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New stirrings at the Old Firm

The Herald reports: Rangers and Celtic fans to unite for football grounds demo over anti-bigotry law

RANGERS and Celtic fans are among those who are joining forces to are support a new campaign in grounds across Scotland for the scrapping of a controversial law designed to stamp out sectarian abuse at football matches.

The demonstration over Saturday and Sunday aims to show a united fans front in protest against the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 on the grounds that it is “fundamentally illiberal and unnecessarily restricts freedom of expression”.

Supporters group Fans Against Criminalisation say protests are expected at Scottish Premiership and Scottish Championship grounds featuring fans from Celtic, Rangers, Hibs, Motherwell, Kilmarnock, St Johnstone, Hamilton Academical, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Greenock Morton.

Hibs fans unfurled an “Axe The Act” banner on Sunday during their 3-0 victory over Alloa at Easter Road.

One banner unfurled at Celtic Park on Saturday said: “Scottish football – not singing, no celebrating.”

Another banner containing a rude gesture and the words, “Recognise This”, appeared to be a stark objection to the Scottish Professional Football League’s bid to bring in facial recognition cameras. Some fans have warned they risk driving fans away for making them feel like criminals.

An FAC spokesman said: “We have now been harassed, intimidated, filmed, followed, demonised and criminalised for four years and we have had enough.

It is interesting that fans from both the clubs in the Old Firm are among those involved in the protests. The series of pictures at the top of the Herald article shows banners being raised in protest at Celtic Park rather than Ibrox. Due to its association with Unionism the SNP government dislikes Rangers and would discount any protest coming from that quarter alone.

22 comments to New stirrings at the Old Firm

  • Sam Duncan

    “Due to its association with Unionism the SNP government dislikes Rangers and would discount any protest coming from that quarter alone.”

    I’m not a football fan at all, but talking with my brother at the weekend, he pointed out that the referendum campaign would have been a lot more… let’s say “interesting”, had Rangers, with their army of Union Jack waving fans, not been demoted to the near-oblivion of the fourth Division following their bankruptcy. (And it’s amazing how much of an effect that’s had even off the field. You rarely see people walking around Glasgow in Rangers’ colours these days.) He doesn’t suspect any shenanigans – them’s the rules, apparently – but it was undoubtedly very convenient for the seperatists. As was this law, which they enacted (with, to be fair, all-party support); as in Ireland – albeit to a lesser extent – sectarianism and attitude towards the Union are strongly connected.

    Anyway, this is some unusually good news by Scottish standards for individual liberty. Good luck to the fans.

  • mojo

    OT: I have to wonder whether they intend to make these capable of self-defense, once the inevitable snatch & smash robberies occur.

  • pete

    The Sots have elected an SNP government. They deserve all the repression and loss of freedom they get.

  • Paul Marks

    Rangers were hit by a retrospective tax demand – I doubt that Celtic would have been treated in the same way.

    Interesting post Natalie – good to see both sides united in cause of Freedom of Speech.

    If Freedom of Speech only covers things that are not “offensive” it is of no value.

  • Mr Ed

    The matter that bankrupted Rangers was a tax demand from HMRC (the UK’s IRS) and it was mainly over disputed income tax and VAT. HMRC is a UK government organisation, Gordon Brown’s lovechild, as the Rabkrin was Lenin’s.

    The termination of Rangers was more likely to be a Lefty ‘ecumenical’ matter, they all hate it, for nuanced reasons.

  • Mr Ed

    I have often thought of the Scottish football scene as being like a poorer, damper, colder, less sunny version of the Spanish La Liga, but with Rangers for Real Madrid and Celtic for Barcelona. Having a league with one of them left is a bit like a see-saw with one side.

    Here is the bit of the legislation that they are complaining about, with its writing out of a defence in 1 (3) (in bold). I wonder if the fans take a checklist with them to make sure that they don’t fall foul of the law.

    1Offensive behaviour at regulated football matches

    (1)A person commits an offence if, in relation to a regulated football match—

    (a)the person engages in behaviour of a kind described in subsection (2), and

    (b)the behaviour—

    (i)is likely to incite public disorder, or

    (ii)would be likely to incite public disorder.

    (2)The behaviour is—

    (a)expressing hatred of, or stirring up hatred against, a group of persons based on their membership (or presumed membership) of—

    (i)a religious group,

    (ii)a social or cultural group with a perceived religious affiliation,

    (iii)a group defined by reference to a thing mentioned in subsection (4),

    (b)expressing hatred of, or stirring up hatred against, an individual based on the individual’s membership (or presumed membership) of a group mentioned in any of sub-paragraphs (i) to (iii) of paragraph (a),

    (c)behaviour that is motivated (wholly or partly) by hatred of a group mentioned in any of those sub-paragraphs,

    (d)behaviour that is threatening, or

    (e)other behaviour that a reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive.

    (3)For the purposes of subsection (2)(a) and (b), it is irrelevant whether the hatred is also based (to any extent) on any other factor.

    (4)The things referred to in subsection (2)(a)(iii) are—



    (c)nationality (including citizenship),

    (d)ethnic or national origins,

    (e)sexual orientation,

    (f)transgender identity,


    (5)For the purposes of subsection (1)(b)(ii), behaviour would be likely to incite public disorder if public disorder would be likely to occur but for the fact that—

    (a)measures are in place to prevent public disorder, or

    (b)persons likely to be incited to public disorder are not present or are not present in sufficient numbers.

    (6)A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable—

    (a)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or to a fine, or to both, or

    (b)on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both.

    But what is the line between ‘hatred’ and ‘disdain’, ‘scorn’ or ‘mockery’, and who cares if football fans hate someone and show it, in a football ground. Isn’t that the whole point, for them, of going to the match?

    I pause to note that the Act omits reference to hatred on the basis of marital status, this is clearly part of the Scottish government’s agenda of blatantly undermining marriage, and civil partnerships.

  • Laird

    The Act also omits reference to hatred based on team affiliation, so I guess it’s still OK to hurl epithets at the other team’s fans, even if it should “incite public disorder”, as long as you refrain from mentioning their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Is that correct?

    I especially enjoyed section (5)(b). I guess that’s sort of a “transferred offense” provision, which permits me to take offense on behalf of someone who isn’t actually present, right? How very enlightened of you.

    @ pete: “The Sots have elected an SNP government.” I appreciate your dislike of the SNP, but was it really necessary to casually denigrate all Scottish citizens, and their well-known propensity for strong drink, by referring to them as “sots”?

  • Mr Ed

    I especially enjoyed section (5)(b).

    Laird, it’s a bit like the supposed question of a branch falling in a forest, if no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise? Here, if a ‘Taig’ or ‘Prod’ or whoever is the target of the abuse, isn’t there to be offended, it’s still an offence, because it’s ‘offensive‘, is I think, the reasoning, after all, the test for offence is ‘objective’, or it may be that the shouting takes place at a third-party team’s stadium when a song gets going about the other side of the ‘Old Firm’ game.

    but also as 5 (b) says:

    “persons likely to be incited to public disorder are not present or are not present in sufficient numbers.”

    i.e. the defence of saying, ‘There were 500 of us and 1 of ‘them’, he wasn’t going to be likely to have been incited to ‘public disorder’ as we’d have finished him.”.

  • Nicholas (Excentrality!) Gray

    Gosh, Scotland is full of criminals! Put them all in jail, for speaking in incomprehensible dialects, and thus probably swearing at you. Prison construction would bring back meaningful employment to those who are temporarily out, and give a boost to the local economy, now that oil is not as profitable as it once seemed.

  • Mr Ecks

    There are a whole series of SNP/Scotlab antics that need to be stopped. The chanting is only a part. The “Commisar for every child” caper. The free-speech suppression in Bute. The very creation of “Police Scotland” as a centralised organ of state power.

    If we had a real PM instead of a crawling BlueLab cultural Marxist turd then putting a stop to the SNPs antics would be a top priority in Westminster. Instead it is most likely the dog will soon be imitating the tail.

  • James Hargrave

    One of those who fell foul of this act at an early stage and spent a few days in prison before sense prevailed was a Rangers supporter but from a ‘mixed’, i.e. Roman Catholic/Protestant background. Simply tribal, with the other side taking it on the chin – though not the low grade judge in somewhere such as Inverness who had never heard anything like it (clearly, doesn’t get out much). If the independence referendum had gone the other way this young man said he would be on the first bus south.

  • R Sole

    Regarding (5)(b), it is also actually possible for a “prod” to be offended by expressed hatred of “taigs”, even when no “taigs” are there.

    Maybe even at Rangers matches.

  • Laird

    I have absolutely no idea what a “prod” or a “taig” is, but I want to go on record as being offended by both terms. Even thought I’m not there.

    See you in court.

  • Mr Ed

    I think that this is the case that James H refers to.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Rather amusing that football tribalism attempts to separate from religious/political tribalism, when in reality they are exactly the same. Hurling epithets against another team’s supporters isn’t really any different to opposing any other group, be it religious, political or otherwise. Perhaps ethnicity/sexuality/disability has some ground as you can’t really change it, but to lump a belief (or lack of) in an ideology in the same camp is bizarre, and no different to, well, supporting your team (tribe) above all others.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Ecks has a point – Mr Cameron has clearly decided to “go with the flow” on cultural matters.

    He either does not know or does not care who is behind the “Political Correctness”, “Critical Theory”, “Social Justice Warrior” stuff.

    “Is it fashionable?” “Is it modern?” These are the only questions the modern elite ask.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Scotland will never be free of sectarianism until they stop sending protestant and catholic children to different schools as soon as they’re old enough to fight. The Party seems to have no interest is correcting this anomaly, for some reason.

    Oh and Laird: I may live here in the SSSR, and – apart from the politics – I rather like the place; but I am not a Scottish citizen, and neither is anyone else. We are all British Citizens, resident in the United Kingdom of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, and in my case at least, proud subjects of Her Majesty.

  • Laird

    Andrew, I stand corrected.

  • Rob Fisher

    Can’t really fault this Spiked article about it: http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/13062#.Vs8Cph_fVhE

  • Mr Ed


    The Act also omits reference to hatred based on team affiliation, so I guess it’s still OK to hurl epithets at the other team’s fans, even if it should “incite public disorder”, as long as you refrain from mentioning their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Is that correct?

    In Stasiland, er… Scotland, a reference to, let us say Celtic fans as ‘Hoops’ (from their nice green-and-white hooped shirts) might, in the context, come under the ‘catch-all’ provisions of:

    (2)The behaviour is—

    (a) expressing hatred of, or stirring up hatred against, a group of persons based on their membership (or presumed membership) of—

    (ii) a social or cultural group with a perceived religious affiliation

    I.e. the social or cultural group of Celtic fans have a perceived religious affiliation, so anything relating to taunting them as being fans of their club, if ‘stirring up’ or expressing hatred, is unlawful.

    So what, exactly, can one do at a football match? Eating the pies would probably breach an obesity target.

    And I suppose the old joke will have to go about the Pope being the target of abuse since no one can be bothered to shout “F*** the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland“.

    So they will have to stick to pretending to be fans of Borussia Mönchengladbach shouting “Give us a ‘B’ ” and then fighting over the umlaut.

  • Watchman

    On the Rangers relegation issue, I suspect that in that case HMRC were actually justified in their investigation – it was clear that they were trying to circumvent tax law by creatively paying players more at least, and if you want to do that, expect to get investigated (rule of law and all that – if you don’t like the law, campaign to change it, like the good fans here). It might have suited some politicians to try to downplay Rangers, but not sure how – if Rangers were demoted their unionist fans do not disappear from the political landscape, only the football landscape. I suppose not going to Ibrox every couple of weeks might dampen unionism in some supporters, but for those Rangers supporters who were unionist not proudly protestant nationalist (which to be honest would be most of those I’ve met – wierd how you only meet Rangers supporters in bars mind you) I am happy to believe in general that they were complete enough human beings to manage to retain a politial view regardless of footballing allegiance.