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Fair play in the Scottish Parliament

In 2011 the Scottish Government Executive* passed the stunningly illiberal Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. Judge it by its defenders: a Scottish National Party Member of the Scottish Parliament called John Mason said, “We should all know by now expressing political views is no longer acceptable at football matches.”

He framed the issue as if the only thing required of citizens was that they should keep up to date with the inexorable increase in what is deemed “unacceptable” (to whom is never specified). Once they know the rules, they will of course comply, so politics becomes merely a matter of Filch hammering up new decrees on Hogwarts wall.

Earlier posts on the same topic were “New stirrings at the Old Firm” and “Free speech for all (neds need not apply)”.

But, for once, a Ministry decree has been removed from the wall.

The BBC reports:

MSPs vote to repeal football bigotry law

MSPs have voted to repeal Scotland’s Offensive Behaviour at Football Act.

The legislation was passed by the then-majority SNP government in 2011 in a bid to crack down on sectarianism.

But all four opposition parties argued for it to be scrapped, saying it unfairly targets football fans and has failed to tackle the problem.

Ministers argued the move was “foolhardy” but were outvoted by 62 to 60, meaning the Football Act will be taken off the statute book in April.

The legislation has deeply divided opinion from the start, with those who support it saying it was needed to fight the scourge of sectarianism within Scottish football.

But opponents say the law treats football fans as “second class citizens”, and is not needed as police and the courts already had sufficient powers to deal with offensive behaviour.

They also claim that the law is badly worded, and therefore open to different interpretations of what is and is not “offensive behaviour”.

*As Sam Duncan S reminds me, in 2011 it had not yet decided got permission to call itself a Government. Added later: apologies again, Duncan S, not Sam Duncan. This post is jinxed.

31 comments to Fair play in the Scottish Parliament

  • Duncan S

    Natalie, BBC Fact Check Fail.

    In 2011 there was no “Scottish Government”. Until the passing of the Scotland Act 2012, it was still officially the “Scottish Executive”.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Oops, sorry. Will correct.

  • Duncan S

    Sorry Natalie, actually, it (the SNP minority administration at the time) had decided to call itself a Government as early as 2007. But the legal change wasn’t made until 2012.


    Currently the SNP led Glasgow City Council want to start calling themselves the “Glasgow Government”.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    (Cries softly) Too many governments!

  • James Hargrave

    It was a stupid move to call the Scotch legislature a ‘parliament’ in the first place. Just gives them ideas above their station – and my correspondent in North Britain described them, exaggerating considerably his local accent, as over-promoted ‘toon cooncillors’.

    One of my responses back in 2012 was to write a cheque to a young man caught up by this nonsense – a butcher’s apprentice in his late teens who spent a week or so locked up under this nonsense (sentenced by a low-grad (in every sense) judge who had presumably never gone out on a Saturday night.

  • They also claim that the law is badly worded, and therefore open to different interpretations of what is and is not “offensive behaviour”.

    I think vagueness is the point in all these laws. I’m delighted to see this law die – but I fear Lauren will not soon be able to profess an interest in football and so visit. The fight for free speech continues.

    Meanwhile the Scottish executive-with-delusions-of-grandeur continues to execute the law, never mind its anti-free speech laws, according to its own interpretation of what matters. A lawyer friend recently gave me an insight into how the politically fashionable crimes of “hate speech” and domestic violence were hogging the available prosecution resources in Scotland to the extent of astonishing delays and discard of cases involving the sort of crimes that apparently concern our natz rulers rather less that they did their victims.

  • I wonder how our glorious former leader of that time will position himself on this matter. Asked about Russia Today, from whom he now earns his frugal crust, Salmond said that

    revoking its broadcasting licence in the UK would “make a mockery of freedom of speech”

    but I’m sure he’s up to explaining why his own law of 2011 was no mockery.

  • Mr Ed

    The most stupid thing with the Scottish Parliament was not to send every natural person resident in Scotland an equal share of the £500,000,000 bill for the construction of the monstrous building, payable forthwith with bankruptcy for non-payment within 14 days.

  • Mr Ed (March 16, 2018 at 11:23 am), the most stupid thing with the Scottish Parliament is the way most of its members treat its eleven-times-over-budget build cost as a how-to manual for all projects initiated within it.

    And (as you know) your proposal had no chance because, for both Labour and the natz, the whole point of that parliament was to facilitate it (and all initiated by it) being paid for disproportionately by those who did not vote for it.

  • Mr Ed


    The UK Parliament ought to have imposed that (but a part of me says ‘no, it’s not fair to lumber the innocent, it’s wouldn’t be being cruel to be kind.‘)

    The Edinburgh Tram Project is one that is crying out for that treatment though, if only to encourger les autres. On this one, the Nats were in the right but a minority.

    Now, more than five years behind schedule, Edinburgh has trams on its streets for the first time since 1956 but just one route, not the network that was envisaged.
    The 8.7mile (14km) route stretches from Edinburgh airport to York Place in the city centre, with 15 stops along the way.
    It has cost of £776m, plus more than £200m in interest on a 30-year loan taken out by the council to cover the funding shortfall.
    It is something of a miracle it ever got finished at all, given the disputes along the way.
    The entire project was going to be scrapped by the SNP when the Nationalists formed their first minority government at Holyrood in 2007, only for the decision to be overturned by the will of the other parties in the Scottish Parliament.

  • John B

    Better the sects have at each other in an enclosed area than on the streets among decent folk.

  • Sam Duncan

    “Sam Duncan reminds me”

    Duncan’s nom de comment is actually closer to my real name than mine, and I might well have said something similar if I’d got in first, but he’s not me. (I’m even getting confused myself now. 🙂 )

    As to the subject at hand, it is moderately good news. That said, the Parliament of Bunk is currently busy debating the SNP’s idiotic post-Brexit “Continuity Bill”, which appears to be nothing more than an attempt to goad the (actual) government and courts into reminding it of the limits of its powers so that it can play the victim, Catalonia-style. One step forward, two steps back.

    “It was a stupid move to call the Scotch legislature a ‘parliament’ in the first place. Just gives them ideas above their station – and my correspondent in North Britain described them, exaggerating considerably his local accent, as over-promoted ‘toon cooncillors’.”

    It is, essentially, the same tier of government as the GLA, albeit with legislative powers (and it was a huge mistake to give it those without at least some oversight from another chamber). For a long time, the idea that it was a stupid move to set it up at all was unsayable in polite company (despite it having always been the opinion of at least a third of the electorate), but I get the feeling that people are gradually becoming more confident in suggesting it. You won’t hear it in the media, who are still, twenty years on, starry-eyed at having their very own Parliament to play in, and I don’t expect its demise is in any sense imminent, but it’s definitely being talked about in a way it wasn’t a decade ago.

  • Eric Tavenner

    (to whom is never specified)

    It doesn’t need to be specified. Being unacceptable to the SNP nomenklatura is implicit.

    That such a law would be repealed is astounding.

  • Bruce


    Who’da thunk a mass of folks who have been “governmented” since birth, might use a mass gathering of two “tribes” as an excuse to express their “frustrations” / rage at the failings of themselves and their “betters”?

    Personally, I have no time for “ball” sports at all. As the world’s worst spectator, I prefer more “personal” activities like off-road motorcycling and martial arts. And I am an old fart.

  • Mr Ed, March 16, 2018 at 12:59 pm, the natz were as into being green as the other parties and while they milked blaming ‘mismanagement’ on Labour while in opposition, they most certainly did not use power to end the idiocy when they had it. Their actual interventions were merely another stage, also folly-filled, in the saga, forcing more money to be thrown after bad as they demanded it do what it promised.

    The poem below was written by a monk of St Giles, with minor polishing added by me. The joke questionnaire following is all mine.

    O Tempora, O Mores
    The city centre lost!
    What do they think they’re doing?
    And what’s it going to cost?
    Is this the dream our leaders dreamed:
    to link the east and west?
    And where do north and south come in?
    And what about the rest?

    And will it ever finish?
    And is it not a sin?
    And when and why, goes up the cry,
    did lunacy begin?

    Any student failing this exam will be reported to their Named Person.

    Select the answer that best describes each line.

    O Tempora, O Mores

    This is Latin for

    a) “O What time is the tram due? O bother, it’s late”

    b) ‘O taking ever more time, O needing ever more money’

    The city centre lost!

    When Princes Street, a key Edinburgh artery, was wholly closed for several years during the work, this led to frequent remarks that

    a) The environment needs this sacrifice.

    b) Glasgow was a big city but you could get around it reasonably fast, while Edinburgh was a small city but it took an age to get anywhere.

    What do they think they’re doing?

    a) They thought they were saving the planet by being green.

    b) They thought it was politically unsafe to oppose any initiative labelled ‘green’, so noone dared ask any questions.

    And what’s it going to cost?

    a) Its budget

    b) Eleven times its budget, like the Scottish parliament building.

    c) More than that.

    Is this the dream our leaders dreamed: to link the east and west?

    a) Yes; is it not magnificent!

    b) No, because the tramline only goes from Edinburgh’s west to Edinburgh’s centre.

    And where do north and south come in?

    a) In the grand phase II that will be done as soon as oil reaches $116/barrel, as predicted by the natz.

    b) When oil reaches a much higher price than that.

    c) In the heart of south Edinburgh, occasionally a right-wing remark is heard, so limiting south Edinburgh’s connection to the rest of the city is part of the anti-hate-speech initiative. And everyone knows that no-one who is anyone lives in north Edinburgh.

    And what about the rest?

    a) North, east, south and west – that’s everywhere.

    b) There is much ‘rest’ that is outwith our leaders’ ken, and will remain so.

    And will it ever finish?

    a) Yes, it has.

    b) Yes, soon.

    c) No, because the tramline has to be extended to connect Edinburgh’s centre to Edinburgh’s east.

    And is it not a sin?

    a) No; such religious words are hate speech.

    b) Yes, but our leaders are damned anyway; why would they care?

    And when and why, goes up the cry, did lunacy begin?


    a) When the natz took power.

    b) Earlier: that the natz took power was a sign that lunacy already had begun.

    c) Lunacy never really left Scotland. It was just less able to organise and express itself in the years when there was not a separate Scottish parliament.


    a) Good question.

    b) Really good question.

    c) What is that thing overtaking us that looks like our tram car but somehow isn’t. Its front wheels seem able to turn through a wide arc. Amazing – it just turned off onto another road. A bus, you say! Could this be the wave of the future?

  • Julie near Chicago

    “Very droll,” Mr. Kilmartin. 😮 🙂 😀 😆 😆

    You would be amazed at how few people can write poems that scan (or actually rhyme) — or even polish a monk’s poem into rhythm and rhyme.


    The spell-checker for this outfit questions the linguistic legitimacy of the word “else’s.”


    Two questions on terminology from an ignorant (there is no other kind 😥 ) girl from the Provinces:

    1. What means “natz”? “Environmental nutters” doesn’t work.

    2. What means “woke”? I think, for instance, I’ve seen something along the lines of “woke SJWs”…?

  • Sam Duncan

    “Lunacy never really left Scotland. It was just less able to organise and express itself in the years when there was not a separate Scottish parliament.”

    Heh. The problem with the Scotland Act was that by creating a new tier of government at the Scottish level, it didn’t devolve power deeply enough and it delivered a focus for nationalist attention right into their hands. So this brilliant plan for bringing power closer to the governed and “killing nationalism stone dead” ended up doing the very opposite of both. (Lest anyone doubt the former, at the turn of the century, Glasgow’s Police, Fire Brigade, water supply, and urban motorways were run locally. Today, they are all managed from Edinburgh.)

    That this is, as I said before, still not as glaringly obvious to the Scottish political/media class as it was to many of us back in the days of the absurd “Constitional Convention”, almost thirty years ago, just shows how bloody thick they all are.

  • Mr Ed


    Magnificent. But we cannot be certain the SNP might have boted against, had their bluff been called, just as if you count long enough, you can’t be certain of π, but for all practical purposes, we know enough to ignore the rounding error.

    Julie: ‘natz’ = (Scottish) National[ist] (Party).

    The SNP have achieved what Göring achieved in Germany, unified control of the police, albeit at least two forces, for railways and for nuclear power facilities, remain outside their control for now.

    When the Scottish Parliament was opened, the presiding officer’s first words were to the effect that ‘the Scottish Parliament, adjourned in 1707, is hereby reconvened’ which was a lie, as the Scottish Parliament remains merged with the English/Welsh one as the UK Parliament, leaving aside 1801.

  • James Hargrave

    And whenever the Edinburgh mob get hold of anything they provide proof of their own complete incompetence. Given enough rope they will hang themselves – but it is taking one hell of a lot of rope.

    In passing, my contact in NB works in Edinburgh but would never dream of living there – he commutes from Glasgow. And I live in Wales and suffer the stupidities of that devolved entity (more ex-town councillors), shortly to be rechristened a parliament, I fear.

  • Alisa


    What means “woke”? I think, for instance, I’ve seen something along the lines of “woke SJWs”…?


    A question of my own: what monk’s poem?

  • Alisa (March 17, 2018 at 2:09 pm), the monks of St Giles (in full “The Order of the Grey Monks of St Giles”) were founded in 1852. Members must write a poem as a condition of entrance (usually they then go on to write further poems or prose) and are usually drawn from Edinburgh’s professional establishment. I am distantly related to a member (who is also a Royal Archer) and he wrote the poem, to which I contributed only very very minor changes to aid scansion but which inspired me to write the joke exam paper.

    St Giles is Edinburgh’s cathedral. It is presbyterian and so its ‘monks’ are not literally monks. The volunteer rota which provides guides to show visitors round the cathedral includes some monks.

    (To avoid a possible confusion) although I was born and brought up in Edinburgh, I do not reside there today and am not myself a member of the society.

  • Alisa

    It is presbyterian and so its ‘monks’ are not literally monks.

    They are literary monks 🙂

    Thanks for the explanation!

  • Julia, expanding on Ed’s reply to you, ‘nats’ is a common abbreviation for members of the Scottish National Party – just as you might say ‘dems’ for Democrats. However when you write it, ‘dems’ is accepted by spell-checkers but ‘nats’ is not and the more eager of them convert it to ‘hats’ or ‘mats’. This automatic ‘correction’ can be avoided by instead spelling the word ‘natz’.

    Although the above is a good excuse, it is not quite full disclosure to say that is the only reason I do so. The Scottish National Party is very disciplined: party rules state that expressing disagreement with the leader’s line is an expulsion offence. Or, as it is sometimes expressed, there is no ‘I’ in the party: the party comes first and the ‘I’ follows. When the party’s name is written as ‘natz’, I could not agree more.

    You may by now have deduced that I am not a member of the natz either. 🙂

    Alisa, good pun. 🙂

  • Sam Duncan

    “When the Scottish Parliament was opened, the presiding officer’s first words were to the effect that ‘the Scottish Parliament, adjourned in 1707, is hereby reconvened’ which was a lie”

    And a taste of the madness to come.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mr Ed, Alisa, Niall: Thanks for the info. :>))

    “Woke”: My god!

    I mean, the correct term would be “awakened.” (Bloody ignorant Provincials….) *sniff*

    Speaking of that, The Watchtower has a sister magazine entitled “Awake!” I think the Witnesses got there first. *giggle*

    ETA: Oh yeah. Also, bloody so-called “spell-checkers.” Don’t even want to allow us to say things like “somebody else’s.” *snarl*

  • Alisa

    Train thy spellchecker, and it shall obey.

  • Julie near Chicago

    True enuff, Alisa, but I didn’t pay all that $ for this blessed machine for the privilege of getting to tutor some ignorant program in the vocabulary of Ingreess!


  • This post is jinxed.

    Try calling it “The Scottish post”. 🙂

  • Paul Marks

    I would not have expected any resistance in Scotland to Frankfurt School of Marxism anti Freedom of Speech doctrines – so this is to be WELCOMED. In spite of the vile stuff about “this law has not solved the problem” (Freedom of Speech as a “problem”) and “discrimination” against football fans (as if the anti Freedom of Speech law would have been better if it has applied to everyone).

    If a football club does not want people in the stands chanting sectarian slogans – then it should ban them from the ground. Insist on everyone watching the match in silence – if the club wants that. This is nothing to do with the Sword of State.

  • Sam Duncan

    Dammit! I just came back to look over this thread and realise that I spelled “Constitutional” wrong almost two days ago. I hate it when that happens. (I think you’re right, Natalie: this post is jinxed.)

    “This is nothing to do with the Sword of State.”

    Spot-on. It’s just a shame that the Act doesn’t appear to have been repealed on a matter of principle, but because it’s “unfair” to infringe on the rights of football fans alone, and that it doesn’t “work”. But hey, when it comes to Holyrood it’s a case of libertarians taking whatever little we can get.