Holyrood Committee Backs Repeal Of Scotland's Offensive Behaviour Act
A move to "overturn a controversial law" aimed at tackling sectarian behavior at football "has been backed by a Holyrood committee," according to Laura Paterson of the LONDON TIMES. A "slim majority" on the justice committee supported Labour MSP James Kelly’s bill to repeal the Offensive Behaviour at Football & Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act. Six opposition MSPs "backed the bill while five SNP MSPs withheld support." The majority of committee members "found existing laws generally already cover" behavior the act criminalizes. Margaret Mitchell, convener of the justice committee, said, "Whether the act is finally repealed or not, the message that came through from the vast majority of witnesses was that this legislation needs to be changed" (LONDON TIMES, 1/18). The BBC reported each of Holyrood's opposition parties "campaigned on manifesto pledges" to scrap the law in '16, and with the SNP now a minority government, have "moved to do so" via Kelly's members bill. The report said that the committee "unanimously condemns sectarianism, hate crime and offensive behaviour and considers it unacceptable." The committee said that should the Football Act be repealed, it would be "important that the Scottish government and relevant stakeholders clearly communicate that offensive behaviour at football and threatening communications can still be tackled and prosecuted using other legislation and common law" (BBC, 1/18).