Spot the difference(s)

Here is an unedited account of a conversation I had with Nicola Sturgeon regarding concerns over the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012.

This conversation took place on Monday the 12th of December 2011 (prior to the act becoming Legislation).

Note some of Nicola Sturgeons answers back then and compare them to what is ACTUALLY happening now – do you feel things have changed ? If so, tell her here and ask the question – who moved the goalposts ? or @NicolaSturgeon

Or Alex Salmond here – or @AlexSalmond

Sent: Monday, 12 December, 2011 12:14:22 GMT +00:00 GMT Britain, Ireland, Portugal
Subject: Re : Nicola Sturgeon

As some will know I was supposed to meet Nicola Sturgeon on Saturday morning however, she failed to turn up, and instead sent her Constituency Manager Mhairi Hunter. I told her that with all due respect I did not want to ask her the questions, only to be given no answers, or giving NS the opportunity to pre-empt my questions and give me stock answers.

Anyway NS called me this morning. Below is a summarised version of the conversation, it was quite difficult listening to her answers and making notes so excuse me if its quite short.

1)GS ; How do you feel forcing this Bill through with only SNP votes, what happened to wanting concensus ?

NS ; We tried to get the backing of other parties, but Labour never even tried to add anything at the 1st and 2nd stages, which was politically motivated. They have tried their best to get concensus from all political parties but if some do not want to participate this is not the SNPs fault.

GS; In what way does the existing legislation not work and why did they not analyse all the Section 74 data before destroying it ?

NS; Ministers do not give instructions to delete data. To cause a BOP someone else has to be frightened or alarmed, the new law covers people who are causing a serious case of Public Disorder within football grounds.

GS; Christine Grahame has not come out and publicly denied she is anti-Catholic, all she has said is that the allegations “lacked credibility”

NS; I have known CG personally for many years and can assure you she is not anti Catholic. The allegations have been made by a disgruntled employee and for legal reasons she is restricted on what she can say but NS vehemently denies CG is anti Catholic.

GS; According to the stock answer Ive had from MSPs 91% of the public want rid of sectarianism, and yet sectarianism isnt mentioned in part 2 of the reading anywhere. There is a huge difference between sectarian and offensive behaviour. Surely that should have been the question put to the public ?

NS; Cant answer that as their has been no poll. Rangers and Celtic are a huge asset to Scotland however the actions are also a point of embarassment to Scotlands culture.

GS; Sorry, just to clarify that. There has been no poll taken ?

NS: Correct, there has been no poll taken.

GS; On July the 2nd this year, over a 1000 members of a sectarian organisation marched down St Vincent Street openly flaunting their sectarian views through songs. The same songs that are also sung at Ibrox, yet no action is taken on the streets. This is an attack on football fans and if the SNP were serious about taking away sectarianism they could start right there. I mentioned that this was a question a Rangers supporting colleague had asked me to ask

NS; I have some sympathy with that view however this Bill relates only to football and she would rather stick to the issue involving football.

GS; So you cant answer that legitimate question ?

NS; Look, the introduction of this Bill is not the whole answer to Scotlands problem. Freedom of expression is a right for all however it should be used to encourage decent behaviour and not to cause public disorder. There is a lot more needs to be done.

GS; So as a Catholic who may find himself in town on July the 2nd this year, if I was offended and caused a “rammy” you agree it is the innocent party who would be arrested not those who are the cause of the disorder ?

NS: You stated you may cause disorder therefore the police would be within their rights to arrest you.

GS; You were quoted as saying “legislation is not the the full story, and needs to be accompanied by educational and social measures”
Would it not be better to introduce these than focussing on a headline grabbing piece of bad legislation ?

NS; I dont agree it is bad legislation though. Roseanna Cunninham only last week released more funding to tackle social measures and to create a better educational purpose.

My 64 year old Dad threatened with a BOP at Hampden when he saw a steward rifling through someones jacket.
Again at Hampden,trying to take in Caprisuns I was warned “if you dont move your fenian arse your getting charged with BOP”
FAC demo – one cop aggressively telling us “we think we are above the law”
Antira Demo – Told not to take part in the march and get on the pavement.
I gave these examples of how the police already abuse their authority, and now on the say so of 1 policeman someones life could potentially be ruined.

NS: Its not the case in law, its not possible for 1 policeman to make that decision. The SNP are taking the decision to tackle trouble at football. It will be implemented by a fair police force and a well renowned judiciary system.

GS: Really ?A fair police force ? Despite the examples given ?

NS; Yes, however Im not prepared to go into individual examples you have given as I only have your side of the story obviously.

GS: Re Scottish songs, sung the world over such as, Flower of Scotland, Parcel of Rogues, Massacre of Glencoe and Scots Wha Hae. How can the SNP sanction attacks on Irish folk songs while Scotlands patriots sing songs about fighting repression.

NS; Flower of Scotland is not offensive and couldnt be seen as that. It is not the intention to criminalise the singing of Irish folk songs or indeed the singing of a countries national anthem.

GS ; I heard on the news this morning that law on carrying knives in the city centre over the festive period means you could incur a 4 year jail sentence. So, as a football fan possibly facing 5 years under the new Bill am I more of a threat to the public than someone who carries a knife ?
NS; 4 years for carrying a knife is not the maximum that can be given.
5 years for offensive behaviour at football is the maximum, with the opportunity to create larger scale public disorder. All judiciary sentences are justified.

Not a question Nicola but I am constantly asked why I spend a large amount of my disposable income on being treated so poorly. I have been in contact with fan organisations from Glasgow, Motherwell, Aberdeen and Kilmarnock. Some of us would be prepared to stand as independant candidates in areas where the SNP have a close majority and would be willing to highlight this ridiculous legislation to a far wider audience. There is also a collective legal fund in order to fight unjust charges brought against individuals.

NS : We will have to agree to disagree on many things however if you see me on Wednesday come over and introduce yourself.



1 thought on “Spot the difference(s)

  1. Sniper

    There are a few questions I can think of too.

    1. What offences/offenders was this bill intended to specifically target that were NOT able to be included in existing legislation. I am no legal mind but to define the existing laws as inadequate is to admit to either poor implementation or the need for clarification and interpretation. How in the name of reason, can an individual’s identical behaviour be regarded as totally different depending on whether it takes place in a football or non-football environment. If I am a sectarian, racist bigot acting in a threatening manner, I am the same total arsehole in or out of a football environment. Please, Miss, can I go to the front of the class for stating the obvious? Yet look at what comes from the honourable Lord advocate.

    “At present, disorderly and offensive behaviour at football matches can, in certain circumstances, be prosecuted under the common law as a breach of the peace, or using the offence of “threatening and abusive behaviour” at section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. Where there is a racist element to the behaviour, prosecution using the offences at Part III of the Public Order Act 1986 (incitement of racial hatred) may also be appropriate. Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 and section 96 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1986, which provide for statutory aggravations on grounds of religious or racial hatred, might also be relevant.
    However, there is concern that a substantial proportion of offensive behaviour related to football which leads to public disorder is not explicitly caught by current law. Such offensive behaviour might not satisfy the strict criteria for causing ‘fear and alarm’ required to prove Breach of the Peace, or section 38 of the 2010 Act. The Bill, therefore, seeks to put beyond doubt that behaviour related to football matches which is likely to incite public disorder and which would be offensive to any reasonable person is a criminal offence.”75
    Lord Advocate THE SECTION 1 OFFENCE: OFFENSIVE BEHAVIOUR AT FOOTBALL, Objections in principle to the section 1 offence 117.

    Now, I always thought the principle in logic was the lesser can go into the greater but not vice versa. It would appear Scottish legislation transcends such long established philosophical principles.

    2. Who is the specific victim and why? This legislation allows for any individual to claim to be offended. This is a matter of personal interpretation not objective actuality. That leaves those responsible with the unenviable task of “deciding” on the spot whether a potential offence has taken place or whether it is simply a personal reaction with no substantial justification. Even then, the latter may not discharge them from the duty of arrest. Now, I am no Sherlock Holmes, but even if Basil Rathbone were playing the part with all his outrageously excessive attributes, he would be hard put to gather irrefutable evidence. It is one Murdoch Mystery that would not be solved (programme about an old time Canadian detective on Alibi – yes, I am sad!). Yet, here we have a piece of supposedly serious legislation that is based almost solely on personal interpretation and selective reaction. Is this in itself legal? For me, it certainly does not serve justice.

    3. My next question is why our policemen are being placed in the insidious position of having to interpret the criminality or non-criminality of an activity? Policemen are there to enforce the law not create or interpret it. For them, decisions were supposed to be and still ought to be black and white. They should have a clear and unequivocal conviction that what is being done breaks a specific law. With this bill that is impossible because they have to make two questionable decisions. One, has the “offender” broken a specific law or does it just look like he could have? So a police officer is left to decide whether there has been a crime committed or not and that decision could be based on impaired personal judgement, bias or downright discrimination. But even worse, he may have to base his decision on whether by whim or fancy there is a potential but not necessarily real or present victim. History only records such a banal form of justice in totalitarian and dictatorial regimes, usually under the control of some megalomaniac. But never in Scotland, that best wee country in the world.

    4. My final words are a statement of opinion rather than a question though it may be asked if I am correct in my assessment or if I am way off track. My personal opinion of this bill of convenience is that it suited the agendas of two individuals. The first was Alex Salmond either for personal reasons or for party political advantage. Whichever is not exactly relevant but it is a certainty that the bill was introduced only when he realised the political gain from pressing the supposedly anti-bigotry button even when it had already been so in the existing bomb-load of the justice system. Racism and sectarianism and any inflammatory words or actions relating to these “isms” are intrinsically offensive in any decent society. There is no denying they can often be over-exposed at football related events giving an impression that the sport is the epicentre of such behaviour. It was especially excessively highlighted in the media at Celtic v Rangers matches and this is where Salmond had the spark of inspiration “in the aftermath of a particularly stormy Celtic-Rangers match on 2 March 2010” (First report on the bill 2011, Introduction, Background to the Bill 30). His political wheels were set in brainstorming motion and led him to conclude that great advantages were available from publicly appearing to tackle head on the terrible, outrageous problems in football. In his ill-conceived judgement the unacceptable behaviour of one team and its staff was justification to “lay into” the whole of Scottish football with the force of all the legal might at his disposal to rid it of this festering canker that come to his notice. What, thirty years after the Hampden police charges? Now that was an approach that would get his face on T.V., especially when this medium along with so many other media outlets were falling over themselves to assert that the bad behaviour of certain individuals signified a malaise in the whole game. So, the Bill was designed not so much as a knee jerk reaction, though it certainly was such, as a convenient addition to Mr. Salmond’s long list of political agendas, top of which is his own status and position of power.

    I also maintain that the above mentioned Mr. Salmond was aided and abetted by the long arm of Sir Stephen House QPM which has long been foraging in the First Minister’s pocket. This gentleman is well known for his personal ambition and his determination to reach the heights at all costs. It is important to remember that at the time of the Bill he was Chief Constable of Strathclyde police force, a role that he seemed to stroll into from the wilds of southern England. One might ask do we have no competent officers in Scotland with doorstep experience who could have filled the role? Or is there another reason, not that I am suggesting such? It is then interesting that at this very time plans were in place to create a nationwide force under the banner of Police Scotland and the position of Chief Constable in charge of this new force was “up for grabs”. Or was it? I only ask the question but is it a mere coincidence that the man in the “polis” to the fore in supporting the new bill, against the reservations of most ordinary policemen who recognised the potential pitfalls for themselves, is none other than our old friend and Mr. Salmond’s pocket mate, Sir Stephen? Does the tale not further twist when said Sir Stephen “wins” the battle for Chief Constable, Police Scotland. Once again, for me agenda is the key. Once again, for me personal agenda is the key. This bill does more to serve the aspirations of two men that it does to tackle a desperately urgent problem. That is why it reeks of incompetence and madness. Ambition makes the egotist reckless and the driven insane.

    To sum up, this increasingly unnecessary and ridiculous bill is achieving absolutely nothing. Instead, it is causing heartache and branding mainly young men with the stigma of criminality purely on the basis that officers of the law can interpret their behaviour as somehow potentially offensive to someone not necessarily in existence, but who could be. I hope you all get it because I simply do not. What I do get is that failure to stop this trend by self-promoting egotists will lend a free hand to introducing such idiocy into many more areas of our freedom. Apathy is the sustenance of the oppressor.

    PS If you do not believe me, just have quick look at the so called “Gagging Laws” being introduced right now by the coalition. Basically this reduces the potential of people outside of political parties to challenging policies during election times. Reducing this time; eliminating the next? Universal gagging to follow?

    H H

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