The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 14 December 2011, received Royal Assent on 19 January 2012 and came into force on 1 March 2012.
The legislation was brought forward in response to a number of controversial incidents, both on and off the pitch, and mostly associated with Rangers or Celtic during the 2010-11 football season – in particular a match on 2 March 2011.
The Scottish Government’s initial plan was for legislation to be in place before the start of the 2011-12 football season and it sought to achieve this by recourse to emergency legislation procedures. However, concerns were raised about this procedure and about the need for greater consultation on the Bill. The passage of the Bill was delayed to allow for this and for further debate by the Parliament.
The Act was opposed by every opposition party and by leading anti-sectarianism charities. There are still concerns about the legislation among lawyers, judges, civil rights groups, football fans and football clubs.
It is the only piece of legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament without any cross party support, having made it through the legislative process due to the SNP majority in the last session of the Scottish Parliament.
Across the political spectrum, there is absolute agreement that sectarianism cannot and should not be tolerated anywhere in Scotland, whether in our communities, schools or workplaces. Supporters of this proposal fundamentally disagree with the Scottish Government that the Act has helped to tackle sectarianism in a proportionate or effective fashion.
I propose the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. I do so on the basis that the legislation is flawed on several levels, including its illiberal nature, its failure to tackle sectarianism, and that the police already have appropriate charges to prosecute.
The proposal as it stands includes the repeal of provisions on “threatening communications” within sections 6-9 of the Act. On these parts of the Act in particular, I will consider the views from stakeholders through the consultation to confirm that the repeal is desirable.
I look forward to hearing from you.
MSP for Glasgow