Case for drink ban ‘strengthened’ after Cup final brawls

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.

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Justice secretary Michael Matheson has said the need to keep the ban on alcohol at football grounds has been strengthened following disturbances at the Scottish cup final.

Brawls broke out after Hibernian’s 3-2 victory over Rangers, with thousands of fans invading the pitch - in total 14 people were arrested for offences committed both inside and outside the ground.

Mr Matheson said: “I think if anybody thought that reintroducing alcohol into Scottish football was a good idea, events of Saturday, I believe, just underline that it was not and I’m pleased that we stood our ground on that particular issue and opposed those parties in the Scottish Parliament who sought to try to change the legislation to allow alcohol to be reintroduced to grounds.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour has begun moves in the Scottish Parliament to have the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act scrapped.

Introduced in 2012 following ugly scenes at an Old Firm match, the act has proved unpopular with football supporters across the country.

Former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, who was among the crowd at Hampden on Saturday to watch Hibs lift the cup by beating Rangers, has also spoken out claiming that the controversial act should be retained and could be “improved” as a result of the violent scenes at the final whistle.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, he said now was not the time “to take our foot off the gas” when it came to tackling violence in the national game.

Asked whether the act should be retained, he said: “I think it has to be retained, but it could be improved to make sure that some who have perhaps not being getting prosecuted, can be.

“Saturday could have been catastrophic, albeit a lot of it was done with people just having the good intention of enjoying themselves.

“I was there on Saturday, I was also at Leith Walk (victory parade) on Sunday. Leith Walk was magnificent - that’s what it should have been like.”

Labour MSP James Kelly, who is leading his party’s attempt to have the legislation repealed, said: “Kenny MacAskill is wrong.

“The act was a mistake from the start.”

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser added: “It’s depressingly predictable that the few people left who think this is a good idea should use Saturday as an argument for its extension.”

“The Offensive Behaviour at Football legislation clearly made no impact on Saturday, just as it has made no positive impact since its introduction.

“You could even argue that if police officers weren’t too busy listening to the words of songs and reading banners, they might have been better prepared for the chaos which ensued.”

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