Singing National Anthem 'could be illegal'
Community safety minister Roseanna Cunningham yesterday said that such songs and gestures could be regarded as offensive acts when she was questioned about the SNP's anti-sectarian bill being fast-tracked through parliament.
She said: "A sign of a cross is not in itself offensive, but I suppose in circumstances such as Rangers and Celtic fans meeting each other on a crowded street, it could be construed as something offensive."
Ms Cunningham's failure to rule out fans being arrested for singing the National Anthem was described as "worrying" by opposition politicians, who warned that there was a "potentially explosive loophole" in the legislation.
Senior figures in the legal fraternity urged the government to adopt a "common sense" approach to its Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill.
Concern that people could be at risk of being dragged through the courts for singing the National Anthem came as police questioned whether the £500,000 the government has set aside to implement the legislation would be enough.
Conservative justice spokesman John Lamont asked the minister if she could envisage the singing of either the National Anthem or Flower of Scotland "becoming offensive behaviour within the act?" Ms Cunningham replied: "The glib answer to that is 'no, of course not'. But the problem is, for a criminal offence, it is all the facts and circumstances that surround that, that may turn them (sic] into problematic."
She added: "Perhaps it might have been more appropriate to, say, look at Rule Britannia, which I understand is one (song] frequently used on one side of the terraces. Now, I would not regard (that song] as offensive, but it is exactly why we don't start defining which songs, and listing the songs … it really is a matter of facts and the circumstances of the case whether something is or is not offensive."
She went on to suggest that Celtic fans making the sign of the cross could also be judged offensive. "I have seen hundreds of Celtic fans (behave] in a manner which I can only describe as aggressive - making signs of the cross, gesticulating across an open area to Rangers fans."
The new law is being rushed through Holyrood before the parliament rises for the summer recess in less than two weeks. The speed with which it is being examined by MSPs has raised fears among lawyers that it will not be scrutinised properly.
The bill outlaws religious, homophobic and racist abuse by fans at, and on the way to and from football matches. It is also designed to crack down on fans spreading bigoted abuse on the internet. Under the legislation, those found guilty of the new offences of "offensive behaviour" or "threatening communications" can expect sentences ranging from a £40 fixed penalty to a five-year prison sentence or unlimited fine.,,,,WELL A BIG THANKS TO ALL THOSE WHO VOTED FOR THE SNP IN MAY ELECTIONS ?NOW YOULL SEE YOUR FREEDOMS TAKEN AWAY FROM YOU PEACE BY PEACE ,THE SNP WOULD RATHER GIVE AND HELP ILEGAL IMIGRANTS ARRIVE AND FLOURISH IN OUR BEUITIUFAL LAND THAN SEE ITS OWN TRUE FOLK ENJOY AND HAVE THE RIGHTS TO SING WHAT EVER THEY WANTED ,WHAT THE FUCK IS DEMOCRACY ???????STEPH88 ED 14WORDS SCOTLAND