The MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) responsible for tackling sectarianism in the country has been warned by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland about the dangers of pushing through an over-hasty bill to deal with the problem.
The Rt Rev David Arnott, current senior representative of the Presbyterian denomination, has met with Roseanna Cunningham, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, to discuss the Scottish Government’s ‘Offensive Behaviour in Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill' ahead of its publication.
Mr Arnott declared: “We appreciated the opportunity to meet with the Minister on this very important issue but we remain nervous about this haste in which this bill being rushed through Parliament, apparently in time for the start of the football season. Whilst we are not against the ideas in this bill, we remain unconvinced of the wisdom of this approach“.
The speed at which it is being rushed through means it appears to lack scrutiny and clarity, says the senior churchman.
The government is rightly asking for support from across civic Scotland, it believes, but is not giving civic Scotland much time to make sure they are happy with the content.
The Church of Scotland says it recognises that football terraces are where much of what is seen as sectarianism occurs but it is not only there that the abuse, be it verbal or physical harm, is experienced.
Sectarianism is a deeply cultural issue and will not be solved solely by words or legislation but both can help, the Kirk Moderator suggests.
Mr Arnott explained: “We remain of the view that real change comes when human relationships are healed and that takes time, effort, resources and a commitment to working in local communities and with a wide range of local organisations. We look to the ecumenical work of Larkhall Churches, the Bridging the Gap project in the Gorbals or the Iona Community’s 'can you hear the bigots sing?' project as examples of local initiatives that work because they change lives."