Page last updated at 12:34 GMT, Thursday, 23 June 2011 13:34 UK

First minister's questions

Alex Salmond told MSPs the new anti-sectarian legislation would be delayed by six months during first minister's questions on 23 June 2011.

The general principles of the bill were then agreed at decison time with 103 MSPs voting for it, five against and 15 abstentions.

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill aims to stamp out abusive behaviour from football fans whether they are watching matches in a stadium, in the pub or commenting online.

It would raise the maximum jail term from six months to five years.

Mr Salmond said he had listened to parliamentary concerns that the new law was being rushed through and said he would set a new timetable to ensure it was passed by the end of the calendar year.

Opposition parties, the Old Firm clubs and the Church of Scotland had all expressed concern at the timescale.

The first minister told MSPs he wanted to achieve consensus just two hours after Holyrood heard in its first debate on the legislation that the offences should be in place for the next football season.

He asked parliament to agree to the general principles of the bill to allow further scrutiny.

Mr Salmond added: "I'll then propose that business managers, in consultation with the convener of the Justice Committee, to discuss a new timetable for the bill which will allow for further consideration and evidence to be taken on the bill in advance of formal consideration and amendments at stage two of the Justice Committee.

"Stage three proceedings would then fall in the usual manner for a public bill and the intention behind such a timetable for discussion where the Bill will be passed by the end of this year."

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray welcomed the suggestion to extend the process beyond next week.

Replying to the change of plan, Mr Gray said: "I welcome the fact that the First Minister had listened to those concerns around the timetable."

Annabel Goldie, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, also welcomed the announcement of a revised timetable for the legislation.

Ms Goldie said: "I'm not often given to praising the first minister but I think he has shown maturity in accepting his government had not got this right.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie thanked the first minister for listening to the views of MSPs.

However Mr Rennie added "One of the issues we had with the Bill was that we believe the powers already existed in the main to tackle the fundamental problems."

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