Rona slams ‘skewed’ opposition for voting to scrap anti-hate crime law

Rona slams ‘skewed’ opposition for voting to scrap anti-hate crime law

RONA Mackay has challenged her opposition counterparts to explain why they have voted in favour of repealing an anti-sectarian law which is supported by the vast majority of people across Scotland.

Opposition MSPs voted for a Tory motion calling on the Scottish Government to repeal the Act, which has been important in tackling sectarianism, prejudice and discrimination.

Ms Mackay, an SNP MSP, has questioned why the opposition parties view this issue as a priority over education, health, jobs, the economy and protecting Scotland’s interests in Europe.

Commenting after the vote, the Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP said: “This vote shows that the priorities of Holyrood’s opposition parties are staggeringly skewed, with opposition MSPs across in the west of Scotland believing scrapping hate crime legislation is the top issue facing the country.

“The legislation is backed by 80 per cent of the population, and it is extraordinary for opposition MSPs covering Strathkelvin and Bearsden to be rallying behind the Tories in their efforts to repeal an anti-sectarian law.

“People across Strathkelvin and Bearsden will now be asking – rightly – what on Earth the opposition are playing at. At a time when the SNP Government is focused on education, health, jobs, the economy and protecting Scotland’s place in Europe, other parties would rather see us remove legislation that tackles sectarianism, prejudice and discrimination, whilst offering no alternative in its place.

“It is time the opposition parties got their priorities in order, backed efforts to tackle sectarianism and other hate crimes, and focused on the other issues that really matter to people across my constituency.”

Polling data showing public support for the Act is available here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0047/00478775.pptx

Rona’s Speech: Repealing OBFA does no good to tackle sectarianism in football

Rona Mackay MSP spoke at the Sectarian Behaviour and Hate Crime debate on Wednesday, November 2, defending the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012.

The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP said: “It sends out a clear message that we will not permit discrimination, violence, sectarianism, prejudice or hate crime in Scotland.”

The debate was brought about by Conservative MSP Douglas Ross’s motion calling the Scottish Government to repeal the 2012 act, arguing that it was poorly drafted and unworkable.

Rona said: “I want to clear up a few myths about the act. It is working and is reducing sectarianism at football. In 2016, the number of people charged with offensive behaviour from the previous year has increased by 49 per cent, which means that the amount of abusive behaviour from the previous year has increased by 49 per cent.”

Citing polling data from the independent YouGov Plc, Rona said that the 2012 act is supported by 80 per cent of the public. The act also has the support of football clubs across Scotland.

In response to the criticism that the 2012 act is badly equipped to tackle hate crime in football, Rona said: “Of course we will consider ways of improving the 2012 act’s application. We are happy to do so.

“However, to repeal the act and get rid of an additional and useful tool, which strengthens existing legislation for police and prosecutors, is not a priority for this Government.

“The Crown Office said that repeal would leave a gap in legislation, and we would be the only part of the United Kingdom that does not have such legislation.

“Douglas Ross’s motion, which asks for the repeal of the act, is regressive and negative. The motion is right to say that ‘sectarian behaviour and hate crime are a blight on society in Scotland’, but Douglas Ross’s party, like Labour, has not come up with a single solution to the problem. What is the Opposition’s alternative? Breach of the peace is simply not strong enough.”

The motion was backed by all opposition parties, including Labour, Green, and the Liberal Democrats. A vote on the issue saw the SNP defeated marginally by one vote (63 to 64).

Full transcript:

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP):
I want to highlight the meaning of the word “justice”. The dictionary definition states that it is

“a concern for justice, peace, and genuine respect for people; fairness, equity and egalitarianism”.

Those values are precisely what the 2012 act promotes. It sends out a clear message that we will not permit discrimination, violence, sectarianism, prejudice or hate crime in Scotland.

I want to clear up a few myths about the act. It is working and is reducing sectarianism at football. In 2016, the number of people charged with offensive behaviour from the previous year has increased by 49 per cent, which means that the amount of abusive behaviour and language on our football terraces and streets has reduced by 49 per cent.

The fact is that the 2012 act is supported by the majority of the public—around 80 per cent. Those people just want to enjoy a game of football without having to experience the bile and hatred of a tiny minority of fans.

Neil Findlay:
Will the member take an intervention?

Rona Mackay:
I am sorry, I have too little time.

The 2012 act is also, in the main, supported by football clubs across Scotland.

The 2012 act is not confined to football. An offence is also committed if material is intended to stir up religiously motivated hatred. Sectarianism is not a matter for football in isolation, because the problem goes way beyond the football ground. The 2012 act is also designed to address online communications and hate crime.

Of course we will consider ways of improving the 2012 act’s application. We are happy to do so. However, to repeal the act and get rid of an additional and useful tool, which strengthens existing legislation for police and prosecutors, is not a priority for this Government. The Crown Office said that repeal would leave a gap in legislation, and we would be the only part of the United Kingdom that does not have such legislation. Repeal would be an entirely retrograde step. What message would it send to the next generation?

When my son was a football-mad six-year-old and wanted a football top, we bought him a Partick Thistle Football Club top so that he would not be identified with either side of the old firm. How do we explain sectarianism to a young child? We simply cannot do so, and we should not have to do so. Sectarianism has been the curse of the west of Scotland, and any steps that our Government takes to put a stop to it should be welcomed.

Douglas Ross’s motion, which asks for the repeal of the act, is regressive and negative. The motion is right to say that

“sectarian behaviour and hate crime are a blight on society in Scotland”,

but Douglas Ross’s party, like Labour, has not come up with a single solution to the problem. What is the Opposition’s alternative? Breach of the peace is simply not strong enough.

Douglas Ross:
Will the member take an intervention?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:
She is in her final minute.

Rona Mackay:
Labour and the Tories supported the approach whole-heartedly in 2011.

To members who oppose the 2012 act, I say that we are proud that, rather than pay lip service to the problem, the SNP Government is prepared to tackle it head on and rid Scotland of a poison that has been a blight on our nation for far too long.

 

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