A clamp down on threatening or abusive behaviour in pubs and clubs in the Western Isles where football matches are shown is expected as new government legislation takes effect on March 1st.
‘The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act’ gives police more powers to deal with sectarian and bigoted behaviour all over Scotland, and not just where matches are taking place.
SNP Minister for Community Safety, Roseanna Cunningham, explained: “The police and the Lord Advocate, the most senior law officer in Scotland, have asked for better tools to do their difficult job.
“The Government welcomes the Justice Committee’s conclusion that sectarianism is a blight which must be eradicated from Scottish football.”
By March offensive or threatening behaviour could lead to a fine, football banning order, community sentence, or a prison sentence.
A government Spokesperson said: “Banter, a bit of wind up, and passionate support for football teams is the life blood of football and these laws do not target this.
“However, offensive chants about someone’s religion, singing songs in support of a terrorist organisation, or expressing other forms of hatred are not acceptable and it is time for it to stop.”
There are five planned meetings between supporters’ representatives and the police taking place before March 1st, including one in Inverness, to discuss the new legislation.
The meetings are described as: “An attempt by all parties to create an open dialogue around the implementation of the Act and do so directly with the people responsible for policing it.”