The election is past and Parliament has returned. The first target of the re-energised opposition is the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. There are issues with the legislation but what does that say about priorities when most folk are more concerned about jobs, health and housing.

As a lifelong Hibs fan I travelled to Hampden on Saturday to see 114 years of misery ended as the cup was won. The sheen was taken off the victory by fans' behaviour. Sadly, much was by my own side, though they were not alone. Over exuberance it may have been but self-indulgent and potentially catastrophic it also was. Some was equally unbridled hooliganism. It diminished the players' moment in the sun and refuted ideas there’s no need for action in fitba.

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There is mainstream criticism of the legislation but it also unites the ultra-left and the libertarian right. Like two sides of a coin they say it’s about individual rights or personal freedoms. Some proponents of the latter ilk are akin to the National Rifle Association in the US who fulminate over the right to bear arms. Mirrored in Scotland by the apparent right to do whatever you like no matter how offensive. Too bad about the consequences for the rest of society – it’s their constitutional right.

The Herald:

The emphasis by both is on the rights of individual but what about the rights of the wider community? We do, after all, live as a society. Are there not collective, as well as individual rights? What about communities who require to endure offensive behaviour?

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All this is happening as the euphemistically described Marching Season is about to be upon us. Ode to Joy it will not be. Communities will require to endure what some claim is their culture echoing claims made in a football context; even if from a different position in the sectarian divide. Meanwhile, many communities see it as triumphalism at best. Once again on a wider field than football, individual rights conflict with those of wider society. It’s a difficult balance to strike. People must be allowed to march even if their cause is disagreed with by many, if not most. It’s the price paid to live in a democracy. The same applies to things many find offensive.

The Herald:

The legislation on marches is complex, as with offensive behaviour at football. All such laws that involve the clash of these conflicting rights are equally so. That is compounded by context where doing something in certain circumstances can be perfectly lawful but in others it’s not. Waving a Hibernian flag is no crime, but doing so in front of the Rangers support at Hampden certainly could be.

Marches are likewise. Blanket legislation is as likely to ban the Girl Guides from celebrations as target Orange or Republican marches. Councils should set strict criteria and ensure the community is protected, as well as the right to parade safeguarded. Disorder should not be tolerated. But, funding them as appears proposed in Falkirk is entirely inappropriate.

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The Offensive Behaviour legislation is equally challenged in balancing those rights. It was criticised recently following a case in Dumbarton. It involved the singing of a song venerating the youth wing of the UVF. The Sheriff dismissed the case stating the organisation was not a prescribed one, though the adult section was. Doubtless, in legal terms he was correct. But, does that make the actions of those singing it right or the attempts by police and prosecutors to address it wrong? The youth wing may be legal but the UVF have murdered innocent Catholics in Belfast and blown up Christmas shoppers in Dublin. They are nothing to venerate and especially not at a football match or in a public place.

Critics of the specific football legislation have stated it was unnecessary, though, it’s hard to see what other charges could have been brought. Breach of the Peace was shown to have been unsuccessful in similar types of cases; and as stated by the Sheriff the organisation is not banned.

So the legislation has its flaws, that’s undoubted. But, Scotland still has a problem that’s for certain. The suggestion it can all be tackled by existing laws and education is absurd. Previous laws were inadequate. Things are better in Scotland than before but sectarianism sadly still exists centuries, not just decades, on. Wishing it away simply will not work. Education has a role but on its own is inadequate. Laws there must be.

So rather than repealing the legislation maybe the newly invigorated parliamentary opposition could work to improve the football legislation; as well as give further consideration to marches and parades. After all there are still many issues affecting Scottish football and it’s not just individuals but communities that have rights.