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Joint statement after anti-sectarianism debate

November 3, 2011 5:50 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

All four opposition parties and independent MSP Margo MacDonald have released a joint statement following today's Scottish Parliament debate on the SNP's flagship Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill.

Opposition parties and Ms MacDonald today supported an amendment lodged by Scottish Labour's Shadow Community Safety Minister James Kelly MSP that warns the SNP government has "failed to make the case" for the introduction of controversial new offences and as such "cannot be supported".

The joint statement, supported by Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservatives, the Scottish Liberal Democrats, the Scottish Greens and Independent MSP Margo MacDonald, reads:

"Let's be clear, Members from all political parties want to root out sectarianism from Scottish society.

"Alex Salmond said that 'on this issue above all' he wanted to achieve a 'consensus across the chamber'. Unfortunately, the only consensus the SNP has achieved is against the Bill.

"The SNP government has failed to make the case for the changes to the law it proposes.

"Concerns have been raised about this Bill by the Law Society of Scotland, the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Scottish Justices Association, anti-sectarianism organisations, football supporters groups, religious organisations and children's charities. Their powerful voices deserve to be listened to.

"That is why we have come together to send the strongest possible message to the SNP government to stop, take a breath, and talk to other parties, to the clubs, and to the many others concerned about these proposals rather than using their majority to force through this flawed legislation.

"Our fear is that the government's response is driven by a desire to be seen to do something, not by any evidence that this plan would actually work.

"We believe a more effective response to dealing with the problems in relation to Scottish football would include giving greater consideration to the use of existing laws, to working with football authorities and promoting positive interventions in communities and the education system.

"We urge the SNP government to rebuild the consensus in favour of positive, practical, evidence-based measures that will actually tackle the underlying problems associated with sectarian behaviour.

"If the SNP government exploit their majority to force through this rushed, flawed piece of legislation there is a real risk it will do more harm than good."