PUBS across Scotland could close unless the Government spells out to landlords what constitutes an offence under new laws designed to tackle football-related bigotry, trade lobbyists have warned.

With arrest rates for sectarian behaviour expected to accelerate after the Offensive Behaviour Act receives Royal Assent, the country's largest licensed trade group fears hundreds of bar and pub owners could become collateral damage.

The Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA) has joined a long list of other parties asking for clarification on matters such as what songs and slogans are in and out and has asked for ministers and the police to provide real-life scenarios of situations which could unfold in licensed premises.

The body, which represents more than one in five of Scotland's 5000 pubs, as well as major brewers, has written to ministers demanding clear guidance and asking for meetings with the police "in order to provide further information which would be of benefit to the licensed trade".

The Government has said the police's football co-ordination unit was already setting up meetings with licensing authorities to discuss the implementation of the legislation.

In his letter to Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham, SBPA chief executive Patrick Browne said that as long as it was unclear how the laws would impact on the trade there was "a high risk a licensed premise could find itself being reported to the local licensing board which could then sanction their premises licence, with implications for the business".

He added: "Given the new and very specific nature of the offences under the new Act relating to licensed premises, it would be helpful for my members and licensees more generally to have further guidance from the Government as to which types of behaviour on their premises would be unacceptable under the terms of legislation. This would assist them in fulfilling the expectations of licensing boards and the police more generally."

Last night Mr Browne said: "We need concrete examples and scenarios which we know would present problems to the police, what they consider could be happening in pubs and which shouldn't be. You're talking songs and slogans and perhaps lists of what's in or out. During the passage of the Bill it wasn't in the slightest bit clear on what the practical implementations would be."

Although Glasgow is one licensing board area which has a policy on dealing with sectarian issues in licensed premises, primarily to deal with the numerous Celtic and Rangers pubs across the city, there is a concern landlords in areas not used to the problem could get caught up in the legislation though ignorance of the issue.

Mr Browne said Grampian Police was using undercover officers in venues used by visiting fans, adding they would be picking up on songs and comments the licensee would not. He added: "Up until now it's clear to a licensee what unacceptable behaviour is and how to deal with it. That's now not the case."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We are working con-structively with all partners in the licensed trade and beyond to ensure everyone understands their responsibilities around the legislation to ensure it is effective- ly implemented from March 1."

Meanwhile, ministers have kicked into the long grass plans for pubs and clubs to pay a social responsibility levy to fund public bodies dealing with alcohol problems, the so-called "polluter pays" plans, with a date for implementa-tion now mid-2015 at the earliest.

A moratorium will take place during the lifespan of the Government's plans to add a levy to big supermarkets selling alcohol and tobacco. Although the "on-trade" has welcomed the move, there are concerns major retailers could recoup the costs by putting extra pressures on deals from brewing companies.