The Scottish Government will carry on with its controversial Sectarianism Bill – despite criticism that it is needless and may damage free speech.
Roseanna Cunningham – the Minister responsible for the Bill – does not accept that the legislation is unnecessary and unpopular.
However football clubs, faith groups, politicians and a prominent Scottish historian have all spoken out against the Bill – which is aimed at tackling sectarian hatred.
Earlier this month the Scottish Government conceded that it will include a free speech clause in the legislation, but details have not yet been revealed.
The Bill has faced widespread opposition. In August, Celtic Football Club warned the law may criminalise innocent fans. Rangers Football Club stated that the Scottish Parliament should make clear how the law will define sectarianism.
The Church of Scotland has said the legislation would “do nothing to reduce sectarianism unless it is part of wider work”.
The Christian Institute and CARE for Scotland raised concerns in June that religious liberty and free speech could be inadvertently caught by the Bill.
Earlier this month MSPs from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives hit out at the ‘confusing’ legislation.
They voted against the Bill at Holyrood’s Justice Committee stage.
In September prominent Scottish historian Tom Devine warned the legislation could bring Scottish law “into disrepute”.
Prof Devine criticised the Bill for spreading out beyond tackling incidents of sectarianism that flared up during the last Scottish football season.
And he said the current law which deals with sectarianism is “perfectly adequate”.