Even if you are not a football fan it is important to understand that this Act has had widespread consequences for the whole of Scottish society. This knee jerk reaction from the SNP government to a long-standing problem which extends far beyond the realm of football has already had a damaging effect on civil society.
- It has politicised the police and given them the task of deciding what is offensive and what is not – in the first year of operation of the Act, the police were the ‘victims’ in over half the arrest cases.
- It has politicised the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service which now has three ‘Football’ Fiscals who advise the police on what ‘songs’ to look out for. They have failed to revise the guidance even after Sheriffs have repeatedly refused to convict people for singing Irish songs. Instead a Crown appeal was lodged in the Cairns case (http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/search-judgments/judgment?id=113686a6-8980-69d2-b500-ff0000d74aa7) – an step which is usually reserved for murders and rapes as opposed to the singing of a song. This had the effect of making anything a crime as long as a someone who did not have to be there or hear about it afterwards, and even if that person were of a ‘more volatile temperament’, might be incited to public disorder!
- The Lord Advocate’s role has been demeaned by the actions of the current incumbent, Frank Mulholland, who has spent much of the last two years acting as the poster boy for this particular piece of legislation rather than simply advising the government on the law. He went so far in a televised interview with the STV news correspondent Bernard Ponsonby as to say that in his view having a particular national or politicial ‘indentity’ could be unlawful under this legislation (http://www.celtictrust.net/index.php?func=d_home_article&id=425)
- Much of what is contained in the Act is already covered by existing legislation.
- There is no evidence whatsoever, of widespread disorder at football matches in Scotland. The last real example of this was in 1980, some 34 years ago!.
- The legislation makes certain actions and words unlawful in the context of football which, if they were said or done anywhere else would not be unlawful eg you can say or sing something at a football match and it is deemed a crime but if you were to say or do the same thing at a rugby match, on the street or, indeed, anywhere else it would not be deemed a crime.
- The FoCuS group of police officers created to implement this additional and unnecessary legislation have carried out their tasks with zeal; including individuals being arrested from their homes sometimes several weeks after the alleged offence has taken place. A number of complaints against the police are currently in process.
- In summary, it is unnecessary, was ill-conceived, badly drafted, is being implemented in a manner which should concern all citizens and which has made the relationship between football fans and the police very much worse.
For a non-football fans’ take on this Act both before it’s implementation and after please see the following: