by a Newsnet Scotland reporter
Labour MP Jim Murphy has claimed that “sectarian morons” in football is part of a “dark underbelly” that has brought shame on Scotland.
The ex-Secretary of State for Scotland made the controversial claims after Celtic manager Neil Lennon was targeted by sectarian extremists. Mr Lennon was attacked by a fan as he stood on the touchline during Celtic’s recent match against Hearts at Tynecastle. The attack followed a series of incidents that has seen the Celtic manager and other figures connected to Celtic FC and the Scots-Irish community sent mail containing live ammunition and explosive devices.
Responding to the incidents Mr Murphy wrote: “There are too many sectarian morons at Scottish football, but it’s part of a dark underbelly that shames Scotland.”
However, Newsnet Scotland can reveal the controversial Labour MP himself faces embarrassment after comments from a party colleague aimed at Celtic FC had to be retracted.
In October 2009 the former secretary of State for Scotland endorsed Labour colleague John Mackay as the party’s candidate for the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross constituency.
However in 2010 Mr Mackay, who claimed to have known Mr Murphy for fifteen years, was forced to issue a retraction after demanding that Celtic FC be thrown out of Scottish football and made to play in the league of Ireland.
The Labour candidate said: “Celtic should be thrown out of Scottish football for their intimidation of our referees which has led them to strike.”
He later added: “Celtic would be welcome in the League of Ireland and would boost the economy. Osbourne should offer them as a permanent part of the UK loan.”
Mr Murphy’s own comments are likely to spark controversy given their timing and there is sure to be anger at his claim that the whole of Scotland has a dark underbelly of sectarianism.
The remarks come amidst heightened tensions that will see the league championship decided as both teams play their final games this afternoon.