a political blow".

She added: "At a time when the SNP Government is focussed on improving education, health and the economy, and protecting Scotland’s place in Europe, Labour would rather see us remove legislation that tackles sectarianism, prejudice and discrimination whilst offering absolutely no alternative in its place."

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