Greens to vote against SNP plans for sectarianism bill

For immediate release 22 June 2011

The Green MSPs will tomorrow vote against a proposal from the Scottish Government to suspend Standing Orders to allow Ministers to push the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill through Parliament in just six days. The party agrees that sectarianism and hate crime are serious issues, but argues that significant new offences incurring jail terms of up to five years deserve proper Parliamentary scrutiny, not mere cursory consideration to fit an arbitrary political timescale.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

"The SNP made a hasty pledge to introduce new laws on sectarianism before the next football season began, without even knowing what legislation they would come up with. Tomorrow Parliament will be asked to suspend normal scrutiny for a Bill which appears to be riddled with gaps, confusion, grey areas, and simple mistakes. All legislation should go through the full process of Parliamentary scrutiny to resolve those kind of issues, and this is doubly important for laws that could result in people facing up to five years in prison.

"We will therefore oppose the Scottish Government's proposals to curtail proper scrutiny, and I would urge Ministers to think again, even at this late stage. This is the first test of the SNP's pledge to listen to other parties and to experts outside Parliament, and they look set to fail it. A long-term and persistent problem like sectarianism is too serious to be tackled with six days of chaotic and rushed Parliamentary procedure followed by some ill-conceived knee-jerk legislation."