Only A Game

It’s the struggle between people and power…the state versus the citizen. It could be the courts or the politicians, no matter. It’s authority putting up the halt sign to the voters. Who’s in charge – the people who pay for it all and in whose name it’s carried out, or the ones the people employ to administer it?

There’s little doubt after the last 24 hours that the answer is – Power is in charge. The state – the elite – is the winner and the people come second.

In Scotland the law criminalising offensive behaviour associated with football – a scourge which repels most of the country and gives rise to national shame – is voted down by an assortment of principled politicians and MSP chancers who magically agree with each other, every one, across all parties from landed Tory gentry (‘Play up, you Aberdonians. Put in the pill in the onion bag’) and football-ambivalent Greens to Labour opportunists. The elected elite contrived a coalition in an attempt to destroy a serious legal initiative to target the most insidious and ugly manifestation of tribal football behaviour in Scotland.

*In London the High Court decides on one section of the State, the Executive, against another, Parliament, and comes down on the side of MPs. They must have the right to vote on Article 50 and not leave it in the hands of unbridled ministerial authority, throwing the whole Brexit issue into the air (and possibly postponing it indefinitely). This, of course after a Leave vote in the EU referendum whose supporters now feel disenfranchised, indeed doubly so since many voted out of political estrangement. Well, I suppose it’s what we pay them for…

It demonstrates the limits of democracy because I haven’t the least doubt that a venture on to the streets of your town or city today would reveal a widespread public loathing for football bigotry – indeed, from some, for football itself. I know it’s a long time since the Fife riot squad were called out to break up riots at Bayview (after East Fife 4 – Forfar 5, what a thriller) but try a trip on the Glasgow subway when Rangers are at home. Think how the Scottish Cup Final looked to viewers in other countries with grown men losing all dignity. I used to spend time in a bar frequented by both sides of the Old Firm divide where, in a group who understood the unspoken limits, there was a masterclass in Glasgow banter. I loved it. But what’s the reality on the terracing? I could barely believe the blow-up effigies hanging from the Parkhead stands. No wonder one side hates the other. For the uncommitted viewer, and, interestingly, even some of Rangers/Celtic adherents, it is a cause of revulsion and embarrassment.

Arguments about bad law and dodgy precedents don’t convince a Scottish public who just wish the whole lot would disappear. They see little changing despite all the effort of the clubs themselves. Even in their greatest hour – winning European trophies – the fans of both Rangers and Celtic couldn’t contain themselves and invaded the pitch. That isn’t sectarianism of course but it does explain why there is such public contempt…they even ruin their own success. Wherever (big time) football goes, trouble seems to follow. That’s why any attempt to curtail its worst excesses is popular. The public is sick of it. The SNP at least came up with a plan and gave the police powers and, I suggest, that’s what the majority are happy with. Watching the police lamely escorting bands of what they regard as noisy thugs belting out bigoted chants and songs infuriates the public.

Most will agree that… ‘as a country, we have come a long way from the overt sectarianism of the 19th and 20th centuries, but sectarianism still scars Scotland. Tackling it is not a political choice – it is a public duty.’ That’s Jack McConnell in 2011, the year before OBFA came in. He complained that the initiative to fight sectarianism had stalled after 2007 (SNP bad) and that no single piece of legislation can stop it. But he wanted action and the SNP provided it.

However…however. It ain’t good law. And that’s a problem. As far as the voters are concerned any rough treatment of hateful sectarian oafs wearing scarves is ok by them. But that isn’t how it works. Because the public don’t care about the niceties and wish a plague on all their houses just isn’t a good enough reason to create laws that are difficult to implement and that generate random outcomes by criminalising behavior that would be acceptable away from a football environment. I don’t think it’s as clear-cut as some would argue – for example how can you sing Flower of Scotland about fighting England and not the Roll of Honour? – because I think to be a crime there has to be intent. When we sing Flower of Scotland there can’t be many who imagine it’s urging an attack on English supporters. But when the Billy Boys is sung, is it in the spirit of sport or is it out of hatred for opponents from a different cultural tradition? What do you think the law’s mythical reasonable person would say? But this time the elite is right – it’s time to call a halt and honour the vote – at the very least by amendment if not abolition.

I think in any case before the vote there was a case for a comprehensive review of the legislation because you really can’t have sheriffs questioning law from the bench. And I have previously argued that a committee has to be assigned the role of reviewing and revising legislation after it is voted through. It should not have any power to amend the intent of the law but should check it for potential holes and efficacy in the drafting and then follow its implementation to guage how it’s working.

Now I have no doubt that much of this is being presented as a keen interest in civil rights – always a Tory hallmark, of course – while it is in fact a blatant way of exploiting the lack of an SNP majority – the same majority us closed-minded diehards would have preferred.

We’re now paying the price of votes bleeding away to the Greens who, in demonstrating they won’t be SNP puppets, are instead demonstrating they are the new best pals of the Tories. It’s true repeal was in their manifesto but that wasn’t exactly what they majored on when punting for SNP second preferences. They focused on land reform and fracking but hey, it’s up to the voters. This is a trend that will continue throughout the parliament as we witness the bold new parliament ‘keeping the SNP radical’. It should win over new voters to the Greens who admire their work in parliament but the other side of the equation is how many SNP 2nd voters they lose at the same time. I suspect right now that is a one-way movement. When the Greens said voting for them would increase pro-indy MSPs, they didn’t add they would undermine the SNP government on just about everything else.

But why am I complaining…I’d like to see the SNP move to amend the OBFA law in a way that convinces the majority of MSPs, although it will be revealing to see just how many are actually interested in achieving that when their only plan was repeal and rejoice.

In accepting the need to review and revise, I find it troubling that the new cross-party opposition could conspire a combined vote but not a solution. If there was genuine concern to solve the sectarian problem (as if) couldn’t they have convened some meetings and agreed their own amendments which could have been presented simultaneously? Or is it the case they actually don’t agree with each other? Or haven’t bothered with alternatives, when the objective was always just to sink the Nats’ law? I know Patrick is planning some proposals sometime but currently we have a vacuum in which the bigots are claiming their victory. They can sing what they want, in their mind, because they’ll see the Act is going. It unhands the police and dismays the wider public impatient that so much concern is shown to thugs who show none to others. They want to know what the replacement is. Wouldn’t we all.

Well, the SNP were keen to act on sectarianism but should have listened.

The opposition has undermined the law without offering any replacement.

Meanwhile the hatred will keep spilling out, disgusting the Scots and shaming the nation.

However, I assume we can look forward to some incisive, detailed human rights-compliant outline legislation from the parliament’s new rainbow coalition. But will it be ready before the Hogmanay Old Firm match?

*This is the right decision. An advisory referendum does not bestow all-consuming powers on an unelected leader on a matter of vital national interest.


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30 thoughts on “Only A Game

  1. “*This is the right decision. An advisory referendum does not bestow all-consuming powers on an unelected leader on a matter of vital national interest.”

    We on the Yes side, and the SNP, should be wary of getting the courts involved in the democratic process, because this has set a dangerous precedent for an indy Scotland vote.

    The House of Commons voted by a margin of 6 to 1 in favour of a EU referendum. They gave power to the people for that vote. To bleat about Parliamentary sovereignty now, is treachery and hypocrisy on a scale not seen in decades….

    Also, by that logic, any future Scottish Independence referendum is only advisory and non-binding.

    Imagine a 52/48 Yes victory in Indy Ref 2. Imagine Unionists taking it to the courts in London. Imagine MPs voting down the result because it was only advisory and non-bidning. Legally, we’re still part of the UK. Parliament is sovereign.

    We wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

    If the SNP have any sense, they will abstain on the Article 50 vote, let Britain leave the EU and concentrate on winning a new Indy referendum….

    This has the potential to come back and bite us….

    • Vintage analysis @Cocaine,and I agree with your conclusions.
      Though they will not be adopted by our FM, she is too busy socking it to the Tories, to have much time for long term strategy

      • Wiser heads in the SNP such as Gordon Wilson and Jim Sillars, have been warning about this for a while…

        We all remember the stich up of 1979.

        If Westminster is in the mood for mischief, there is nothing stop them giving the green light to a new indy referendum, but with conditions attached:

        Two thirds must must vote in favour of Indy, turnout has to be 60% etc etc

        Sturgeon and Salmond must surely see the danger of getting involved, becuase Unionists can turn round later and say the SNP were happy to add amendments to the Article 50 bill, and use that against the SNP.

        The SNP need to be aware of the long term danger here….

        • “Wiser heads in the SNP such as Gordon Wilson and Jim Sillars…”


          Scotland’s independence in line with the sovereignty of the people of Scotland is paramount. Spain and the EU can express an opinion if they want but Scotland’s self-determination [as detailed by the UN for example] is a matter for the people of Scotland.

    • The 56 should vote against the Article 50 vote. The people of Scotland are sovereign in Scotland. Westminster’s “legality” will always be used against the will of the people of Scotland if that will is seen to be not in Westminster’s interests. The time is fast approaching when the Scottish government must act as if it was already the government of an independent country, and to hell with Westminster’s laws. Anything else is to accept perpetual submissiveness and thus be a laughing stock in the eyes of the rest of the world.

      • For Scotland’s best interests in the long term, our break from Westminster needs to be legal and above board. We know the Spanish have no problem with an Indy Scotland that gained its independence through legal and constitutional means, but if it’s messy, other countries like Spain, would prove to be problematic, especially regarding the EU, for obvious reasons, given Spain’s own problems with Catalonia.

    • Well, except that the legislation for any referendum can be drafted so as to make it binding – like the 2011 AV referendum.

      As I understand it, the indyref and the EU ref were both advisory, since neither explicitly laid out what actions would result from the vote. If it doesn’t say what it means, then it only means… what it means.

      For myself, I think it’s good that the justiciary provide a check on government-by-fiat.

      And I believe the SNP should vote against any step toward making Brexit a reality. That’s what its constituency wants.

      The Brexit vote has the same problem that the indyref did – it’s a pig in a poke if you’re not voting on a specific, pre-arranged package of solutions or terms. In effect the vote is on the one hand, stick with how things are, and on the other, absolutely-anything-else-has-to-be-better-I-don’t-care-what-it-is, and you-have-a-free-hand-to-negotiate-who^cares-what-you-give-away.

      Anyway for Scotland’s independence I’m not at all certain that another blind referendum is the best or only way.

    • Scotland voted 62-38 Remain. That I suggest is pretty strong advice to the SNP as to how they should vote in my book. It ties the SNPs hands into voting against Mayhem May on Article is the only thing they can do as otherwise they will look sleekit. Abstention isn’t an option the SNP.

  2. It was rank political naivety on the part of the Greens yesterday. Three reasons you repeal such an act:

    1. You have a better workable alternative to hand and debate
    2. The act has proven both universally and measurably unpopular with the public and the judiciary and has shown to be of no benefit to society
    3. There is no longer any requirement for the measure

    Not seeing how any of those applied to yesterday’s debacle.

    Of course we already know what yesterday was all about from those concerned. The act was deeply flawed as we’re all aware and needed amendment badly, but it was delivering for the wider public as drops in football related crime and injury bore out. It was popular and supported by the majority of the electorate in the most recent polling on the issue.

    Now for the unionist parties this doesn’t matter a damn. Their aim was to fight over the votes of a particular demographic and damage the Scottish Government at all costs. As far as they are concerned job done! Now they have the added bonus of driving a wedge into the yes movement just when the first thing it needs above all else is unity.

    Bad and bad enough for the Greens as a politically naive act of self harm, but the damage they may have potentially caused among yes ranks is pure idiocy at this time. In one stroke they’ve caused more ill feeling overnight than the combined efforts of the msm and their chain tuggers in five awful years. I’m sure you’ve scanned a few indy sites by this time Derek and seen the general theme running through many comment threads. Bloody infuriating to those of us who have been talking about trusting the varied members of our broad church to any who would listen. Right about now I’m hoping Mr Harvey has had a chance to view and consider some of those threads.

    He really, really needs to.

    • Agreed, Macart, I’m quite embarrassed to be a Green today. Not only does the party’s stance yesterday damage trust in the ‘broad church’ for independence, it damages the Green’s own potential to pick up votes and effect a difference on the important issues (e.g. land reform and fracking, as mentioned above). Politics is not just about having principles on an issue and holding to them, come hell or high water, but also about seeing the bigger picture. This was naive in the extreme.

      • There is much to admire in voting along green lines on a number of issues when outside of the current constitutional stramash TBH, but yesterday has proven the gulf that lies between political protest and political practice. The UK is in the middle of a constitutional and economic crisis and now was not the time to give the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems a morale boost through their gesture politics exercise.

        The only winners yesterday were the unionist parties as Mr Harvey is no doubt learning right about now.

    • Macart, perhaps Patrick Harvie can accompany me on the subway from Merkland Street to Ibrox an hour before the Old Firm kick off on New Year’s Day.
      Just to spice things up, I’ll wear a Sellick scarf, and he a RFC muffler.
      Then let him spout about civil liberties and devolving power to Local Authorities.
      We are ‘threatened’ constantly by Sectarian MSP’s with ‘civil unrest’, and accused of unjustly criminalising young men (sic) under twenty merely because they sing songs of hate or celebrate politically the Struggle in another land. And a child has his head split open by a beer bottle from the mob.
      Kelly, Tomkins, and Fraser, were all soundly rejected by their constituents at the ballot box, so fall back on this evil sectarian rabble rousing, just to appear relevant.
      I’d venture that most RFC and Celtic supporters in 21st Century Scotland are disgusted by the thuggery of their increasingly Ultra hatefilled fringes by now; yet we are expected as a society to put up with their anti social behaviour, lest they turn nasty and riot through our streets?
      The Greens have blown it big time. I hope that they enjoy their time in the sun, because we won’t be fooled again.
      To stand shoulder to shoulder with an Ultra Right Wing Administration which is intent on crushing the ordinary citizen to enrich the Elite is beyond forgiveness; and let us be in no doubt, that is what Patrick Harvie and his wee gang did yesterday.
      Great article, as usual, Mr Bateman.
      England voted Leave, 52 to 48; this is described as ‘the will of the British people’.
      Oh dear.

      • Since we don’t expect representatives of the unionist parties to give much of a toss as to societal fallout. I’d like Mr Harvie to spend an evening or two in the odd A&E, police station or social work office if this act is repealed rather than amended.

        Nothing like walking a mile in someone elses shoes to broaden your viewpoint on real world actions and consequences.

        • The twenty or thirty thousand endomorphs who rampage through our towns and cities on matchday have more authority and power than the 5 million or so of the rest of us? You may recall the 19th September 2014 assault on George Square, Macart.
          Nazi salutes, Union Flags, ‘you can stick your independence up your arse.’
          Brownshirts for the Blue Red and Yellow Tory Unionists.
          The ‘Ulsterisation’ of Unionism Up Here, flames of hatred and oppression fanned by the Torrances, Rowlings, and Majors, Kellys, Tomkins, and Frasers of the Unionist elite.
          Scottish citizens are starving, and being rendered homeless and these numbnuts prattle on about the ‘freedoms’ of thugs and psychopaths.
          We shall not be moved.
          I shall hold this grubby lot of failed politicos directly responsible for the next savage death of a young man whose only crime will be that he is wearing a green or blue football top.
          My rage at the Greens is yet to abate.
          How much longer must we tolerate a media which actually promotes this crap, just to sell newspapers.
          To the Dead Tree Scrollers I urge, get a proper job.

      • England voted 54-46 leave

  3. In general greens are tories with “principles” – very few ordinary people can afford the greens policies these days.

    Quelle surprise on Harvie voting the way he did then mmm?

    • I’m certainly not a Tory, never voted for them and never will. When it comes to protecting our environment and combating climate change, the question is really ‘can we afford not to?’

  4. Well, i’m doubtless going to be thought of as very naive but it seems to me that the Government would be well advised to take the steps to amend the OBFA as advised the Peat Worrier yesterday. Further amendments can perhaps be made in the light of experience and shouldn’t be negated but i would certainly not repeal the legislation in total simply on the basis of Kelly’s shenanigans

  5. I also agree that LPW came up with some very good suggestions re OBFA.

    I think the Greens have lost a lot of support especially with women which they will struggle to regain.

    As for the split in indy groups, I don’t think this will be too destructive.
    Because I felt really strongly about this act, I know it’s not perfect, but I think it is part of the establishment policy of divide and rule, I spent a lot of time on twitter arguing with various folk.

    None of us unfollowed each other and some of us came to an agreement of sorts.
    Because it is an emotive issue, feelings were running high.

  6. Reference MSP Kelly’s motion on OBFA; “Because you can’t really have sheriff(s) questioning law from the bench”. Is there a link? Check it out.

    80%(?) of the population polled support OBFA. Why oh why have the Greens aligned themselves with the anti-SNP Unionists, they’ve blown it.

    D’hondt has served us, the electorate, with a batch of shoo-ins that the electorate rejected. The D’Hondt voting system must be reviewed.

  7. Naïveté is hardly sufficient!

    Why had the Greens this in their manifesto? Who put it there? Do the Greens have unionist sleepers at the core of the party?

    Before the SPE it was likely that there could be a Green/SNP alliance as indeed there was. It was also likely that the SLABs and Tories, aka The Ruth Davidson Party, would use the OBFA as an anti SNP weapon. Indeed as a unionist weapon against Scotland!

  8. Divide and rule was always the imperial way – witness Ireland, witness partition of India. Let us not be drawn into the elite’s trap by the naivity of the Greens. Keep our eyes on the prize, independence.

    Oh and on football, fine the clubs, make them play behind closed doors to empty stands. Pressure the Scottish football authorities to implement real anti-sectarian and anti-violence measures.

  9. Donald McGregor

    Like many, I’m very disappointed by a political shower without the nouse to suggest an alternative to that which they say ‘doesn’t work’

    Repeal, OK, but surely replace?

    I’m very sad.

  10. A rainbow alliance acted some time back to vote through…the Edinburgh Trams. Now fancy that!

    Lesson: next time, vote SNP/SNP.

  11. I think the Scottish Government should be talking to the SFA and FIFA. They need to deal with the problem.

  12. This vote by the Greens will be their ‘Tuition Fees’ moment. We will not forget it and they will be roundly booted out at the earliest opportunity.

    Next time SNP x 2 – just like we told you.

    • Agreed Patrick and his tribe can’t be trusted , they played SNP voters for mugs to increase their number at the last election by promoting a pro independence stance , oh well Patrick it isn’t long until the Council elections let’s see if you can pull off the same trick again . You might be better off trying to tout for votes from the other unionist parties i am sure you will be most welcome .

  13. I agree that the Greens have blundered here. They would have done well to consider the fate of political parties who get into bed with the Tories!

    Looking at the broader picture, it seems to me that there is maybe a need to ensure at the drafting stage that Holyrood legislation is workable. I don’t know much about the present procedure, but I would have thought that robust analysis of proposed legislation by a team of legal experts might save the SG the embarrassment of having to amend such acts as OBFA and Named Person at a later stage.

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