New laws will see Scottish football sectarians jailed for five years
Tough new laws to tackle the "ugly manifestation" of football-related sectarianism could see offenders jailed for five years in Scotland.
The draft legislation, published today, seeks to create two new offences relating to behaviour which can "incite religious, racial or other forms of hatred" in and around football grounds and on the internet.
If approved, it will mean bigots will face up to five years in prison and the prospect of a football banning order.
Existing law sees people who disrupt football matches charged with breach of the peace, which carries a maximum one-year sentence.
However the Bill includes behaviour deemed to be threatening, abusive, disorderly or offensive.
Online hate crime, such as abusive or offensive comments posted on Twitter, is also included and carries the same five-year maximum jail term.
Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: "This Bill is a fairly short, sharp Bill, which is creating two new criminal offences, one of which is directed very much at activity in and around, and related to, football matches but not absolutely confined to the grounds, and the second offence will deal with the problem of the threatening communications which we began to see an upsurge in a couple of months ago.
"The Bill is a direct response to what we saw happening towards the end of the football season and that is why we want to have it in place before the start of the new football season."
It comes in the wake of several high-profile football-related incidents.
Recent problems have seen two men appear in court after suspected parcel bombs were sent to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and two other high-profile supporters of the club in March.
Ms Cunningham added: "" We saw a very ugly situation developing towards the end of the last football season, very ugly - an image of Scotland going around the world which we really, really do not want to see continuing.
"We felt as a Government that we had to move fast to tackle some of that in its specifics while we dealt with the broader problem throughout society."