Archive for the ‘Scottish Parliament’ Category

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fans against criminalisation logoFans Against Criminalisation campaigner Paul Quigley is celebrating momentous victory for the group which has lobbied for the repeal of the disgraceful Offensive Behaviour at Football Act for the last seven years.The act was a knee jerk reaction to Celtic vs Rangers game where Celtic manager Neil Lennon was attacked on field and letter bombs were later sent to Lennon, Paul McBride QC and Trish Godman MSP.

The resulting legislation was nominally about tackling sectarianism but in reality gave the police carte-blanche powers to arrest fans for whatever they wished under the catch-all guise of offensiveness.

Paul Quigley explained:

A decision was taken to form a campaign to fight this, partly due to a deeply held collective ideological belief in the right to freedom of expression and equality before law, and partly due to the simple notion of self defence.

Fans of all clubs would be welcome to join our organisation and that we would help and campaign for all football fans who we deemed to be the subject of unjust treatment.

Fans Against Criminalisation was able to count on the support of thousands of passionate supporters of the campaign, as was evidenced by a demonstration at George Square which drew thousands of people in late 2011. In spite of this, the government seemed to assume that this would all die down in due course, and that the fan campaign would not have the capability or endurance required to give them real cause to reconsider their position.

The treatment that football fans have had to endure ever since has been appalling. The human cost of this legislation is often lost amid the political rabble rousing, among the doctored statistics and the nauseatingly disingenuous moral grandstanding. The reality of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is this; it has ruined lives and caused serious damage in our communities.

In the face of all of this, football fans endured. In the years that followed, an incredible campaign challenged this treatment of supporters and lobbied for the repeal of this ill advised and illiberal piece of legislation. Today, the Scottish Parliament finally voted on this very question.

The Repeal Bill has passed, and this is the first time in the history of devolution that the Scottish Parliament has repealed its own legislation. This victory is historic not just for football fans, but for the country.

As a follow up. James Dornan, the MSP for Glasgow Cathcart and a candidate for deputy leader of the Scottish National Party, has decided to quit Twitter. He describes it as a cesspit of hate and bile, saying he has received abuse from football fans over his defence of the Offence Behaviour at Football Act (OBFA). His disgraceful ‘defence’ of the legislation was to try and suggest that the campaign was some sort Labour party political effort. The fans were not impressed and clearly gave him the slagging off he deserved. See more on this in article from

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federation of scottish theatre logo Theatre productions that contain nudity will be exempt new repressive licensing laws covering sexual entertainment, the Scottish ‘Justice’ Secretary has said.Michael Matheson moved to reassure MSPs that the proposed new licensing regime will not impact on artistic freedom of expression on the stage enjoyed by the cultural elite.

Holyrood’s Local Government and Prudery Regeneration Committee has heard that measures in the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill could have an inadvertent impact on risque shows. The Bill would allow local authorities to ban sexual entertainment venues in an area.

Jon Morgan, director of the Federation of Scottish Theatre, told the committee last month that this could affect performances at the Edinburgh Festival which contain nudity or explore issues such as pornography. His concerns were raised by independent MSP John Wilson, who asked Mr Matheson to give theatres an assurance that they would be exempt from the legislation.

We’ve heard in evidence as a committee from theatre group representatives who were concerned that they may be impacted upon in terms of their artistic expression by some vexatious complaints or other individuals using the legislation as proposed to shut down certain theatre productions.

Matheson said:

I think it’s a fair point to be raised and a reasonable concern for some establishments to actually have. That is why we’re going to take forward some guidance in order to give some specific direction around this area about the types of premises and circumstances that would be exempt in these circumstances, so that could be for example a theatre production that does involve some nudity in it for a particular performance or series of performances that they are operating.

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The Scottish Parliament Scotland’s new Licensing (Scotland) Bill iscurrently being discussed by the Scottish Parliament. A committee invited Professor Phil Hubbard, whohas been following such issues, to speak about the experiences in England where similar control laws have been in place for some time.He spoke of the expenses incurred by councils when their morality based decisions to ban table dancing clubs are formally challenged in the courts.

Hubbard noted that a one-size-fits-all policy for all Scottish councils would prevent the farcical situation in England and Wales where one council’s decision to refuse a strip club licence can be successfully challenged – at great expense to the council – because a neighbouring council is more liberal.

National guidelines should be set on licensing fees – which range from £300 to £26,000 down south – and the amount of nudity permitted on show, he told Holyrood’s Local Government Committee.

National guidelines were backed by the women’s anti lap dancing campaign group,  Zero Tolerance.

But the strip clubs’ trade association warned against central government imposing a draconian regime on councils, arguing that the ban on religious comedy Life Of Brian in Glasgow or the ban on cult French porn movie Emmanuelle in some rural cinemas demonstrates the diverse moral sensibilities in Scotland’s communities which should be respected.

Hubbard said:

I think the introduction of the Police And Crime Act 2009 in the UK was by and large farcical in terms of the way it was allowed to proceed.

What we have in England and Wales is a situation that I would like to see avoided in Scotland, where we have a licensing regime for these establishments in one local authority but not in a neighbouring one.

Fees for these establishments range from £300 to £26,000.

We have a situation where some local authorities will ban nudity and others will not.

The whole situation has led to a whole range of appeal cases and litigation in which legal unreasonableness and inconsistency have been raised as valid concerns, and some of these appeals have been upheld.

It has created a great deal of anxiety, expenditure and time for local authorities who have been left to evolve policies of their own.

He didn’t appear to mention much about the suffocating uncertainty and the effects of arbitrary moral censorship on businesses trying to make a living.

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Rhoda GrantA proposal to criminalise the purchase of sex has found support according to the results of a public consultation.

Almost 1,000 people responded to Labour MSP Rhoda Grant’s plan which she hopes will become law in Scotland. Of the total, 80% favour her ban. Grant claimed:

There has been an excellent response, and I now hope we can use the evidence provided to change society’s attitude towards buying and selling sex, thereby protecting vulnerable people.

The primary argument that the demand to buy sex will decrease was acknowledged in the responses of those in favour and against the proposed Bill. This would have a knock-on effect on sex trafficking as Scotland would not be seen as a profitable market by traffickers. This will ultimately mean an overall decrease in the level of prostitution in the country.

Of 953 responses, 758 favoured her approach which is based on legislation in Sweden.

Of the individual responses, 47 are from people who work or worked in the sex industry . One anonymous respondent wrote:

I chose to escort for money. I enjoy it. I do not feel exploited or dehumanised. I feel liberated, excited, expressive, creative and earning good money. I am one of very few people who actually enjoys their job.

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The Scottish ParliamentRepressive laws against religious insult at football matches in Scotland have been passed after the Scottish government rejected complaints the rules were unworkable.

The offensive behaviour bill was pushed through Holyrood using the Scottish National party’s overall majority. The bill was opposed by all other parties and attracted widespread criticism from fans, clubs and the Church of Scotland.

Holyrood’s four opposition parties, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Tories and the Scottish Green party, backed by the independent MSP Margo Macdonald, issued a joint statement accusing ministers of railroading the Scottish parliament:

It is of real regret that the first piece of legislation passed by this new parliament has been railroaded through by the SNP. The SNP has used its majority to force through a bad law that risks doing more harm than good. It sets a worrying precedent for this parliament.

The new measures introduce two new offences of inciting religious, racial or other forms of hatred in public or on the internet, which will be punishable by up to five years in jail. The offences will cover football grounds, public places and pubs and clubs.

Allison McInnes, the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ justice spokeswoman, said the government was creating two new criminal offences without any kind of consensus:

They are unable to answer basic questions about how the law will be enforced or present evidence as to why it is needed. They can provide only the vaguest assurances that it will not impact people’s freedom of speech.

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The Scottish ParliamentScottish football fans could soon be arrested for singing what the authorities deem offensive or sectarian songs at football game. The repressive new legislation has led to suggestions that fans could face prosecution for singing the national anthem or crossing themselves.

The SNP government has been accused of using its substantial majority to steamroller through the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communication Scotland Bill, despite widespread concerns from opposition parties and bodies outside Holyrood. But the measures are backed by the police and prosecution chiefs.

Ministers rejected a series of opposition amendments aimed at refining the laws and the bill is now expected to complete its third stage reading by parliament in mid-December. It should become law by mid-January.

Patrick Harvie, the leader of the Green Party, claimed the SNP has forced the measures through parliament, ignoring a growing chorus of objections. This prompted him to claim that the measures had been steamrollered through parliament. Ministers are stubbornly determined to force it through in the teeth of consistent and reasoned opposition from all quarters, inside and outside parliament, he said.

The freedom of expression clause was agreed though which covers communications, such as messages sent over the internet, which may contain insults or abuse of religious beliefs. But it does not cover online messages which are threatening or likely to cause public disorder. Neither does it apply to sectarian or threatening behaviour at and around football matches. Another change made by the committee widens part of the bill to include people not necessarily travelling to a football match.

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The Scottish Parliamentcensorial laws to targeting sectarianism in football are the stuff of a tinpot dictatorship, opposition MSPs have told ministers.

In a debate at Holyrood, they said they could not support the Scottish Government because it had failed to make the case for the legislation.

Labour back-bencher Neil Findlay derided a recent comedy evidence session from justice minister Roseanna Cunningham, who appeared to indicate that singing God Save the Queen or making the sign of the cross could, in some cases, lead to fans being arrested. He said:

This is like some tinpot dictatorship where the national anthem could be outlawed and carrying out a symbolic Christian act could have you in the pokey. When the law is beyond satire, the law is an ass.

Fellow Labour MSP Michael McMahon called the bill:

the most illiberal legislation ever put before this parliament.

When the First Minister claims that he wants to stop people reliving 1690 and 1916 on our streets, I ask him to reflect on this glib statement and ask himself how prepared would he be to consign William Wallace in 1297 or Robert the Bruce in 1314 to the dustbin of history and set his culture and heritage aside because it may give offence to someone.

Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Green and independent MSPs released a joint statement last night, saying they had come together to send the strongest message possible to the government, asking it not to use its majority to force through the flawed legislation.

The bill passed to its second stage after receiving narrow backing from the justice committee.

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  Police arrests for
insulting behaviour at a football match

Police armed with spy cameras and recording equipment will capture supposedly bigoted speech at Old Firm games as they enforce a new law that will see sectarian fans jailed for up to five years. Strathclyde Police will use the latest surveillance technology to identify supporters who offend against offensive behaviour laws.

Police will use the information recorded on their equipment to arrest fans after the final whistle, as they enforce a controversial anti-sectarianism law that is to be rushed through Holyrood before the start of next season.

Alex Salmond’s government introduced its bill in the Scottish Parliament, and the legislation is expected to be passed before MSPs rise for the summer recess in two weeks.

The bill, which outlaws offensive and threatening behaviour at football matches, and sectarian postings on the internet, was published amid concerns it could be challenged in the courts because it is being forced through too quickly.

The proposed legislation has shied away from producing a list of proscribed songs and chants. The law will instead create two new offences – offensive behaviour and threatening communications. Determining whether a football fan has been offensive will come down to whether the he or she is judged to have indulged in behaviour likely to lead to public disorder. Much will depend on the context of their actions.

Offensive behaviour covers not only football matches but also fans travelling to and from a game and supporters gathering to watch a match on a big screen or at a pub.

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The Scottish ParliamentMSPs have been discussing law reforms defined in the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill.

The Scottish Parliament has passed its extreme porn laws. No surprise there.

But on the other hand, the Parliament actually did a decent job of rejecting a bunch of other stupid laws. Sandra White’s lap dancing regime got rejected (only the SNP supported it), and attempts to ban all prostitution, and also to introduce the English strict liability offence for using ‘controlled’ prostitutes were both rejected (only Labour supported them). So some bad, but some good also.

Interestingly, the Police (particularly in the form of ACPOS) were fairly pivotal in providing cover for rejecting the prostitution laws. They basically said they didn’t want or need them, and that they might well make things worse, which made it a lot easier for the parties to reject them.

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The Scottish ParliamentMSPs are poised to pass nasty law reforms defined by the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill.

The legislation brings in a number of new criminal offences, including specific action to tackle stalking, people forced into slavery or servitude and possession of extreme pornography.

The bill also aims to  widen the powers of licensing boards and standards officers.

MSPs will also vote on an amendment brought forward by SNP backbencher Sandra White MSP on greater restrictions for lap dancing clubs.