Sunday, May 22, 2016

Scotland: Football fans for free speech

On Sunday, I stood singing with thousands of my fellow Celtic supporters in Celtic Park. It wasn’t just because our team were being presented with the League Championship trophy (our fifth title in a row) or even because the sun was actually shining in Glasgow. No, many of us were bouncing because it now looks likely that the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act (OBFA), which has criminalised hundreds of football fans for singing ‘offensive’ songs, is set to become the first major battle of the new Scottish parliament.

Put another way, it looks like the OBFA is going to be scrapped. The Conservatives, Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems all oppose the legislation, meaning that the Scottish National Party (SNP) – which introduced the legislation in 2012 – is outnumbered in the Scottish parliament by 65 to 63 seats. The failure of the SNP to secure an overall majority in the Scottish elections means that the legislation is now extremely vulnerable.

We shouldn’t be under any illusions. When it comes to civil liberties, these parties can be every bit as illiberal as the SNP. Nonetheless, the removal of this toxic legislation from the statute books would be huge victory for those of us who have fought long and hard against the OBFA.

Under the OBFA, you can be sent to prison for five years for singing a song that a police officer deems offensive, either at a match, on the way to or from a match, or even in a video posted online. There is no objective definition of what constitutes an offensive comment or song – it is an entirely subjective law.

Instead, the police are left to decide what is and isn’t offensive. As a result, Dundee United supporters have appeared in court for calling Aberdeen fans ‘sheep-shaggers’ online; Celtic fans have ended up in police cells overnight for singing Irish republican songs; and Rangers fans have been sent to prison simply for writing and singing naughty things about Celtic supporters and Irish Catholics.

The overwhelming majority of people dragged before the courts under the OBFA have been working-class young men. This means that hundreds of young men have ended up with criminal records, have lost their jobs and, as a result, are unable to apply for all sorts of jobs in the future.



Anonymous said...

It is way past time for an end to Political Correctness !!!!

Bird of Paradise said...

Like school students being told they cant do the National Antheme becuase some idiots might be offended well if the Star Spangled Banner offends their dilicate little ears then they can leave and never return

Anonymous said...

The Scottish thought Police in action. It is easier to ping a football fan that catch a criminal to inflate the police statistics and make the useless bastards look efficient. How about the actually crack down on real football thuggery and real crime first.

Spurwing Plover the fighting shorebird said...

Yeah the thought and speech police making sure you dont say anything that might offended illegal aliens brought in by a corupt goverment and a corupt president as well

Birdzilla said...

The Soviet Unoins is'nt quite as dead as we thought