Opposition unite to defeat Offensive Behaviour Act in symbolic parliament vote

Narrow defeat for Offensive Behaviour at Football Act by a single vote 

THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT has narrowly called for the controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football Act (OBFA) to be repealed.

All opposition parties voted in favour of a motion calling for “the Scottish Government to repeal the act as a matter of priority” by 64 votes to 63. 

The SNP, which is just short of an overall majority, opposed the move. 

While the vote saw the government’s position defeated, the motion does not compel the government to change the law. 

Changing the law would require new legislation or a vote to amend the previous act. 

Labour MSP James Kelly, who is proceeding with plans to introduce a new bill on the issue, claimed the vote left the OBFA “dead in the water”. 

However, the SNP said the result sent “entirely the wrong message” in the fight to combat sectarianism and threatening behaviour. 

‘Offensive behaviour’ law faces possible abolition

The OBFA is supported by the government as one means of using legal powers to target offensive and threatening behaviour at and near football matches. 

However, opponents warn that the act was poorly drafted, and has needlessly criminalised individuals when solutions like ‘strict liability’ for clubs would be more effective. 

Following the debate, Kelly said: “The final score is in - and the Football Act is dead in the water. It is clear there is a majority in the Scottish Parliament to repeal the law, just as there was overwhelming support for repeal in my public consultation.”

However, SNP MSP James Dornan rejected the calls for repeal. 

“This vote shows that the priorities of Holyrood’s opposition parties are staggeringly skewed if they regard trying to scrap hate crime legislation as the top issue facing the country: legislation supported by 80% of the population,” he said. 

The parliament and campaigners now await the next moves by Kelly in his attempts to replace the legislation. 

Picture courtesy of Fans Against Criminalisation

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