Alternative plan to ‘nip bigotry in the bud’

Labour has launched an alternative to the Scottish Government’s anti-sectarian legislation, just days before MSPs will be asked to back the controversial measures.

The party, which does not support the SNP’s Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill, says its own plan will not require changes to the law.

Labour’s community safety spokesman, James Kelly, abstained from voting on the bill and pledged to oppose its final stage at Holyrood this week.

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But he said: “Scottish Labour is absolutely 100 per cent determined to tackle the scourge of sectarianism.

“Our approach, which focuses on education and young people, aims to nip sectarianism in the bud and stop bigoted attitudes from taking hold in the first place.

“Our package of practical measures recognises that sectarianism does not stop at the stadium gates and demands a much more sophisticated response and none of the proposals require new legislation.”

The 11-point plan calls for a review of how anti-sectarianism can be taught in schools, a “stamp out sectarianism” campaign and a national summit for teachers, youth workers and other interested parties.

The party wants the government to adopt a cross-department strategy to tackle the problem, with an “ambassador” at its head.

There would be a crackdown on the manufacture and sale of “offensive merchandise” linked to football, it said.

However, Les Gray, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, said there must be changes to the law.

“If someone’s going to tell me that the current situation is working fine, then these people are living in cloud cuckoo land,” he added.