First of all thanks to Fans Against Criminalisation for giving us the chance to tell MSP’s exactly what we thought about the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 brought in last year and telling a couple of them what they could do with it. In a polite manner of course. Special thanks also to Siobhan McMahon Labour MSP for her hospitality and support, it was much appreciated.
The day started off well in Glasgow when two ‘friendly’ Police officers approached the group outside the City Chambers to enquire if we were all off through to Edinburgh which they already knew. Well I take it they knew considering they could tell us what time we would be back at and they would see us then. Just another example of drip, drip intimidation we have all now come to expect.
We had a decent journey through to the Parliament were we were greeted by more Police. We were later told by MSP’s that the Police presence today was higher than normal, in fact there are normally no Police to welcome parties of visitors to the Parliament.
Anyway down to business. As luck would have it the Justice Committee were meeting this morning and one of the topics to be discussed was the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. The majority of us watched the proceedings over a live TV feed in a committee room as they never had enough room for all of us. Some MSP’s asked the Chair to consider an early review of the Act and it’s impact However there were unfortunately SNP MSP’s who tried to cloud the issue by bringing up the Gallowgate Tea Party 16/03/2013 and saying that the act did not need reviewed early as that was a Police Operational matter and nothing to do with the Act. Basically they wanted to waste time and kick an early review into the long grass. The truth is however is that the reason people gathered in the Gallowgate on that day was a direct consequence of the Act and how the Police were using it to mess innocent football fans about.
We were joined in the committee room by an SNP double act Jim Doran msp and John Mason msp or Laurel and Hardy as they came across. Both these men were against an early review and kept towing the party line about this act being in place to combat sectarianism. Unfortunately for them they had a room full of mainly Celtic fans who gave them a grilling to the point that neither one of them could tell us their definition of sectarianism, how the act had reduced sectarianism or why throughout the wording of the bill/act there is not one mention of the word sectarian. John Mason eventually gave his assurance that he had changed his mind and he would like an early review. That has to be welcomed but we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on him.
Labour group leader Johann Lamont along with Labour MSP’s Hanzala Malic ,Patricia Ferguson and other Labour MSP’s gave us great support. After the meeting the wonderful Jeanette Findlay presented Shadow Justice minister Lewis MacDonald with #FAC’s report into the Gallowgate Tea Party.
One thing was made clear today and that is your MSP can only do what you ask them to. That is parliamentary procedure so if you are not happy with this bill or any aspect of it you must take the time to contact your MSP and let them know.