Jim Murphy wants to axe ban on sectarian chants

Jim Murphy. Picture: Toby Williams
Jim Murphy. Picture: Toby Williams
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Scottish Labour leadership contender Jim Murphy has pledged to act “right away” to scrap controversial laws designed to stamp out religious sectarian abuse at football matches if he becomes First Minister.

He spoke out as the SNP defeated a bid by Labour at Holyrood to repeal the “flawed” Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act.

The Scottish Government insists the legislation is working, but it has been heavily criticised by football clubs and even sheriffs. Scottish Labour has already vowed to appeal the legislation if it wins the next Holyrood election in 2016.

Mr Murphy said: “If I am elected Scottish Labour Party leader and First Minister, I will scrap the Football Act right away.

“The law was an attempt to chase headlines rather than actually fix a complex problem. Sectarianism and intolerance goes far beyond 90 minutes on a Saturday or 140 characters in a tweet.

“Instead of fixing the problem, they have created a pointless culture of mistrust between football fans and the police.”

He said sectarianism was a deep-rooted and hate-filled, long-term problem in Scotland. “It was allowed to fester and grow over many decades. Shamefully, it was celebrated by a minority, and silently tolerated by far too many. We have come a long way since the 1970s and 80s, but there is still a lot more to do. The way to tackle intolerance and bigotry is every day in our classrooms and communities, not with gimmick legislation.”