Repressive laws against religious insult at football matches in Scotland have been passed after the Scottish government rejected complaints the rules were unworkable.
The offensive behaviour bill was pushed through Holyrood using the Scottish National party’s overall majority. The bill was opposed by all other parties and attracted widespread criticism from fans, clubs and the Church of Scotland.
Holyrood’s four opposition parties, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Tories and the Scottish Green party, backed by the independent MSP Margo Macdonald, issued a joint statement accusing ministers of railroading the Scottish parliament:
It is of real regret that the first piece of legislation passed by this new parliament has been railroaded through by the SNP. The SNP has used its majority to force through a bad law that risks doing more harm than good. It sets a worrying precedent for this parliament.
The new measures introduce two new offences of inciting religious, racial or other forms of hatred in public or on the internet, which will be punishable by up to five years in jail. The offences will cover football grounds, public places and pubs and clubs.
Allison McInnes, the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ justice spokeswoman, said the government was creating two new criminal offences without any kind of consensus:
They are unable to answer basic questions about how the law will be enforced or present evidence as to why it is needed. They can provide only the vaguest assurances that it will not impact people’s freedom of speech.