Fans Against Criminalisation organised a visit to Holyrood yesterday to coincide with the meeting of the Justice Committee, regarding the effectiveness of the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications Act, since its introduction in January 2012.
Before we’d even left Glasgow, we received a ‘friendly’ visit from the Police to advise that they were aware of our plans, and that they would be waiting for us upon our return to Glasgow.
When we arrived at Holyrood I became aware of the high police presence but didn’t think this was unusual as we were in the surroundings of the Parliament. Once we got inside the building though, we were advised by Siobhan McMahon that the police presence was virtually unheard of.
We were then taken through to a room so we could watch the Justice Committee’s discussion on the bill. During this discussion opposition MSPs called for the review of the Bill, currently scheduled for 2015, to be brought forward due to concerns raised by the public of heavy handed policing and disproportionate targeting of football fans.
After watching the meeting, we were then joined by 2 SNP MSPs, James Dornan and John Mason, and a number of opposition MSPs. A discussion took place on how the Bill is needlessly criminalising football fans and why it has to be reviewed at the earliest opportunity. As to be expected, the majority of the questions and points were directed at the SNP MSPs.
It soon became clear that even the SNP MSPs were confused regarding the Bill as they contradicted each other on why the bill was introduced. Confusion seems to be a common theme regarding the Bill and is constant across fans, the police and politicians. This indicates that the Bill needs to be reviewed at the earliest opportunity.
As the discussion progressed, James Dornan and John Mason became increasingly uncomfortable as the Celtic fans present aired their viewpoints on why the Bill is completely unnecessary and demanded that it be reviewed as soon as possible.
John Mason conceded that he agreed that the review date needed to be brought forward and stated that he would be willing to say this publically.
The pressure exerted on politicians since the events on March 16 is causing the SNP cause for concern. They are now aware that the depth of feeling on the issue from the Celtic support is going to cost them votes. The SNP’s current position that the Bill will only be reviewed in 2015 will become untenable as long as we keep up the pressure.
Yesterday’s meeting was very productive and has strengthened my feelings that we are going to be able to get the Bill scrapped.