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McCoist will not attend Old Firm game after comments over ‘breaching’ hate law

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Rangers legend Ally McCoist will no longer attend the Old Firm game on Sunday, having earlier said he and thousands of fans at Ibrox would be “breaching” Scotland’s new hate crime law.

McCoist, who played for Rangers and later managed the club before becoming a football commentator, told talkSPORT on Tuesday: “I can guarantee you, next Sunday at Ibrox, I along with 48,000 will be committing a breach of that hate Bill in the particular Rangers v Celtic game we are all going to. It is madness.”

But he later said he will not attend the clash due to family commitments.

Asked on Wednesday if he is going to Sunday’s game by talkSPORT host Alan Brazil, McCoist said people had been “accusing” him of intending to break the law.

Rangers play Old Firm rivals Celtic at Ibrox on Sunday (PA)

McCoist added: “No I’m not actually. I will be away with the kids for a couple of days.

“See people are accusing me of going to break this Act, but I’m not even going to be at this game – which I thought I would be, but we are away for a couple of days.”

Scotland’s community safety minister Siobhian Brown was asked about McCoist’s original comments and refused to give an opinion, amid reports that more than 3,000 complaints have been received by police so far under the new legislation, including a false complaint made in her name.

Asked about McCoist’s concerns, Ms Brown told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I’m not going to comment on individuals’ comments.”

But she stressed behaviour would have to exceed a “very high threshold” for a crime to be committed.

Community safety minister Siobhian Brown said a ‘fake’ complaint under Scotland’s new hate crime laws had been made to police in her name (Jane Barlow/PA)

The minister said: “Somebody at these games would have to be inciting hatred, they would have to be threatening and abusive, with the intention of stirring up hatred to an individual at one of these games, that the individual is in fear and in alarm.

“I would truly hope that a lot of people attending a football match would not go there with the intention of doing that.

“We’ve been very clear within this Act this is not about restricting freedom of expression, it is protected.

“This is particularly about being threatening or abusive, to cause fear or alarm to individuals who have these protected characteristics.”

The legislation consolidates existing laws on hate crime and extends protections offered against racial abuse to other groups of people.

While stirring up racial hatred was already a crime, the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act extended this to other people on the grounds of age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

There have been no away supporters at recent Old Firm matches due to a dispute about fan safety, but allocations are due to be offered next season.

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