THE Scottish Government's desire to tackle head-on the sectarianism and other forms of hateful abuse that spoil the beautiful game and the nation's reputation is sound.
Ministers are right when they say the ugly and sinister events of the last football season showed some individuals and groups “lost all perspective”, and right to bring forward legislation to address the problem. But on such a legally fraught and sensitive issue it is also right that Parliament, the Old Firm, the police, fans, churches and lawyers should have time to scrutinise the proposals and add their contributions to the process.
The Government had wanted its anti-sectarian bill rushed through Parliament in a fortnight, so it would be law before the new season in July. There was a logic to the argument, but the weight of the subject and the scale of public interest meant a fuller and longer debate was inevitable.
On the afternoon he learned he had secured a historic majority in May’s election, the First Minister said he wanted to govern by consensus, taking the country and the Parliament with him by agreement, not the scruff of the neck.
Delaying his legislation by six months is a good example of this, albeit a belated one. It is now up to MSPs and others who secured that delay to make the most of it, to add to the debate and finesse the bill in the autumn. Any attempt at backsliding now would be odious.
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