Scotland politics

MSP lodges motion defending football act after cup disorder

Police horses at Hampden Park Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption MSPs have cited the Hampden cup final disorder as both a reason to keep and to repeal the football act

An MSP has lodged a motion at Holyrood claiming the Scottish Cup final disorder shows the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act should be kept.

Opposition parties are bidding to have the legislation, which is aimed at tackling sectarianism, repealed.

SNP MSP John Mason said the chaotic scenes at Hampden showed that "this would not be an appropriate time to relax the law" in relation to football.

But Labour's James Kelly said it showed up the "inadequate nature" of the act.

Former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said the legislation could be "reviewed and refined" in light of the Hampden disorder.

All four opposition parties pledged to repeal the act in their manifestos, with only the minority SNP administration backing it.

Mr Kelly has started work on a Member's Bill to repeal the "hated" legislation, which was introduced in 2012.

Critics say there is already sufficient legislation in place to tackle sectarianism and other football-related offences including disorder at matches, and say the act unfairly targets law-abiding fans.

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Media captionMounted police took to the Hampden pitch following the invasion by fans

However, Glasgow Shettleston MSP John Mason said the scenes of disorder at Hampden, when supporters clashed on the field after Hibs beat Rangers 3-2, showed this was not the time to roll back the law.

The Clyde FC fan's motion notes that parliament "shares widely the disappointment at the scenes felt following the game", which saw mounted police deployed as fights broke out and fans tore up the turf and broke a set of goalposts.

He said that while "football can be a great opportunity for fans to let off steam...there have to be limits as to what behaviour is acceptable".

The motion further states that parliament should "note calls to change the law in relation to football, including repealing the ban on alcohol and relaxing the rules on offensive behaviour, and, in light of the recent situation, considers that this would not be an appropriate time to relax the law in either of these areas".

Image caption Mr Mason said the "disappointing" scenes showed the OFBA should not be repealed

Mr Kelly said that, on the contrary, the "unacceptable scenes" at Hampden were evidence that the act was "not adequate".

He said: "Charges brought against those involved are likely to be for breach of the peace or assault.

"This underlines the inadequate nature of this legislation, which has caused distrust between football fans and police. I will therefore be pressing ahead with my plans to repeal the discredited football act."

'Could be improved'

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has updated the Scottish government cabinet on the police and Scottish Football Association investigations into the incident.

He has urged the SFA to come back with a report on the matter before the new football season begins, so that any lessons can be learned before more matches are played.

Meanwhile, Mr Matheson's predecessor Mr MacAskill, who retired as an MSP at the election earlier in May, said the legislation could be improved.

He said: "I think it has to be retained, but I think it could perhaps be improved to make sure that some who have not been prosecuted can be.

"Scotland still has an issue. Saturday could have been catastrophic - albeit a lot of it was done with the good intentions of [fans] enjoying themselves.

"Let the SFA, let Police Scotland do the work. I have no doubt parliament will review this, but what we can't do is go backwards in the legislation - we've maybe got to go forwards in making it better."

Image copyright PA
Image caption A motion has also been lodged at Holyrood congratulating Hibs on their first Scottish Cup since 1902

Labour MSP Iain Gray has also lodged a motion about the final, congratulating Hibs on their first Scottish Cup win since 1902.

His motion, supported by Edinburgh Northern and Leith's SNP MSP Ben Macpherson, said parliament should "congratulate both teams on an exciting and close-fought final".

It further said parliament should "commend what it sees as the hard work, commitment and perseverance of the players and staff in delivering the historic victory and ending the 114-year wait to lift the cup again".

Rangers hit out at First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for tweeting her congratulations to Hibs without making any reference to the disorder which followed the match.

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