Desperate to get a victory over the SNP, no matter what kind, the Scottish opposition parties have combined to overturn the Football Act claiming their motivation was o protect some fans from become unfairly criminalised for just singing songs about ethnic cleansing and killing your neighbours if they go to the wrong kind of church. Where’s the harm in that, eh?
That this was a cynical act taken regardless of the evidence in support of the act, is clear from two facts well-known to the opposition – the widespread popularity and the effectiveness of the act. However, the Herald headlined the story as if it were some glorious victory over the forces of evil:
‘Historic moment for Scotland as controversial Football Act scrapped’
‘Controversial legislation aimed at tackling sectarianism at football has been overturned in a historic moment for Scotland. Onlookers broke into applause as MSPs voted to repeal the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act by a majority of just two. The move marks the first time an entire Act has been scrapped – with no legislation to replace it – since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999.’
‘A historic moment for Scotland?’ I’m not so sure it was for or in the interests of the vast majority in Scotland. From the National in June 2015:
‘A YouGov poll revealed that 83 per cent of Scots support laws to tackle offensive behaviour at football matches and 80 per cent of those polled directly support the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act. Repealing the Act was one of the early pledges made by Jim Murphy, the soon-to-be-former Labour leader, who felt it criminalised ordinary supporters. That he was out of touch with public opinion on this issue is demonstrated by the fact that a ScotCen research study has found that 90 per cent of football fans found songs which glorify or celebrate the loss of life or serious injury offensive.’
On its own, the above evidence of the overwhelming public support and support among fans too, for the Act, exposes the naked political point-scoring and infantile disregard for the wider public interest, of the opposition parties.
However, there is more. The Act has already been shown to be effective. An independent evaluation was published in 2015:
‘Since June 2013, researchers at the University of Stirling and ScotCen Social Research have been carrying out an extensive evaluation of the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications Act, hearing evidence from a wide range of stakeholders including fans, match commanders, police, prosecutors and football club representatives.
The evaluation found evidence from a range of sources that offensive behaviour at football matches has decreased since the legislation was introduced [by 46% in 2 years], and strong support from police and prosecutors who said the laws had brought a new ‘simplicity and clarity’ to dealing with incidents.’
With particular regard to offenses related to football matches, official statistics on hate crimes, 2014/2015, included the following:
‘Fewer charges occurred in football stadiums in 2014-15 than in 2013-14 and 2012-13. There were 89 charges in stadiums in 2014-15, compared to 109 charges in 2013-14 and 165 in 2012-13. 42 charges included behaviour that was derogatory towards Roman Catholicism, a decrease from 46 charges last year and 88 charges in 2012-13. Six charges included behaviour derogatory towards Protestantism, a decrease from 11 last year and 16 charges in 2012-13.’
Pathetic self-serving sociopaths? The opposition politicians that is.