The following is a piece written by an opponent of the Offensive Behaviour Act and we would welcome your thoughts on his proposals.
Aberdeen SNP conference: Free to listen inside but prevented from speaking outside, a new Scotland awaits! Wider implications?
For me there are a few important points to make note of in the aftermath of football supporter efforts to highlight an offensive & harassing act at a venue where the very focus ironically' was on freedom. Beginning with the OB act an act which was imposed following a football match now seen as much ado about nothing much at all. It was hurried in, designed by an SNP led Scottish government to protect citizens from alleged offense and/or harassment at or travelling to or from a football match.
Communication scrutiny was thrown into the mix to bolster a tale of much needed government control thereby creating the Offensive behaviour & threatening communications act. The latter I submit which could quite easily have been applied/enforced during any of the Nicola Sturgeon televised debates so far.
Yes indeed there are a few important points to note in the aftermath of FAC visiting Aberdeen.
They highlighted by their very presence what is an offensive & harassing act shown by the actions taken against them 'the protesters' to subdue their right to challenge it. Democracy, any democracy, is built on certain freedoms and at the forefront of those freedoms are one's freedom of movement, speech & freedom of expression. All three appear to be under attack by this offensive behaviour & threatening communications act and that act is indeed showing a widening of it's remit.
As far as I am aware there was no plan to travel too or from any football stadia arranged for this Aberdeen trip. It was meant solely to highlight the failings of a malfunctioning football act & therefore any implementation of an OB type football regulation against such a gathering would I believe, be flawed in applying those very laws to prevent it. Resistance shown to those who traveled to Aberdeen to communicate their concerns over the flawed thinking in the implementation of the act in my opinion, prove a point in case.
Travel too (movement) placards shown (expression) suppression of views (speech) were challenged by those operating the laws for the creators of the law. Acting on behalf of politicians unwilling to address it's faults.
It's said the number of convictions or episodes of complaint regarding offence or harassment pertaining to football cannot be manufactured to suit and it's said the figures are so low they actually lay waste to any need for such an act (in it's entirety) to begin with. It would seem especially so when considering the vast numbers in attendance at football matches or otherwise involved in the sport. A drop in the ocean and a hammer to crack a nut immediately spring to mind. Or political posturing for self interest & commercial reward ?
For many the only game of shame that football supporters should be concerned about is the political one. Placards on the day were held aloft, some of which requested 'END FAN HARASSMENT' .
It is interesting to note according to those present from what I have so far read, that restrictive forms of harassment were deployed on the day in a type of role reversal of the very act brought in, initially it's said, to deny it's growth. I am led to believe although not myself being present, that irritation or harassment began before a wheel had been turned on the road to this SNP conference.
It's said it then continued on route to Aberdeen with the worrying prospect of a welcome committee suspected of not being too welcoming at all. One wonders if all activists, protesters or concerned citizens/voters would be worthy of similar attention?
It's said that that warm welcome unbelievably hit a strange climax 'without much relish' over the prospect of a few double cheeseburgers for hungry mouths at a commercially viable 'food-bank' as (Big Mac) McAskill's boys reinforced the very fan harassment his office is supposed to prevent by rolling out prohibitive laws on peaceful demonstration or movement in an attempt perhaps to save Independence campaign blushes. Not an almighty issue as chicken burgers would lay waiting in the 'wings' for a later snack, If my guess would be correct. These restrictive tactics though serve only to validate football fan concerns.
You see a refusal to engage protesters without trotting out regulations designed to suppress and prohibit that very engagement, prohibitions placed against ordinary people who are themselves expected to visit a ballot box in support of these self same legislators, is for me a quandary indeed.
The more the political disengagement on this FAC issue or 'indeed any other' regardless which are the most important to you the reader, the more one must question what sort of Government a Scottish people should expect waiting in those very wings come Scottish Independence. A non listening one? It has a distinct dictatorial feel about it to my mind.
The FAC issue may be seen as small and merely nuisance value in the thoughts of many in Scottish society, perhaps those not attuned to a footballing mantra. But for me it is much more than that.
There are those who may feel footballing concerns are not much for them to be worried about but when one advances the same 'do as we say' logic on other issues, issues individually serious enough for them to take notice, the bedroom tax for instance, then the future outlook could be a rather bleak one indeed. Where is the route to challenge?
You see the politicians (most of them) will listen when it involves votes that may guarantee them power & perhaps that is a thought to be remembered come referendum day.
Referendum now there's an thing.
Would this Government be so ready to offer a football fan referendum on the removal of an act rather than an early review sideshow where ultimately the long grass can inevitably come into play until of course one's vote for power position is required again ?.
I doubt such a referendum would be entertained but as they say, if you don't ask? Perhaps such as Mr McMahon could propose such a motion? Besides such a Referendum refusal in itself could provide an example of those expressive denials. Denials of those freedoms of speech, movement and expression, rights that this very government would demand from a deaf and suffocating Westminster government who have been so long & so very out of touch with citizens across the UK but particular to those of a Scottish persuasion. Oh the Irony.
You see for me the potential is there for Scottish people voting for freedom but instead ending up voting for a freedom that feels rather more like imprisonment. The voice denied. With Government imposed restrictions on free movement and an unwillingness to listen or act on complaint & in denial of it's citizens concerns, then what type of freedom would that be?
The numbers who made this Aberdeen trip or who previously gathered at Gallowgate or George square or others that have taken to any and all arranged events may not have been enough in number to make National news (by National I mean UK national) but their worthy efforts still manage to produce enough of a tizzy from authority figures to confuse who is actually harassing whom. You see using an act itself as a legal tool to remove or at least curtail the most fundamental basic rights and one's right to demonstrate those, cannot easily pass unnoticed.
At present this is still a free society is it not? This imposed anti football fan act is for me is an example of what power in the wrong hands can do. It brings into question the very nature of conference. It brings into focus a bleak future vision, that of an Independent Scotland where people are no more than commodities and an end to a means for the powerful to deny them their long established rights.
The FAC campaign should have the attention of every football fan and a wider audience still. This act and the refusal to retract or adjust it's parameters merely opens up a window serving notice of the potential for similarly felt future injustices against citizens of the Country. Now that's Independent all right, Independent of thought.
This act is not only a Celtic supporter issue although on appearance it could be seen to be that way, but then Celtic supporters feel they are the most selected and offended against group affected by this act. They feel singled out for a special attention and those feelings in themselves stir questions as to why that could possibly be?
A rather more serious road of questioning for a potentially Independent Scotland and it's government to travel along.
: Referendum for Scottish Independence ?
: Referendum for football fans on OB & TC acts ?
Why not both from a Government of the people for the people in waiting ?