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An ‘anti-sectarian’ act? Examining the importance of national identity to the ‘offensive behaviour at football and threatening communications (Scotland) act’

May, A (2015) An ‘anti-sectarian’ act? Examining the importance of national identity to the ‘offensive behaviour at football and threatening communications (Scotland) act’. Sociological Research Online, 20.

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Abstract

The 2010-11 football season in Scotland was affected by many incidents of violence and threatening behaviour. Fans of the two Glasgow clubs, Celtic and Rangers, were involved in the majority of these incidents. Players and officials of Celtic were targeted by Loyalist terrorists and sent bullets through the post. The Scottish government felt that many of the incidents were motivated by religious, ethnic, and national hatred, and introduced an Act of Parliament in order to tackle the problems that had arisen. The 'Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act' came into law on 1 March 2012, representing a governmental judgement that Scottish football is negatively affected by inter-communal tension. The Act criminalises violent incidents and threatening behaviour related to the expression of religious hatred towards football fans, players, and officials. It also explicitly targets expressions of hatred on ethnic and national grounds. This is significant because in the contemporary era, much of what is termed 'sectarianism' in Scotland is directly related to national identity, particularly British and Irish identities. The modern iconography of Celtic and Rangers has comparatively little to do with religion, and relates to differing visions of Scotland, the United Kingdom, and the island of Ireland. Incidents that are termed 'sectarian' are often best examined through the prism of nationalism, for in contemporary Scotland it is national identity that is most significant to those who perpetrate the actions that the Act seeks to tackle.

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