The Boys of the Green Brigade

21 March 2013

2:27 PM

21 March 2013

2:27 PM

Och, now’s the hour and now’s the day for the Historic Announcement of the Historic Date for Scotland’s Historic Referendum on Independence. It’s only taken the SNP the best part of two years to get to this point and, of course, there’s only another 18 months or so to wait for the Historic Day itself.

So today’s parliamentary announcement is hardly the stuff legends are built from. Never mind. But this being a banner day for the SNP and all that, let us pause to recall one of the party’s most dismal – yet telling – failures. I refer, of course, to the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communciations Act. This preposterous, cock-eyed, bill has proved just as illiberal and capricious as its critics predicted. If it provides a forecast for life in Caledonia, Free and Braw then god help us all.

Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, boasts that 83% of prosecutions pursued in relation to the bill have resulted in convictions. It is typical of the man that he should be proud of such a shameful record.

The latest kerfuffle involves a group of Celtic supporters known as The Green Brigade. Their left-wing, Irish Republican political sympathies are not mine but that’s not the point. They have – or should have – speech rights too. Most recently, 13 of their members were arrested for various breach of the peace offences as 80 of the group conducted an “illegal march” to Parkhead (arrests which, incidentally, also support the notion the Offensive Behaviour bill is redundant). I must say that the line between an illegal march and a bunch of lads walking to the fitba’ seems pretty thin and even, perhaps, arbitrary. Doubtless they were, as Tom English suggests, happy to “provoke” the police. Nevertheless, their “kettling” seemed, on the evidence available, a ridiculously over-the-top reaction.

Graham Spiers, writing in the Herald,  worries that:

This attempt at cleaning up Scottish society has turned into a nightmare, cutting to the very heart of civil liberty.

Well, who could have predicted that?  Only anyone who cared to think about the issue when it was first proposed nearly two years ago. It was clear then and is even clearer now that this thoughtless legislation was abominably ill-conceived, thoroughly illiberal and, most probably, essentially unworkable. It took no soothsaying powers to predict this.

I don’t mean to pick on Spiersy particularly since he was merely one of many voices simpering that Something Must Be Done. Nevertheless, though he now says he always had doubts about the bill, it bears remembering that the record of his testimony before a parliamentary committee tells otherwise. To wit:

In principle, I am in favour of the bill. […] I do not want to live in a country where we have the freedom to stand up, shout and be anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic or racist. If somebody deems that a thought crime and refers to how awful it is to be punished for a thought crime, I say that I think that some thoughts should be criminalised.


Well, some thoughts and sentiments have been criminalised and some of us would prefer to live in a country with more robust protections for freedom of thought, speech and expression. Yes, even when those thoughts are repulsive or neanderthal. You were warned about this at the time but you did not listen. See, for instance, here, here, here, here and here.

Football is a sectarian business. It cannot fail to be. Scottish football supporters, like fans in every other country, are members of rival sects or denominations. Their Hymns of Hate are declarations of tribal loyalty. Outlawing sectarianism at football makes as much sense as outlawing football itself. As a means of “combatting” the alleged problems of sectarianism in society at large, cracking down on the singing of songs inside football grounds is about as worthwhile an endeavour as expecting Kenny Miller to score the goals that would take Scotland to the World Cup Finals. It is a pointless and even counter-productive hope, untethered to reality or reason.

This was obvious when this legislation was being “debated” at Holyrood (I use the term in its loosest possible sense) and it remains obvious today.

We have reached the absurd point at which it is now seriously being proposed that the police compile a list of songs which may be sung and a rival list of anthems the singing of which is liable to leave you open to being prosecuted. The Rangers manager, Ally McCoist, has suggested just such a list of “safe songs”  – a notion which reinforces the suspicion that the relationship between the football supporters and the law is now governed by rules comparable to those applied in a sado-masochistic fetish parlour.

Where will it all end? You may recall that the bill was temporarily postponed when it became evident that it might end up criminalising the national anthem. Yet in terms of “behaviour that a reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive” there actually is little difference, in the context of a football match, between a lusty rendition of Rule Britannia and other more overtly “sectarian” tunes. Indeed, Roseanna Cunningham, the hapless minister lumbered with responsibility for this debacle, even suggested that making the sign of the cross could, in certain circumstances, be considered an offensive provocation sufficiently serious as to warrant police investigation.

All this being the case, is it any wonder the police are arresting football supporters on what can only be considered an arbitrary and capricious basis? And why stop at singing? If vocal declarations of tribal loyalty are to be outlawed then why not criminalise the waving of flags too? If the Sash or the Boys of the Old Brigade are to be considered provocatively offensive then why not criminalise the waving of the Union Flag or the Irish Tricolour?

If that sounds silly then it is no more daft that the idea, suggested by Ms Cunningham, that offensive or threatening tattoos could “fall within the ambit of this legislation”.

As it is football supporters are being tried for notional offences of “religious hatred” when, in fact, all they are guilty of is expressing how much they despise their greatest rivals. In the context of a football match, chanting Fuck the Pope is anti-Celtic not necessarily anti-Catholic per se. Everyone understands this. The vast majority – by which I mean perhaps more than 90% – of football fans (even Old Firm supporters) are nothing more than Ninety Minute Bigots. And bigotry is an inescapable part of following a football club. An intolerance towards those who hold different opinions or are part of a different group is inherently a large part of being a football supporter.

Which means, in the end, that these poor sods are being convicted for the crime of being football supporters. What a country we now inhabit! A place in which expressing your footballing allegiance can be a criminal offence. A “reasonable” or disinterested person might consider almost any such tribal declaration  – regardless of its political or religious content – threatening or offensive. Which, again, makes the suggestion of a list of “safe songs” laughably laughable. What next: the licensing of football songs and supporters? Well, why not?

The whole sorry mess is was as predictable as it is contemptible. And yet will this idiotic, unworkable and loathsome bill be repealed? Fat chance.



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Show comments
  • terregles2

    Ignorance is bliss. Indeed it can be. For those of us fortunate enough never to have been inside a Scottish football ground or indeed any football ground anywhere in the world we are truly blessed.

  • terregles2

    Cannot really see what the problem is, If people in Scotland do not like this legislation then quite simply after Independence they will vote for any other party that will change it.

    The SNP and their legislation are irrelevant. Unionists waste so much time and energy in trying to suggest that after independence Scotland will be living in a dictatorship. The reverse is true after Independence it will be easier to reverse SNP policy than it will ever be to reverse any of the horrendous legislation inflicted on Scotland by the dreadful Cameron/Miliband incompetents.

    Check out

  • Guest

    Excellent piece.

  • Remittance Man

    I’m no expert on soccer, but I do understand the mentality of young men and quite frankly publishing a list of “safe songs” will do nothing to prevent the singing of unsafe ones. Indeed by listing those songs and chants that the authorities deem acceptable, by default, they also highlight which ones are unacceptable. Now, which songs do you think a bunch of hyped-up, testosterone-pumped guys will find the more entertaining and provocative? Especially in the charged atmosphere of a tribal gathering.

  • paulus

    Well I agree with your sentiment, but i don’t think its a prerequiste to be a bigot to follow a football team. Maybe this particular unsavory spectatcle is tied up with socio-economic disadvantage.And has nothing to do with football at all.

    Racism was rampant and vile in English football grounds but it has been stamped out.

  • Bill Kenny

    I think I may have to sit for a while with a strong cup of tea as I find myself agreeing with Alex Massie.

  • Buddie Bhoy

    83% sucess rate in convictions? They’re not doing very good with the GB as every member who pled not guilty has won their case!


    excellent piece of writing that someone has at last given this topic some thought..200 officers, dogs, horses and helicopters with police vans with video equipment, just because a few supporters want to walk to the match together to make a point, and the ridiculous statement by the police that “hey got a call regarding a large crowd was gathering and they just happened to have the said resources just around the corner is a obvious lie.

  • abystander

    One or two thoughts.
    Is it not the case that before the passage of this bill, that big Polish goalie Celtic had, whose name escapes, turned to the Orange hoards at Ibrox after Celtic had beaten them and ostentatiously crossed himself? Did not this lead to the Police warning him about committing a public order offence for doing that? As I say, before the passage of the Bill.
    Fuck the Pope is offensive. Its not intended to offend Celtic fans as many Celtic fans are not Catholics. Its intended to offend Catholics who are numerous in the Celtic support.
    But in any case is there not an existing provision against foul language and abusive behaviour?
    Finally Rangers/Celtic rivalry is sectarian in a way in which no English football rivalry is sectarian. Really, it is not.

    • Blue Knows

      No, that goalie (Artur Boruc) was not warned for crossing himself but for other gestures he made to the crowd.

    • Clavers

      To describe the serried ranks of Rangers supporters as Orange hoards (sic) is certainly pejorative and under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communciations Act may be deemed offensive by Obergruppenführer House’s blackshirts, his boss Reichsführer MacAskill certainly knows all about Offensive Behaviour at football and has been apprehended for it.

  • leoinlisbon

    The difference between the Green Brigade’s illegal march and ‘a bunch of lads walking to the footba’ would be clear to anyone who has ever walked from Glasgow Cross to Celtic Park. The police response appears to have been over the top but it is understandable that they refused to turn a blind eye to this march. In Glasgow, as in Belfast, the ‘other side’ will note what is being allowed and demand the same. That said, the Offensive Behaviour law is – as Alex Massie says – an idiotic law.

    • Blue Knows

      Those charged at the Green Brigade march were not charged under the “Offensive Behaviour” Act but under more general public order laws. The basic situation is quite simple: if a group, of whatever sort, wishes to hold a march they must apply to the city council to do so. This procedure is in place for reasons such as public safety. The Green Brigade did not follow this procedure.

  • In2minds

    “And bigotry is an inescapable part of following a football club. An intolerance towards those who hold different opinions or are part of a different group is inherently a large part of being a football supporter.”

    Does this apply to Rod Liddle?

  • tu ferguson

    In response to SeanBonJovi – I find it incredible and almost spitting my coco over my keyboard when he says that Rangers fans have been given “carte blanche”

    One of the main problems prior to the writing of the bill was people like Spiers who demanded that something be done, Other journalists were more than happy to join the “crusade” and unfortunately the main target was and has been Rangers. Remember the fuss about the famine “song”? We had coverage of that as the lead story on BBC Scotland evening news with a little sing a long bubble at the bottom of the screen. One small snag, their was NO song. The song came well after the chant or chorus if you like. Was the chant in good taste? Probably not, Was it racist? No. Was it sectarian? No. Was it winding up the Celtic fans? Yes it did and that was its sole point as are many football chants. This unfortunately was forgotten about.

    The Celtic minded, if we can use such a phrase, got themselves into such a frenzy about this and other things, that their IRA chants and other delightful ditties such as wishing Rangers players would be shot and use of the phrase DOB (as in dirty Orange B~~~~) and H## were completely ignored. They assumed that the legislation would be aimed at Rangers fans,

    If they thought for one second they would have been caught in it, they would never have campaigned as much as they did.

    • Buddie Bhoy

      What’s wrong with the word hun? Think it correctly describes the actions of some of the rangers support who have pillaged their way through Europe following their team. Nothing sectarian about it as it is used by supporters of most Scottish teams to describe rangers supporters.

      • Jambo25

        Strangely enough, my Leicester City supporting bro-in-law thought ‘ra Tic’ were OK until he went to see them in a friendly at the Walker Stadium some years ago. Afterwards he asked my son and I why so many people would come so far just to chant and sing pro-terrorist ditties and shout how much they hate the English. By the way, English chums, that isn’t vile Scottish Nationalism but vile Irish Nationalism.

        • SeanBonJovi

          My brother in law knows you and says you are nothing but a trollling internet bigot.

          • Jambo25

            Well, if your bro-in-law, who I’ve never met, says that, then it must be true. I’ll leave it up to those reading this little discussion to decide whether your bro-in-Law is correct.

  • bob mckay

    Superb article…if only an MSP had the courage to read this at FMQT or PMQT; id love to see Eck put on the spot about this awful act.
    The one piece they got correct was to describe the behaviour as offensive- much of football banter is offensive between top rivals. Celtic pushed for an Anti-Sectarian bill thinking it would nail Rangers fans “offensive” behaviour only; their politicians and QCs talk of the “sectarian” law….forgetting that it covers all offensive behaviour. I am absolutely loving how it has bitten them on the backside..the law of unintended consequences tends to appear around most bad laws.
    Ps Religious bigotry? Utter tosh; ill pay money to hear to the first rangers or celtic season ticket holder who can debate liturgical issues such as transubstantiation or mass between the roman and reformed church. Aye, exactly…its not the reformation refought…its tribal football rivalry

  • Mark Colhoun

    There were already sufficient laws in place to deal with singing of sectarian songs or any other sectarian behaviour. All that was lacking was the will to enforce those laws. The problem started when such cheery little ditties as the Billy Boys and the Famine Song were ruled to be sectarian, racist and illegal, but songs of Irish freedom, where the content differs little from that of Flower of Scotland, were not. This of course would never do, so Salmond, Cunningham and CO. set about their task of evening things up for the poor wee teddy bears with these absurd and draconian laws.

    • Granty

      Mark, it was the fans of Celtic and their sympathetic media allies that started all this trying to get “cheery ditties” banned. Much better to celebrate the systematic murder of defenceless Protestants when singing BOTOB eh? Trying to smother the whole thing with a huge legalistic blanket is typical of modern, nanny state politics. Nations were not built by suffocating folk with rules, regulations and knee jerk lawmaking.

      • Buddie Bhoy

        BOTOB celebrating the murder of defenceless protestants?
        Where in the song does it do that?

    • Jambo25

      So would that be “Ooh ah, up the Ra” or “You can stick your poppies up your a..e”. Just like ‘Flower of Scotland’. Once again your West of Scotland, Catholic paranoia is showing.

  • dougthedug

    Have you been holding onto this one until the referendum date gets announced Alex? I wasn’t there but given the quotes below it perhaps isn’t as clear cut as you imply above.

    “The crowd were instructed that any procession on the road was illegal but that officers would facilitate a safe and orderly procession on the pavements toward their intended destination at Celtic Park,” said a statement. “However, this was ignored and more officers were deployed as the crowd became increasingly confrontational and aggressive”

    Mr MacAskill said:”None of the charges emanating from Saturday relate to the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. They relate to matters such as the misuse of drugs, breach of the peace or other public order matters.”

  • shinty rules

    When a bus full of wee 10 year old laddies are taken to task by their headie and sent home with letters in their Skilbags for passing remarks as the bus tooted along by Parkhead, it’s a blue do.

  • Bobby Mckail

    You know you have to ask yourself how have we as a society allowed sectarianism to reach such a point that we are now only starting to address it ( i use address loosely). I since i was a kid i have followed football and in all those years i have always wanted someone, anyone to address it. The hatred and bigotry that transcends from it as it assimilated from ground to ground and supporter to supporter was and is a stain on Scotland. I defy anyone to argue the opposite. Now i believe that it’s in everyone’s interest to come to some sort of agreement on how to take the arguments forward. Politicians have been arguing for years on the solutions, some wanted the clubs themselves to take responsibility for their fans ( and i think generally they have done the very best they can) But to do nothing really wasn’t an option in my opinion. Have the Scottish Government thought through the legislation, who knows they would argue they have, other people argue not so well only time will tell. One thing apart from the hoola that envelopes this thorny issue that i am sure everyone will agree on though there is no place in Scottish society for sectarianism, bigotry and division that’s based on religion.

    • classieview

      Why should division based on rival religious belief systems be so abhorrent?
      there is often unruly public rivalry between different economic systems (capitalism v communism in a nutshell); you sound a creepy fellow , perhaps a harbinger of the Scottish future that awaits us with your penal attitude.

      As a fully paid-up RC, I think if marchers went by St Andrew’s Cathedral on Glasgow’s Clyde St taking Cardinal O’Brien’s name in vain, we’d deserve it right now – sad but true. Similarly if fans wind up their Celtic rivals with chants about the Cardinal’s alleged misdeeds, we need to be big enough to take it.

      f the police carry out arrests because people are singing a song disobliging to Keith O’brien, you can be sure, that the same will happens when Alex salmond pedestal starts to get wobbly.

      Mr McKail, your vision of Scotland is an authoritarian politician’s delight – it’s not mine.

      • Bobby Mckail

        I don’t think religion division per say is abhorrent. I myself was brought up a catholic all my life went to catholic schools primary and secondary. I am aware that there is in fact religious division in School from 5yrs to 16 yrs. I wasn’t arguing that the legislation brought in by the Scottish Government was good legislation either. What i was arguing was the fact that when sectarianism and bigotry which is based on religion is used inside and particularly outside football grounds to attack others it breeds hate (because that’s what it does) then why have we as a country not taken any serious action until now to address it. It’s pretty obvious by now that even though the football clubs have done the very best they can it still falls way short in my opinion to address it. Lastly just for the record i am in favour of democracy not autocracy!

        • classieview

          The current Scottish government made a fetish out of soccer antagonisms thinking they would be saluted for doing their bit to slay the sectarian dragon. As the bill wound its way to the finishing stage, they were presented with evidence from many sides that football was only a small aspect of a deeper phenomenon. From your candid and fair-minded post , I’m not sure if you are indicating that catholic schools are part of that problem?Certainly , it is difficult to find RC teachers who have used their position to warp impressionable minds by running down other faiths.

          Celtic (plunging attendance) and Rangers are both much weakened by the upheavals of the past few years: They really need to hang together or else hang separately. To me it is clear that ill-conceived attempts at using a compromised police force and civil servants to remodel society is all the liberation and change Scots are likely to obtain from those whose ambitions know no limit.

        • SeanBonJovi

          There is no religious divisions within the schooling system in Scotland, only in terms of the actual School name you will find.
          Went to Catholic primary/secondary schools in Lanarkshire and there was a healthy number of Protestant, Sikhs, Hindu and Muslim kids, especially at Secondary level.

      • Jambo25

        And what happens when that harmless sectarian singing leads to somebody being murdered or mass mayhem breaks out during or after matches?

        • classieview

          There was usually nothing wrong with existing laws though the decisions of juries sometimes revealed that sectarianism extended well beyond certain soccer grounds. The 2012 Offensive Behaviour Law needs a highly professional police for it to work and we are drifting away from that ideal with the creation of a monolithic all-Scotland force. Vague legislation, draconian in its scope, is manna from heaven for cops who view fans as ‘pests and rodents’ . A democratic society has to put up with phenomena that inconvenience and disturb others whether it be Orange walks, Catholic schools or whatever. The mass attendance at Scottish football when the Old Firm existed, showed that it was a real draw for huge numbers of people and they could put up with the ugly fringe Yes that ugly fringe needs to be reined in but not by blunderbuss laws. Now the game is in danger of becoming a sporting sideshow which no doubt is being quietly celebrated in certain political quarters.

          • Jambo25

            Could you actually tell me why a unitary Scottish police force is moving away from professionaliam in the police? This appears to be a non sequitur of non sequiturs. I’m not Strathclyde polce’s greatest fan but I’ve never felt that I’ve been treated as a pest or rodent when I visit Hampden. I wouldn’t go anywhere near Parkhead or Castle Grayskull as I find those grounds frankly scary. They were particularly scary a few years ago when they were used as R&R resorts for Proddy and Catholic paramilitaries from N.Ireland. You never really knew who you would bump into.
            I’m willing to put up with all sorts of things I don’t like in the name of democracy. I don’t like them but I’ll put up with Orange walks and other Orange Order events. I’ll put up with James Connolly Society marches. In the latter case why wouldn’t I? After all my family used to go to mass with the surviving members of his family at St Pat’s off the Canongate. All I ask is that the organisers of these events comply with the laws relating to public order. Despite being a member of the Church of Scotland I’m actively in favour of Catholic schools It’s a democratic right and having taught in a couple I admire their ethos and community spirit.

            What I am not prepared to accept, however, is the continuation of a corrosive and destructive public sectarianism and terrorist worship as the USP of 2 very large commercial sporting enterprises based in Glasgow. That leads to public disorder, petty and serious crime, misuse of police resources and charges on me as a Scottish taxpayer to clear up the mess after them.

            • classieview

              The management of these two clubs are well able to look after themselves (or ought to be). But I think the evidence points to these commercial bodies having tried to reduce the ability of groups with terrorist sympathies to behave as they please.

              Unfortunately, a unified police force is a dream for authoritarian personalities who are still prevalent in these supposedly enlightened times ; it is difficult to see how abuses and excesses can be reined in to the extent that they were when more plural arrangements existed.
              I agree that everyone must comply with pubic order laws but the 2012 law is a dog’s breakfast, a gimmick that is now backfiring.

              If Alex Salmond were to stand up and say it was a valiant attempt to deal with a serious blight on Scotland that has not worked out, so the law is being repealed and more effort will be channeled into something better, it would be a triumph for him rather than a disgrace. The opposition might hum and law, but it would show that he as a brave politician willing to admit he had got something wrong.
              I suspect the proportion of Yes voters would grow in the run-up to 18 September 2014 because this clumsy initative had few backers outside the top civil service and the police.

              • Jambo25

                I’m not sure if the managements of Rangers and Celtic are as energetic in their attempts to battle sectarianism as they make out. Ibrox and Parkhead are both largely given over to seats sold to season ticket holders. It isn’t all that difficult to work out who the sectarian ones are. It’s also the case that the Celtic board have actually had meetings with the Green Brigade.

                The existence of a single police police force is no danger to liberty in Scotland. Numerous small European states have single police forces. France has. None of these countries are tyrannies. The kind of hint, hint; it could happen here in Scotland is nonsensical. There are no authoritarian groups waiting to move into government in Scotland. Not even a sign of any.

                I’m not a major fan of the 2012 law but it is simply delusional to think that it is highly unpopular in Scotland. It isn’t. I haven’t come across anyone, including OF fans who are opposed to it. A few civil rights fanatics and Green Brigade types do not a sizable political or electoral bloc make. Incidentally, the Green Brigade types were lifted under a 2006 law which merely required them to put in a submission for their march to Glasgow Council, prior to the march, not the 2012 act

                • classieview

                  It would seem sensible for the Celtic board to meet with any part of the club’s following which it wishes to influence; it remains to be seen what the electoral fall-out will be from this 2012 law but my reckoning is that if the SNP could start all over again, they would not have gone down this daft route.
                  Hats off to you Jambo 25 for the incisive way you make your points. But I must admit to be amazed by the way that you characterise the police. Decentralised forces are a flimsy barrier helping to preserve our liberties; even they are far from perfect. This was shown last year with the sudden arrest of Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney, the makers of the film ‘You’ve Been Trumped’.
                  Grampian Police’s finest hauled them off to jail, confiscated their film and charged them with breach of the peace; the case was later thrown out by the Crown Office and it caused a lot of intake of breath among the more detached SNP folk.
                  I doubt if the French police would behave in such a manner in 2013 but they were seen as the right arm of the Gaullist state after 1958 when there were various questionable occurrences, most notably the drowning in the river Sienne of dozens of North Africans protesting against President de gaulle’s policy in Algeria (this before 1962).
                  Do you really think if a national force in the hands of a post-independence government facing turmoil – perhaps because of economic distress – is ordered to impose its authority on restive districts, that it would pussyfoot around?
                  i certainly don’t.
                  The quality of people going into politics and rising to the top of the police is just too poor to trust any of them with big projects such as independence or enhanced powers over us.

                • Jambo25

                  Sometimes cops over-react. They may have over-reacted in the Trump case. I don’t know. I’ve read various accounts of what happened, some of which were mutually contradictory. All I can say about the Trump case is that my son is a town planner working in private practice and having followed the whole Mennie Estate development found nothing untoward at all. That, however, is an aside. To get back to the question of the police. The arrests of Baxter and Phinney were carried out by Grampian Constabulary, not the new unified force.

                  I see absolutely no likelihood of a single Scottish police force acting as the French police did in the 1950s and 60s. We are not involved in an Algerian type civil war. We have neither the FLN or OAS carrying out terrorist attacks in Scotland. Even when we had terrorist war going on 12 miles across the North Channel we had nothing like it.

                  If we were to see an outbreak of severe civil disorder in a post independence Scotland the number of individual police forces would make no real difference. What would, would be the attitude of the political leadership and general public towards cili liberties.

      • terregles2

        Why would you assume an independent Scotland would always be governed by SNP. We can easily vote for any party who offer a different set of policies in an Independent country.
        The wishes of the Scottish people will at last have the opportunity to be fulfilled. It will be much easier for us to change any SNP policy that we do not like than it has ever been for us to change any Tory/Labour Westminster legislation that was detrimental to Scotland.

    • Granty

      Bobby, yer havin’ a laugh mate. Tell me in what country there exists a well behaved football crowd. A few songs do not a sectarian, riven-by-division-and-hatred country make.

  • SeanBonJovi

    Great article

    Just one small comment on:

    ” If the Sash or the Boys of the Old Brigade are to be considered provocatively offensive then why not criminalise the waving of the Union Flag or the Irish Tricolour?”

    When this bill was being passed the SNP and Police stated that they would not provide lists or guidance on what songs would be deemed offensive and banned.

    They argued that they wanted to see the bill develop through a natural root of testing each incident on a case by case basis….

    However as the Bill was passed into law, it was made known that a senior Police officer had met with a Rangers fans group and gave assurances that singing ‘The Sash’ would not be an arrestable offence.

    So there you have it. The ink was not even dry on the bill and the police had already set the tone for how this bill would be policed and implemented.

    Rangers fans given carte blanch on what they can sing whilst Strathclyde Police make their way through the Celtic fans songbook attempting to get a ‘sectarian breach of the peace’ charge to stick.

    Political Songs we have legitimately and legally sung for years are being criminalised along with those innocent fans who sing them.

    This bill is being Selectively, disproportionately and unfairly targeted at one specific group of supporters.

    • henry happy

      Wow. You seem to have jumped from being able to sing the Sash to having ‘Carte Blanch’ on what they can sing.

      So many untruths in your comment.

    • Spammo Twatbury

      “This bill is being Selectively, disproportionately and unfairly targeted at one specific group of supporters.”

      Funnily enough, there are two specific groups of supporters who both say the exact same thing.

    • Jambo25

      The paranoia of certain West of Scotland Catholics knows no bounds. My Catholic granny (Catholic smallholder family from Mayo) used to warn my ma of what she called ‘Black Catholics”. By that she meant the bitter and twisted ones who saw oppression and sectarianism behind every tree.

      When you refer to “Political Songs” I think people not au fait with the delights of Celtic’s travelling support should know what you mean. The following happened at a match at Tynecastle Park a couple of years ago. Celtic’s travelling support arrived at the Hearts ground after flinging bottles and cans at passers by on Gorgie Road from their buses. If you were lucky the bottle or can that hit you wasn’t filled with high grade Celtic supporter’s urine.

      Once in the ground the flags were unfurled. They were almost exclusively Irish tricolours and, bizarrely Palestinian flags. No union flags of course but more significantly no Saltires either. This from people whose families have lived in Scotland for 2 or more generations.

      Then the chants and songs started. !0 or so minutes of “Ooh ah, up the Ra” The “Ra” are the IRA of course; an active service unit of which tried to kill my son , wife and myself back in the 80s. If I object then I’m limiting their freedom of expression. We then moved on to “The Soldiers’ Song”, “Sean South”, “Boys of the Old Brigade” etc.All pro IRA ditties. That particular afternoon was near Armistice Day so the Celtic fans went onto a rousing chorus of “You can stick your poppies up your a..e”. This is particularly offensive at Tynecastle as one of the Hearts clubs traditions was the mass joining up of team members and supporters into a sportsman’s battalion of the Royal Scots during WW1. My great uncle joined that unit and was killed at the Somme. Add on the odd bit of sectarian filth and you get the idea.

      At the end of the match sections of the Celtic support rioted and broke into a food stall to steal the contents. All football clubs have nasty fans. My team has some as well and a few of those sing sectarian songs as well. If they run foul of the law; so be it.

      Incidentally, last weekend the Green Brigade boys and girls were lifted because they broke a general public order law which was passed by the Lib Lab government in 2006, about 18 months prior to the SNP taking power at Holyrood. That law asks that those who wish to hold a march simply give prior warning of it to the local authority.

      • loftytom

        I have no time for Celtic fans and their plastic paddydom.
        Do hearts fans still sing the sash with gusto?

        • Jambo25

          No. Some nutters who sit at one end of the Wheatfield Stand sometimes sing the ‘Billy Boys’ and that pees the rest of us off. This, of course, is used by Celtic fans as a get out clause for their fellow fans’ abysmal behaviour but the two instances in both quantity and quality are nowhere near each other. In any case, I have made my position entirely clear. If Hearts fans misbehave then they should suffer the full legal consequences

  • Spammo Twatbury

    Am I wrong to detect a massive degree of rugby-fan snobbery in this article?

    “An intolerance towards those who hold different opinions or are part of a different group is inherently a large part of being a football supporter.”

    Not THIS football supporter. I have no “intolerance” whatsoever of fans of other clubs, because without them my club would have nobody to play. I engage in banter whenever the opportunity arises, none of which is founded in hatred, and I don’t sing songs founded in hatred either. I have no problem whatsoever with those who do being held to account for their actions.

    • Alex Massie

      Yup, you are wrong. Not least since I also quite like football.

      • Wessex Man

        “I also quite like football” You can’t quite like Football and you are writing for the Spectator, oh dear!

    • Jambo25

      Spot on. I was at the League Cup Final on Sunday at Hampden. Light touch policing, no sectarian songs, no fighting, etc. This is the same at virtually all Scottish football matches other than those involving the Old Firm.

  • Andrew Saint

    While criminalising football spectators for “a few bad words” our SNP government sees absolutely no connection between religious bigotry and the State-sponsored system of religious apartheid which separates Scottish schoolchildren from the age of 5 to at least the age of 16

    • bignic

      Yes the system if education used throughout the world in scotland sustains and creates bigotry. Might as well abolish private schools as that sustains social exclusion

      • bob mckay

        system “of” education. I pass no comment on what school you attended. And yes apartheid was a political system….just a horrible divisive one, as is educational apartheid in a small country

        • Bill Kenny

          Parental choice is apartheid – only in your fevered imagination. Also, even a three word sentence starts with a capital letter. Although like you I wont pass a comment on ‘what school you attended’.

    • Jambo25

      Well, strangely enough as a protestant I still taught in a Catholic school without being subjected to sectarianism or religious apartheid. Mind you, that was through in the East of Scotland and not the badlands of the West.

    • abystander

      Thats right there was no sectarianism in Scotland before Catholic schools and every kid who goes to a non denom school emerges as a ranting bigot.
      thats right, isn’t it?