Scotland’s main opposition parties have accused the Scottish Government of failing “to make the case” for its anti-sectarianism Bill ahead of a debate in Holyrood this afternoon.
Labour, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Greens have branded the Bill “muddled”, “slapdash”, “ill-thought-out” and a “shambles”.
The Christian Institute and church groups believe the Bill could damage free speech and religious liberty.
The Scottish Labour Party has tabled an amendment, backed by the other opposition parties, saying that they cannot support the beleaguered Bill.
The amendment says: “The Scottish government have failed to make the case for the requirement for new offences contained in the bill; that it lacks clarity, would lead to confusion, be difficult to enforce if implemented and cannot be supported.”
Labour MSP James Kelly said: “Scottish Labour wants to support tough new measures to tackle sectarianism, but we refuse to back bad legislation for the sake of it. There is a real danger that if a bad law is passed, it could do more harm than good.”
Conservative MSP John Lamont said: “This slapdash bill needs to be thought through more carefully because in its current form there is a distinct possibility of negative, unintended consequences that we simply cannot allow to happen.”
Alison McInnes, of the Liberal Democrats, said: “It has been plain from the outset that this bill is ill-thought-out, rushed and will do little to address the underlying problems associated with sectarian behaviour.”
Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: “The SNP’s proposals on sectarianism are a muddled and incoherent response to a serious problem.”
The sectarianism Bill is a response to incidents of sectarian hatred that flared up during the last Scottish football season, but there is widespread concern that it damages free speech and civil liberty.
A spokesman for the Government, said: “Bigoted and sectarian behaviour of all kinds is totally unacceptable in modern Scotland, and this bill is needed because police and prosecutors have made it clear they need extra tools to tackle such hate by filling clear gaps in the current law.”
Last month the Scottish Government conceded that it will include a free speech clause in the legislation, but details have not yet been revealed.