Offensive Behaviour at Football Act officially repealed

20 April 2018, 06:41

Football

Legislation to repeal a controversial law aimed at tackling sectarian behaviour at football matches has received royal assent.

Labour MSP James Kelly's Bill scrapping of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is now in force, wiping the previous law off the statute book.

Opposition parties united against the Scottish Government to back Mr Kelly's legislation last month.

The Act was introduced by the majority SNP government in the last parliament but faced criticism from legal experts, fans' groups and some equalities organisations who argued it was unworkable and unfairly targeted football fans.

Mr Kelly said his Bill receiving royal assent was a "watershed moment" for the Scottish Parliament.

He said: "From the point of its introduction, the Football Act did nothing to tackle sectarianism because it was such cheap law.

"It was a political device the SNP government used to pretend it was doing something, when in fact it was doing nothing meaningful at all.

"Fans up and down the country led an inspiring campaign, showing just how damaging the Act was for everyday football supporters.

"While the Football Act's repeal should be celebrated, the Scottish Government should take this as a wake-up call.

"It should now look again at its strategy to tackle sectarianism and start investing in communities and education."

The Scottish Government has appointed Professor Duncan Morrow to lead work to define sectarianism within Scots law following the Act's repeal.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government is playing its part in tackling all forms of abusive and offensive behaviour whenever and wherever it occurs.

"We have made unprecedented investments to support anti-sectarian projects and recently provided a further £515,000 to continue this work over the next year.

"Lord Bracadale's upcoming independent review of hate crime, commissioned by Ministers last year, will also help to ensure Scotland has robust legislation in place to tackle all forms of hate crime."