THERE is a good deal of confusion over James Kelly MSP’s repeal bill to scrap the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act.

The proposed legal change is not about being more tolerant of football fans who sing bigoted or offensive songs in grounds and on the way to and from matches.

Neither is it – as some would have you believe – a party political ploy, although it was votes solely from SNP MSPs which forced the original legislation through, and the repeal attempt has come about because of the party’s loss of its overall majority.

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Nobody disputes the need to crack down on sectarian behaviour. Those who voted for the original bill, in an attempt to crack down on anti-Catholic or anti-Protestant chants. songs and online communications did so with good intent.

But good intentions do not guarantee good laws.

Community Safety Minister Annabel Ewing is quite right to say songs celebrating terrorists, mocking the dead or promoting hate on the basis of faith or ancestry are unacceptable and unwanted in modern day Scotland.

But such despicable behaviours should be unacceptable universally, not just at football grounds, or when the perpetrators are identified as football fans.

The most deeply unsatisfactory aspect of the 2012 Act was the singling out for its application of a single sub-set of the population, arguably particular followers of one particular sport. It was arguably largely brought in as a result of one game between two specific teams.

It is this element more than any which has led some commentators to view the original Act as more of a PR exercise than a well-considered piece of law.

But that is not the only problem with it. The law has been shown to be unworkable, its interpretation excessively dependent on the context of an offence and on subjective judgements.

This means that where there should be clear rules that all - fans, lawyers, police officers and the general public – can understand, there is instead confusion.

Legal experts dislike it, fans do not trust it and the anti-sectarianism charity Nil By Mouth has described it as an unhelpful distraction. It was ill-conceived from the start and a low conviction rate is testimony to its flaws.

Should the act be repealed – which now looks likely, with Green Party MSPs likely to vote against the Government – it will be historic. It will be the first time an Act has been repealed in its entirety in the (relatively) short history of the Scottish Parliament.

Ministers have suggested that to do so would “send entirely the wrong message” about Scotland’s approach to sectarianism.

This is not the case. Retaining the existing law would send the wrong message about a parliament unwilling to admit its mistakes, a government which would rather leave bad legislation in place rather than suffer any embarrassment.

Ministers also argue that opponents of Act should be in a position to suggest alternatives before any repeal is considered. Not so.

Pre-existing laws allowed the police and courts to detain serious offenders and prosecute the worst behaviours and still will.

But Mr Kelly is right to insist the law should be scrapped and that education, community work and other approaches are more likely to be successful than criminalising an entire group of sports fans, while potentially raising tensions between Police Scotland officers and all fans at matches.

A change in cultural acceptance, may not be a populist or a speedy solution. But it is the only way the shameful lingering stain of sectarianism can be eliminated from those parts of Scotland where it yet lingers.