Salmond announces plans for new anti-sectarian law

image captionAlex Salmond likened sectarianism to a parasite in football

New legislation to tackle sectarianism is to be put before the Scottish cabinet next week.

First Minister Alex Salmond said he wanted to pass the legislation before the football season began in July.

The plans could see the maximum jail term for sectarian hate crimes rise from six months to five years.

Online postings expressing religious hatred or death threats would also become an indictable offence.

The proposals would also include moves to outlaw sectarian displays during football matches.

In an interview with BBC Scotland, Mr Salmond said: "We've got a particular problem attaching itself like a parasite to our great game of football and that is now going to be eradicated, it's over, it's finished."

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland will bring forward proposals for anti-sectarian legislation to the cabinet next week.

'Football context'

The move comes after two men appeared in court after suspected bombs were sent to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and two other high-profile supporters of the club in March.

Another man was charged with breach of the peace and assault, both aggravated by religious prejudice, after an alleged attack on Celtic manager Neil Lennon at a football game on 11 May.

The chief executive of the Scottish Football Association welcomed the plans.

Stewart Regan said: "The Scottish FA welcomes the first minister's pledge to provide tougher legislation to tackle the problem of sectarianism.

"We look forward to the Scottish government taking the lead to offer clarity on the issue of sectarianism and other forms of discriminatory behaviour within Scottish football.

"This will require consultation through the Joint Action Group to establish clearly defined parameters for this necessary legislation to work practically in a football context."

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