THE best way to tackle the problem of sectarianism in Scotland is “do away with” denominational schools rather than enforcing a ban on sectarian songs.
That’s the view of Sheriff Richard Davidson, who made the comment at the trial of a Celtic fan charged with singing a sectarian song at a Boxing Day match with Dundee.
Addressing the court yesterday, Davidson denounced attempts to tackle sectarianism in football through laws banning certain songs.
He said this could lead to full courts and empty football grounds.
Sectarianism is a blight on Scottish society, but this isn’t the way to tackle it. The way to tackle it is to do away with denominational schools.
The comments provoked an immediate backlash from the Catholic Church who described them as “deeply regrettable”.
A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Dunkeld said:
Catholic schools exist throughout the world without being accused of leading to sectarianism.
Dion McLeish, 20, was found not guilty at Dundee Sheriff Court of inciting public disorder during a Boxing Day match between Dundee and Celtic.
Prosecutors had alleged that, on December 26 at Dens Park, Dundee,McLeish engaged in behaviour which was likely or would be likely to incite public disorder by singing a song contrary to the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012.
It was alleged he was singing Roll of Honour – a song remembering the Irish Republican hunger strikers who dies in the Maze prison in 1981.
Davidson told McLeish:
I have been attending football matches since 1957 and there is nothing I have seen in this particular case that would cause me the slightest concern. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever, as far as I’m concerned, that your behaviour would be liable to incite public disorder and you will be found not guilty.
The verdict is another blow to new legislation, which was passed last year by the Scottish Government.
Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, has claimed the laws – which outlaw sectarian songs and abuse at Scottish football matches – have been a success.
However, leading lawyers have raised concerns that football fans in Scotland are having their human rights undermined by the new police powers.
They claim supporters have been put under surveillance orders and quizzed by detectives at airports when returning from holidays, with many cases either dropped or found not proven.
Sheriff Davidson is no stranger to controversy. He once had to apologise for branding the vicious behaviour of an accused towards his ex-girlfriend as “typical of Dundee man” and also said children of drug addicts should be adopted.