Date: 31st March 2011 at 12:01pm
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Kenny MacAskill Celtic newsSNP Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill has attempted to justify his praise for supporters at the Co-Operative Cup Final with a letter in today’s Herald.

Following the match MacAskill’s claimed that ‘players, management and fans contributed to a memorable occasion’.

That sound-bite has been met wide widespread criticism. The chanting from the Rangers supporters wasn’t much of a surprise but for a government minister to praise the fans conduct was a different matter entirely.

MacAskill is no stranger to football culture and missed Scotland’s Euro 2000 play-off with England at Wembley due to being held in police custody.

The MSP for Edinburgh East also attracted worldwide criticism for releasing Lockerbie bomber Al Megrahi in August 2009 who apparently had no more than three months to live.

In a letter to The Herald yesterday composer James MacMillan says the final was ‘marred by the incessant discriminatory chanting of Rangers fans’. He asked: “So what exactly was Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill thinking of when he said that the game had been a ‘great advert for Scottish football’?

“And what was Assistant Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police thinking when he stated that ‘the atmosphere at the ground was excellent and the match was a great advert for our football’?

“Is it Government and police policy now to ignore sectarian and racist abuse? Or is it only anti-Irish racism and blatant anti-Catholicism that is allowed to be flaunted freely in Scottish football stadiums?”

Learning from past mistakes should be a priority for any politician but ignoring the pointed questions raised by MacMillian the Justice Minister decided to respond with nothing more than a press release.

In today’s Herald letters page MacAskill claimed: “I AGREE with James MacMillan that all forms of sectarian and racist abuse and chanting have no place in our national game, or indeed anywhere in our national life (Letters, March 30).

“It is totally unacceptable and indeed illegal – we support the strongest possible action to deal with it, which is one reason why we convened the recent summit, with the full and willing support of both Old Firm clubs, the three football authorities in Scotland, and the police.”

Only a politician could claim that ‘players, management and fans contributed to a memorable occasion’ then a week later describe it as totally unacceptable and indeed illegal.