Two recent incidents in Scottish football have brought back into focus the accursed “hate-crime” legislation which many fans are now sick and tired of.

Last Sunday at St Mirren a group of Rangers fans had a banner removed by police which was said to contain “Loyalist symbolism”.

You had to look hard at that banner to determine the fuss. It showed images of a Union flag and a Scottish Saltire, the latter appearing to have a Red Hand of Ulster imposed on it.

The police were said to have removed the flag for safety-reasons, and reportedly handed it back to its owners at the end of the game.

As a police officer walked away with the confiscated item, some St Mirren fans stood and applauded their action.

Meanwhile at Celtic Park the Green Brigade kept up their own campaign against the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, which has now been in existence for three erratic years.

The Green Brigade have a reputation for colourful and lurid banners and, not for a first time, they didn’t miss their target. “Police State Brought To You By The SNP” proclaimed the banner, with an image of a policeman spying on supporters.

This is where we are: football fans in Scotland feeling put-upon and even harassed over their alleged “offensive expression”, with some of that expression appearing to be political in content.

It probably serves us well to recall, because it is long forgotten now, why this benighted football Act is upon us in the first place.

For years the antics of sections of Old Firm fans was a national embarrassment. Rangers, in particular, had a horrendous problem on their hands, a legacy of decades of bigotry at the club. Nor were some Celtic supporters innocent with their tub-thumping about the IRA.

It is well to remember that, prior to the Scottish government wading in, both Rangers and Celtic undertook their own campaigns to try to rid their clubs of bigoted or offensive content.

Down the years Rangers attempted two separate campaigns – “Bigger than Bigotry” and “Pride Over Prejudice” – to try to re-educate sections of their support. Or, at least, curb their singing.

Celtic also had “Bhoys Against Bigotry” as well as a campaign to rid their stadium of all political messaging or rhetoric.

So when people get off about this SNP government poking its nose into our so-called civil liberties, it was, in fact, Rangers and Celtic themselves who set the ball rolling. The clubs tried – and largely failed – their own in-house policing.

The old Rangers problem of bigoted chanting has, to my mind, been greatly improved over the years. I don’t doubt there are dodgy songs the club’s fans would still love to sing, but they at least have the decency to shelve them.

You cannot kick Rangers endlessly, without acknowledging the progress made. Ibrox as a stadium is a far healthier place today compared to 10 years ago, when the place rocked to The Billy Boys.

But what about the other stuff? On Sunday in Paisley I heard Rangers fans singing some time-honoured ditties about the UDA, the IRA and Bobby Sands. It was hardly persistent or ear-splitting, but you heard it nonetheless.

Celtic are visiting Tynecastle this week, and for some reason this is a favoured venue for their own renditions of IRA chants. It is claimed that certain pockets of Celtic supporters, were it not deemed politically incorrect, would like nothing better than a good old IRA song-fest.

For decent fans of Rangers and Celtic, these are all moments for rolling your eyes and placing hands over the ears.

But a major anxiety remains – how does a society outlaw and criminalise “offensive expression”? Indeed, should it?

The problem with the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, and with the police and our courts, is that in this context they are at the mercy of interpretation.

What is offensive, and what is not? I think most people know rank prejudice when they hear it – racism, anti-semitism, bigotry. But political expression? The UDA, IRA, Bobby Sands and the like?

Yes, to most of us this remains what Gerry McNee, the sports columnist, once called “all the Irish tosh”. It can be wearying and tedious to listen to. But is it worthy of arrest and criminal charges?

I’m leaving aside here, for once, the infantile point-scoring on either side of Glasgow. If you are bored, just spend half an hour on Twitter, to find Rangers and Celtic fans ardently spying on one another and shouting ‘J’Accuse’ in mock outrage.

This is a supporters’ game. It is never-ending. But the more serious point is that fans feel corralled and spied-on and harassed by Police Scotland over chants that potentially attract a top-heavy punishment.

I’m happy to confess my own gig in all this. Along with some others, I’m often accused of having helped to bring heavy-handed legislation onto our statute book in the first place. There is a grain of truth in that.

And my position has not changed. If supporters cannot behave decently, and keep hollering bigotry, and it cannot be fixed, then I say, yes, let’s have legislation to help clean ourselves up.

If both Rangers FC and Celtic FC have seen fit to eject fans for rank behaviour, then why cannot central government also have a means to ban or deter supporters?

But the issue remains this: legislation that is fair, appropriate and workable. Right now, and for the past three years, Scotland does not seem to have had that.