Ministerial Statement on Offensive Behaviour Act

Following a campaign of misinformation since Friday the Minister for Community Safety, Paul Wheelhouse, will make a statement to Parliament this afternoon (Tuesday 16/6/15).  This statement, only communicated to MSPs yesterday, will probably take about 10 minutes followed by 20 minutes of questions beginning around 2.10.  The government have actively mislead the public and are now about to mislead Parliament.  Central to the messages which the government have tried to sell since Friday are:

  1. The University of Stirling evaluation report shows public support for the Act
  2. The YouGov poll commissioned by the government is a legitimate barometer of public opinion
  3. The research report is the Review which is built into the legislation.

In an attempt to shore up the government position that everything in the Offensive Behaviour garden is rosy, they have wheeled out former First Minister Alex Salmond, who has disgraced and demeaned himself by having a go at fan opposition to the Act; had a nasty jibe at a specific and identifiable academic; and, most disturbingly, accused solicitors who defend clients (as is their duty under our legal system) of being ‘clever dicks’ for being successful.  We would hope to hear the Law Society of Scotland responding to this sinister comment on the legal profession which echoes similar statements by MPs in the past which are linked to violent attacks on practicing solicitors based on the nature of their clients.

All of this is a well-orchestrated attempt to deflect from two central points which the government don’t want  the public and MSPs to focus on:

  1. The University of Stirling research does not provide support for the Act.  On Friday afternoon, in  a public statement carried nowhere in the press, one of the lead authors, criminologist, Dr Niall Hamilton-Smith said the following:
    1. Our evaluation neither endorses nor rejects the Act, but presents robust evidence on patterns of implementation, perceptions of impact and emerging issues and questions relating to section one of the legislation.
  2. The YouGov poll consists of 1044 people, over 52% of whom are ‘not interested’ or ‘not at all interested’ in football, who were asked blatantly leading questions to deliver the 80% backing which the government would have us believe is reflective of the population as a whole.
  3. The research is simply an evaluation report and in the words of the University of Stirling:
    1. The evaluation is intended to be one contribution, sitting alongside other possible evidence, perspectives or material in the Scottish Government’s consideration of the Act.”  or in the words of one of it’s authors in an email to FAC ‘whatever it (the research) is, it is not the Review’.

This is the information the government does not want people to have or reflect on.  By its cynical and undemocratic actions the government seek to shore up a cynical and undemocratic act.  Meanwhile the First Minister rightly champions the Human Rights Act while conveniently ignoring her own government’s record in this regard.

The three wise government monkeys, Sturgeon, Salmond and Wheelhouse may try to shut their ears to the voices of those opposing this Act, or shut their eyes to the mounting evidence of its failure, but they fail to shut their mouths when it comes to misleading the public.

Representatives of FAC will be in Holyrood today to put the true facts before MSPs and the press and to remind the government by our presence that we have not gone away and we are not going away till the unwarranted targetting and criminalisation of football fans ends.

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