SCOTTISH ministers have warned that Parliament’s decision to scrap the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act will “expose vulnerable communities to abuse”.

Last night MSPs voted 62-60 to back a bill by Labour’s James Kelly to scrap the legislation, brought in by the SNP Government in 2012.

Though polls have shown huge public support for the Act, the law, which criminalises offensive and threatening behaviour at, or in connection with football matches, has long proved controversial with fans of the game.

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A Government attempt to amend Kelly’s repeal bill, to keep laws criminalising threatening communications which contain threats of serious violence or threats intended to incite religious hatred, was also rejected.

Community Safety Minister Annabelle Ewing (above) said: “This is a deeply disappointing and worrying decision. Repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act, without any attempt whatsoever to put an alternative in place, is a foolhardy move that needlessly exposes vulnerable communities to abuse.”

She added: “Sectarianism continues to be a problem in Scottish football, but despite this completely unacceptable behaviour, those opposing the Act continue to bury their heads in the sand, asserting that it is better to repeal legislation than either reforming it or replacing it.”

Ewing argued that scrapping the legislation had sent out “an appalling signal, and would imply “that the law is going to be soft on antisocial conduct by bigots and bullies”.

It would, she added, “compromise the ability of police and prosecutors”.

It’s the first time in the Scottish Parliament’s history that an act has been repealed in its entirety without being replaced.

It was also only possible because the SNP no longer have a majority in Holyrood. Labour, the Tories, the LibDems and Greens all voted to repeal.

Mark McDonald, who returned to parliament this week after four months away, didn’t vote.

Kelly said he was delighted to have repealed the “discredited” act: “The law was a simplistic attempt to solve a complex problem. Sectarianism is a problem in Scotland that goes back generations. It can’t be solved in 90 minutes on a Saturday.”