Celtic Football Club’s departing Chairman last week said the SNP’s controversial sectarianism legislation contains “real dangers” and should be “remedied”.
Lord John Reid, who stepped down as Celtic’s Chairman on Friday, cautioned that elements of the sectarianism Bill are needless.
And while welcoming the delay in implementing the legislation, he also warned that now “the more people are looking at it, the more they are saying this isn’t needed for the purpose for what it is intended”.
The Bill is a response to incidents of sectarian hatred that flared up during the last Scottish football season but there is concern that it damages free speech and civil liberty.
The Scottish Government has promised to include a free speech clause in the Bill, but no details have yet been revealed.
Lord Reid, speaking at Celtic’s annual meeting last week, said: “I think there are real dangers in the present proposals. They must be looked at very carefully and remedied, as we don’t want to make the position worse.”
Lord Reid, a former Home Secretary, also said: “There are already laws to criminalise sectarian behaviour and racism, and people will wonder why they haven’t been implemented when we are bringing in new laws.”
He also criticised the aspect of the Bill which means: “If you leave the country and happen to be watching the football match and you say certain things, then it might be a criminal offence when you get back to this country.”
He warned the Government had to be careful of encroaching on free speech rights as the SNP risked coming “into contact with the European Convention on Human Rights”
In August Celtic and Rangers football clubs, collectively known as the Old Firm, expressed concerns about the legislation in written submissions to the Scottish Parliament.
Celtic said the law may criminalise innocent fans and Rangers were concerned that a lack of clarity may clog up the courts.
The Church of Scotland has also warned the Bill would “do nothing to reduce sectarianism unless it is part of wider work”.
And former assistant chief constable of Strathclyde, Graeme Pearson, said in August that current legislation should be used to deal with the issue.