The FAC members present reiterated the reason behind our opposition to the Bill ie
- No case has been made for separate legislation which only applies to football
- It is unnecessary in that existing legislation covers all the types of behaviour which the Bill is intended to cover
- It is unworkable in that it is not clearly written and the guidelines to the Police are no clearer
- It lacks legal certainty in that it is not clear what types of behaviour would be criminalised
We also indicated our grave concerns about how the Bill has developed and highlighted our view that the destruction of the data relating to the existing legislation (Section 74) has not been adequately explained. We raised the issue of the credibility of the Convenor of the Justice Committee, Christine Grahame who has been accused of holding anti-Catholic views and who, to our knowledge, has yet to deny this; and who is also currently under investigation by the Police for matters concerning election expenses.
Mr Yousuf responded at length. He indicated that the Bill was not perfect; that there was no consensus around it; and that legitimate negative points had been raised in relation to the Bill. However, he argued that the Bill could be amended to make it better and that it was only one strand in an overall Government strategy to deal with sectarianism. He stressed the issue of public disorder and argued that this was key to understanding how the Bill would be applied. He asked for interested parties like ourselves to put forward amendments which he could look at as we are now at a stage when only Justice Committee members can put forward amendments.
In response, we pointed out that there is no significant issue of public disorder in Scottish football to which Mr Yousuf replied that this was due to the high levels of policing. We did not accept this point and told him that the level of policing of even the
derby is nothing compared to the levels of policing in other countries. Even with the levels of policing there are at games, there is no evidence that the police struggle to maintain order. Glasgow
Mr Yousuf said that he thought one area in which the Bill could be usefully amended was in relation to the part of the Bill relating to the notion of offensiveness. This is the most unclear and broadly drafted section. He also stated that previous amendments relating to freedom of speech are likely to be accepted.
Mr Yousuf agreed to follow up our concerns regarding the Section 74 data and the matter of Christine Grahame and her failure to deny the accusations against her.
He asked again for us to forward to him any amendments which we thought might strengthen the Bill.