Page last updated at 12:57 GMT, Thursday, 15 December 2011

Offensive Behaviour at Football stage 3 debate

MSPs voted to pass the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill , despite opposition parties uniting against the new legislation, on 14 December 2011.

Controversial laws to crack down on religious sectarian hate crime have been pushed through at the Scottish Parliament despite last-ditch appeals for the legislation to be scrapped.

The SNP used its majority at Holyrood to pass the laws aiming to combat religious sectarian hate crime with 64 SNP MSPs backing it and 57 voting against.

Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham said expert advice was clear that the laws could be improved at football grounds and in policing the internet.

"This simple point seems to have been lost in what I think is a fog of denial and sometimes apparently wilful misunderstanding," she told MSPs.

"To be clear: these are clear and specific improvements on the existing law.

"Much of what we see at football celebrates nothing more than hate and division and is done to antagonise and provoke old wounds. That is unacceptable and that must stop."

The government bill aims to tackle religious hatred and bigotry related to football with new jail terms of up to five years.

The legislation, which has won backing from police and prosecutors, aims to stamp out abusive behaviour, whether fans are watching matches in a stadium, in the pub or commenting online.

It will create two new offences relating to behaviour deemed to "incite religious, racial or other forms of hatred".

Ms Cunningham insisted the bill included "clear and specific improvements to the existing law" and the government had listend to 91% of Scots who wanted tougher action to be taken.

Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly hit back saying the government had not made the case for the bill and there was no consensus behind it "in the parliament or outside".

He added only one amendment, from Green MSP Patrick Harvie, had been accepted at the last minute.

Mr Kelly said it would be wrong for the Scottish government to "railroad the legislation through" and that it was "bad practice to be breaking up the consenus on such an important issue".

Speaking on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives, David McLetchie MSP said : "The bill as it stands should not be approved

"It runs away from the problem of defining the behaviour" the bill is supposed to modify, he added.

He said the weight of "informed legal opinion" was against the propsed legislation.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "This was a bad bill when it was introduced and it's still a bad bill today.

"It may make matters worse, not better.

"The bill blunders unthinkingly towards new offences on hate speech, and that's not an area where we can afford to make mistakes."

Earlier Mr Harvie's amendment 10, which required the government to consult publicly when it came to report to parliament on the progress of the legislation, passed.

This can be viewed below:

Offensive Behaviour at Football stage 3 amendments


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