Scottish Government to delay sectarian legislation

New legislation aimed at tacking Scottish football's sectarian problem has been delayed by six months, it was announced today.

Opposition MSPs, both Old Firm clubs and the Church of Scotland had all opposed the speed at which the new laws were being pushed through parliament.

Alex Salmond announced today at First Minister's questions that the legislation would not be in place for the start of the football season in July and would instead be delayed for six months.

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The Scottish Parliament's justice committee had expressed concern over the speed with which the bill was to go through.

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill would create two offences relating to behaviour deemed to "incite religious, racial or other forms of hatred" in and around football grounds and on the internet.

Offenders could be jailed for up to five years under the proposals.

Mr Salmond said: "I accept, and I think everybody accepts, we have a majority in this chamber - but we need consensus.

"I hope, because what we say in this place on this issue has huge ramifications across society, that we can allow for the probability, the certainty, that each and every single one of us wants to eliminate sectarianism and sectarian displays from Scottish football.

"Each and every one of us wants to eliminate sectarianism from Scottish society.

"I hope that parliament will accept there is a huge, genuine urgency in this matter, and also accept that this government wants to achieve the consensus within parliament and throughout Scottish society."

Scottish football was heavily criticised last season following several high-profile incidents, mainly suspected parcel bombs sent to Celtic manager Neil Lennon, his lawyer Paul McBride and Celtic-supporting former MSP Trish Godman.