Thursday, March 20, 2014

Labour Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar says will scrap controversial football laws, specifically Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act, now Labour should grasp the nettle and propose a Justice 3 Committee tasked with law review

Dear All

One of the ideas that I have for reform of Holyrood is a Justice 3 Committee.

The purpose of the Committee would be to review law passed by the Scottish Parliament and existing law in Scotland.

The Committee would make recommendations for law to be repealed or if needed ‘fixed’.

No one from Justice 1 or 2 would be eligible to sit on Justice 3 in order to widen the expertise in the Parliament.

The utterly dreadful Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act is a law that needs repealed as bad law. The law came into force because the SNP did a knee jerk reaction to an incident involving Ally McCoist and Neil Lennon at a Rangers & Celtic football match.

This led to Alex Salmond rushing a bill through Parliament which was unfit for purpose and seems to target Celtic fans.
Now the Labour Party says that it will scrap the controversial law brought in to stamp out religious sectarian abuse at football matches.

However, there is scope for a wider reform process, rather than reacting to a specific bill as being unsuitable.

Deputy leader Anas Sarwar revealed plans to repeal the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act if it wins the next Holyrood election in 2016.

Although there is a campaign against the bill run by the Celtic Trust to use by-elections as a protest, that campaign has been a slightly hit and miss affair in how it operated. At its heart, this is a civil rights matter regarding law but it so happens it affects Celtic fans. Their campaign needed to have wider appeal right across the spectrum of football.

I have previously blogged that this law enacted by the SNP is bad law and the chickens are now coming home to roost to the closed minded nationalists.  

The Bill gained Royal Assent in January 2012 and has been a disaster not just legally but politically, the SNP tried unsuccessfully to rope other parties into their folly without success, this was one shit sandwich they didn’t want to bite into, and who can blame them.

Although Celtic Football Club has called for a review of the law, saying there was "already sufficient evidence of the Act's unhelpfulness and negative impacts" to justify it, the SNP won’t budge.

Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham told a Holyrood committee at the time that holding an early review would be "nonsensical".
She has since gone on to post someone’s personal details on twitter which attracted considerable flak, patently her judgment is warped. Cunningham isn’t a leader, she is the led, when this tripe sailed through Holyrood; her mouth was firmly shut.

Good team player?

No, just a schemer going along with the flow, little better than cannon fodder!

When the Act was brought in, the Scottish Government agreed to review its operations after two full football seasons and to report back to Parliament one year later because they couldn’t get any support and wanted to leave a back door open to hedge their bets politically.

This dreadful legislation gave police and prosecutors powers to tackle sectarian songs and abuse at and around football matches.

But it is too blunt an instrument, as well as the interactions at matches; threats posted on the internet or through the mail have been flung in thus creating two distinct offences that are punishable with a range of penalties up to a maximum of five years in prison and an unlimited fine.

Labour MP Anas Sarwar said:

"The Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is not fit for purpose. It has proved to be ineffective and unpopular, not least because sectarianism runs far beyond our touchlines and our terraces."

Law by its definition doesn’t have to be popular, it has to be just and legally correct, the OBF act doesn’t fit that criteria.

Sarwar said Labour would tackle sectarianism with "renewed focus", concentrating on "education and prevention, not politics".

Obviously a dig at Alex Salmond doing knee jerk politics, however, he did say he would ensure "the police get the support they need and the well-meaning majority of football fans are respected".

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act is bad law and has no place on the statute books of Scotland.

That being said, we need a Justice 3 Committee to do a wider review of law in Scotland, there could even be a mechanism that allows the public to petition the Committee to look at specific laws.

Although Celtic fans have been pretty much to the fore on this one, this legislation affects all football fans; the Celtic Trust would have been more successful if it had taken a wider approach in rallying support.

Their business is football not political campaigning.

Will this be a huge vote winner for Labour?

Probably not unless they can widen it beyond fitba!

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University


Anonymous said...

Sarwar is quite correct.
Secteraniism is rife outwith football circles. Cunningham should visit any home of either side of the really bitter divide.
Some kids are steeped in it, able to sing a secterarian song better than a nursery rhyme. Yet this law targets football fans specifically. Like the other attempts at reforming scots laws it should be binned.
The Scottish Government are real amateurs.

Anonymous said...

really bad law seen by many as anti Catholic in nature.