A record number of charges have been brought in Scotland under controversial anti-sectarianism laws for football fans amid plummeting figures in Tayside and Fife.
There were 287 charges brought under the section of the legislation that deals with fans chanting sectarian songs in 2015/16, which is 49% up on last year.
Across Courier Country the figures more than halved from 58 to 25 over the same time period, according to the Scottish Government’s figures.
Dundee United was the only team in Tayside and Fife that was listed in the Government report. The number of charges there based on club affiliation fell from 11 to less than five.
Justice Minister Michael Matheson said the “appalling scenes” at the Scottish Cup Final this year shows the “unacceptable behaviour of a minority of football fans continues to be a problem”.
“An increase in the number of charges under the Offensive Behaviour Act shows that the legislation continues to be an important tool in tackling all forms of offensive behaviour, including sectarianism, and sends a clear message that such behaviour has no place in a modern, open and inclusive society,” he said.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said reductions in charges on a regional basis, including in Tayside and Fife, “are to be welcomed but we know there is more work to do”.
The Scottish Conservatives, who want the law repealed, accused the Government of hypocrisy in hailing the increase in figures this year, while last year praising a reduction in charges.
Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross said the Scottish Government “can’t have it both ways”.
He said the legislation has been criticised by the fans and the courts, adding: “It’s bad and unnecessary legislation and it needs to be scrapped now.”
Labour MSP James Kelly is looking at bringing a private member’s bill to repeal the law.
Campaigners argue the activity the act legislates against is already illegal, but the SNP administration says it is tackling the problem and has the support of police and prosecutors.
The Scottish Government spokesman added: “While there continues to be debate around the legislation, no viable alternative has been suggested that will give law enforcement the powers they need to tackle abusive behaviour and ensure football fans get to enjoy games without fear or intimidation.”