Hail Caledonia: Fantasy Justice and Offensive Behaviour at Football. The Horror Continues.

20 June 2013

Two years have passed since the SNP won its landslide election victory, leaving Alex Salmond master of all devolved territories. Two years notable for the absence of significant legislative achievement. Given the consequences of government legislation this is not necessarily something to be regretted. Nevertheless, Mr Salmond is no FDR or LBJ (again, a good thing too you may say).

The exception to this record of legislative lethargy is, of course, our old friend the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act. Readers may recall that I am no fan of this illiberal, pernicious, dismal piece of legislation (my most recent post on it is here). Nothing that has happened since it was pushed through Holyrood has persuaded me to grant it a second chance. Quite the contrary, in fact. With each fresh prosecution we are reminded of how rank this bill is. Everything the critics predicted has duly come to pass; none of the claims made on its behalf weather serious scrutiny.

The latest example comes, courtesy of Lallands Peat Worrier, from the High Court of Justiciary which today granted a Crown appeal against the dismissal of a case involving one Joseph Cairns. The Sheriff in Mr Cairns’ case had ruled there was in fact no case to answer and thrown the prosecution out on its arse (to use the technical term).

Mr Cairns, attending a Celtic match against Ross County in Dingwall, had been filmed by police officers singing two Celtic songs, namely The Roll of Honour and the Boys of the Old Brigade. The former is a hymn to IRA hunger strikers; the latter a salute to the memory of the 1916 Easter Rising. In a better country these might be considered – and protected – expressions of political speech. But this is Scotland and no such speech protections apply. (For the time being anyway: I suspect, or rather predict, that this bill will fall when it is eventually challenged on human rights grounds. And rightly so.)

Anyway, at Mr Cairns’ trial the Sheriff noted that the police officers filming Mr Cairns needed to consult the video tape to ascertain the precise – and therefore the actually “offensive” – wording of the songs in question. The Sheriff ruled, therefore that:

“Since there was no proper basis for inferring that any person who might be incited to disorder would have been able to tell that the respondent was singing about the hunger strikers or joining the IRA there was equally no proper basis for inferring that the respondent’s behaviour was likely to incite public disorder.”

That is: though a reasonable person might consider these songs offensive (though if this is the case then a reasonable person should get a grip), a reasonable person some way further distant from Mr Cairns than were the police officers  could hardly be offended, far less incited to public disorder, by words they were, in this instance, unlikely to be able to make out.

The High Court – their ruling is here – was having none of this and, in fairness to their lordships, the High Court’s ruling appears consistent with the law as it was written and intended to be applied. As we shall see, however, that merely means the law stands naked as an ass.


As the High Court reminded us, the parliament “created a criminal offence with an extremely long reach”. (For example: a person may be “regarded” as having been on their way to or from a “regulated football match” even if they had no intention to attend that, or any other, football match.) The Court then demonstrated just how long the law’s reach is.

In the first place, the three judges hearing the Crown’s appeal, made the startling claim that though police testimony suggested the majority of Celtic supporters were singing these anthems these self-same Celtic supporters could have been “incited to public disorder” by their own songs. This, surely, suggests that Mr Cairns could be tried and convicted of an incitement to public disorder since the person liable to be so incited was, well, himself. 

If that sounds ludicrous it is no more ludicrous than the actual provisions contained within the bill. You see:

[T]he sheriff does not appear to have considered the effect of section 1(5). That subsection provides that for the purposes of section 1(1)(b)(ii), behaviour “would be likely to incite public disorder” if public disorder would be likely to occur but for the fact that either measures are in place to prevent public disorder, or persons likely to be incited to public disorder are not present or are not present in sufficient numbers.

The law as it stands creates an imaginary person who might be incited to public disorder even if no such person exists or is present at the time or place of the alleged offence. Heads you lose; tails the state wins. As Paul McConville observes it takes only a modest dollop of imagination to construct a hypothetical scenario in which singing “offensive” songs in the privacy of your own home could, in certain circumstances, leave the singer liable to be prosecuted.

It does not end there, either. This is how it works:

[T]he Act distinguishes between, on the one hand, “a reasonable person” and, on the other, a person “likely to be incited to public disorder”. It may be that a person likely to be incited to public disorder is of a more volatile temperament than a reasonable person or, to use the language of the sheriff, an uninitiated member of the public. The person likely to be incited to public disorder may have particular interests and particular knowledge. He may have particular views about the two songs in question or those who sing them. As section 1(5)(b) provides that such persons need not be present for the purposes of determining whether specific behaviour would be likely to incite public disorder, it cannot be relevant to the question as to whether there has been a contravention of section 1(1)(b) that particular persons in a football ground could not actually hear the words being sung. In other words the actual context within which the behaviour occurs is not determinative. Where behaviour falls within any of the categories specified in section 1(2) it is sufficient for conviction that persons likely to be incited to public disorder would be likely to be incited to public disorder by the particular behaviour, whether or not they were present in sufficient numbers and whether or not they were subject to measures put in place to prevent public disorder. As it does not matter whether persons likely to be incited to public disorder are there in sufficient numbers or are there at all it cannot matter whether or not the persons who are present (whether likely to be incited to public disorder or otherwise) actually became aware of the relevant behaviour.

Ye gods. The standard (sic) for determining whether a song is “offensive” is that of a reasonable person; the standard (ibid) for a person “likely to be incited to public disorder” may rest on whether that person has a “more volatile temperament” than a “reasonable person”. Or, in the vernacular, if said person is a heid-banging, bampot. That, my friends, is how you lower the evidentiary bar.

Again, of course, the law as presently applied makes you responsible for the reactions of morons. Is that just? Pull the other one.

Mr Cairns’ case would seem to be a splendid example of a victimless crime. Or, rather, “crime”. No-one was offended by his singing. No-one was incited to public disorder. And none of that matters. The case will return to court and, given the manner in which the law is constructed and understood by the courts, is seems all but impossible to mount a legally persuasive defence against the charges. Since no disorder need take place and since the persons “liable” to be incited to disorder do not even need to exist, the deck is so stacked against the defendant you might think this law had been devised by Kafka or Gogol.

It is also worth mentioning, again, that OBFA is wholly capricious. As many as 2,000 Celtic supporters were singing “offensive” songs in Dingwall yet only Mr Cairns, I believe, has been prosecuted. He’s the unlucky loser of a police lottery, being neither more innocent nor more guilty than thousands of his colleagues. And yet he is the poor sap picked upon and hauled before the bench. Equal justice? There’s not even the pretence of that.

But that of course merely demonstrates that the law is unworkable as well as unjust.

Perversely the SNP – including the First Minister – remain proud of this monstrosity. It is a pernicious, illiberal bill that would remain a disgrace even if it could  – as it cannot – be applied consistently and equitably. The criminalisation of speech, under threat too often in too many parts of this realm, continues.

The Scottish government has commissioned Stirling University to “study” the “impact” of the bill. They are paying the academics £155,000 for this. I could have saved them a lot of money: this bill still stinks and should still be repealed at the government’s earliest convenience.

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  • big_al

    There’s no sectarianism in Scotland

    “A man who stabbed his niece’s partner after a row over what football team the victim’s son should support has been jailed for seven years and two months.”

  • Jeanette Findlay

    Not sure if this did not get posted properly the first time. Alex, would you be willing to have this piece reprinted in full (with appropriate reference to the original source) in the Fans Against Criminalisation blog?

  • Jeanette Findlay

    Alex, would you be willing to allow us to reprint your piece in its entirety, with appropriate reference to the original source, in the Fans Against Criminalisation Blog?

  • FMarion

    Let me ask two perhaps naive questions. First, is there any likelihood of this ban working? Don’t the young men who sing these songs like adopting an outlaw personna, and thus isn’t it likely that making the songs illegal will only encourage them more?

    Second, isn’t the main purpose of this exercise to create a sense of tribal loyalty and exclusivity on each side and thus if one means of expressing it is suppressed, won’t it break out somewhere else?

    I’m American and I’m not about to tell Scotland how to run its affairs, but if the underlying problem is holliganism from the supporters of both sides, might it not be easier to crack down on hooligans with very long jail terms and not try to police what might not be policeable?

    • terregles2

      I agree with what you say but even though this bill seems to have inherent problems at least at last somebody is trying to tackle a problem rather than just ignore it.

      • FMarion

        Isn’t the real problem though, not the sectarianism/tribalism/call it what you will, but the fact that many young men in these communities live for the opportunity to taunt the other side, get in fights with them, and generally act as anti-socially as possible?

        It isn’t a new issue, of course–young men have been acting like louts for as long as there were young men–and in the US we have inner cities full of young men without fathers at home who get in drug gangs and kill one another.

        I don’t know what it is about the council estates in the UK/Scotland that breed this. Do they have fathers at home? Do they have jobs that keep them occupied? But isn’t that the real issue?

        • terregles2

          I agree with much of what you say. Secrarianism though is not a big problem to the ordinary person. I live in the West coast of Scotland and because I don’t mix in a football world I never encounter it. It also manifests itself in orange parades but once again they can be avoided and the numbers attending are much less than years ago. Also there are now some non Catholic people in the west sending their children to Catholic schools because the schools are better or nearer their homes. That would never have happened years ago.

          I don’t think this bill was necessary but I appreciate that Holyrood are trying to build a better society. No government has ever had the interests of Scotland at heart before. I agree unemployment is a real issue and breeds really bad problems for us all. Hopefully after independence Scotland can build a better society and a brighter future for everyone living here.

  • Paul

    Or…people could just not sing the songs if they are such a reasonable bunch (and if they find that such an issue to deal with, they should get a grip, to flip your line of reasoning on its head…). The law is a deterrence, and I think that if we do want a better Scotland, pathetic references to the IRA, IVF UDA, UVF etc etc in songs that by fans’ own admissions are sometimes used to piss off the ‘other side’, should be eradicated. This is Scotland, not Ireland post-1916.

    • terregles2

      It is also important to remember that many people are not sectarian nor are they interested in any football teams.
      If you don’t go near football grounds you don’t really come across sectarianism.

  • allymax bruce

    Just switched over to the Lords debate on ‘British bill of human rights’, and see Baroness Kennedy, in her resplendid yellow rimmed 60’s glasses, that perfectly accessorise her magnificent lime/green jacket/dress leaf-motif atire. Wonderful to see, in this rather grey world of stringent structures. Where rules have replaced common sense.
    Thank you, Baroness Kennedy; you made me smile; happy in my eccentric lot.

  • terregles2

    Sectarian nonsense is a West of Scotland problem it is by no means a problem throughout Scotland. This Bill may be far from perfect but at least at long last a government in Scotland is recognising the problem and trying to tackle it. Doing something that is not perfect is better than doing nothing at all.

    I do not know anything about football or sectarian singing but one of my friends was at a football match in London. They were truly shocked by the anti semitic chants that seemed to be the norm within the crowd.

    I was also shocked to hear that anti semitic chants were shouted out in a public place anywhere in the UK.

    I don’t know what is being done to tackle this anti semitic chanting but perhaps the Scottish government could look at what the Westminster government are doing to combat this horrible anti semitism and maybe use some of the methods that are being effective in England could be used in Scotland.
    This is one area where we must all try and learn from each other to combat unacceptable chanting.

    • eric_Ayrshire

      If you have to peddle your nonsense on this board please keep it to a minimum – not that I’d ever read it.

      • terregles2

        If you have never read it how can you call it nonsense.?
        What an odd outburst..

        • Al☠ Bear

          It is nonsense = Only a West of Scotland problem , the myth that won’t go away. Totally ignores the evidence of the addresses of those involved. Two of the most extreme groups of fans I know and have met , come from Mussleburgh and Port Seton , another 2 are from Alloa & Kincardine , what part of the West of Scotland do they come from ? I also take it you’ve never been to an Edinburgh or Dundee derby

          • Vrai écossais

            It is a working class problem, not a west of Scotland problem.

            • terregles2

              As racism and anti semitic abuse are class problems for football fans from sink estates in England.

              • Vrai écossais

                Not personally heard anti-antisemitism in the UK. No one likes Asian immigrants though, especially Pakistanis, so I think racism, hidden or otherwise, prevails throughout society.

                • terregles2

                  There are lots of anti semitic chants at some London football grounds. I don’t know why you would say that nobody likes Pakistanis have you asked everyone in the UK?

                  There are good and bad in every nation and there are plenty of nice Pakistanis.

                • James Strong

                  Very doubtful statement. Who dislikes immigrants from China, Thailand or the Philippines?
                  True that many people dislike and distrust Pakistanis, but it’s not because they are Asians. Let’s not confuse race and religion, and let’s not use code, substituting ‘Asian’ for muslim.
                  It is true, as far as I can tell from my own experience in the UK that many people dislike and distrust muslm immigrants.
                  I think they they are right to do so, and I am one of them.

                • Vrai écossais

                  You are confusing the usage of Asian. American Asians are Chinese etc, British it means people from India/Pak/Bangladesh. I agree with “many people dislike and distrust muslm immigrants.” though I would change the many to most, excluding the 3 million+ muslims who have colonised over the past 30 years.

            • Jeanette Findlay

              oh dear oh dear – so it is just some kinds of bigotry and intolerance you don’t like? Snobbery not a problem for you? I think you will find, if you bothered to examine the evidence, as opposed to posting comments based on your own ignorance – under an assumed name – that bigotry extends through all sections of society.

              • Vrai écossais

                Has your husband given you access to the internet again? Tsk tsk. Sectarianism is a working class problem. One only sees it in sink council estates in and around Glasgow and its environs as well as other council estates in select dumps in Fife, Edinburgh and Dundee. The peasants are revolting, as the saying goes. In my society there is no sectarianism, perhaps you should move somewhere nice.

                • Jeanette Findlay

                  What a hilarious reply. You are some man…

                • Vrai écossais

                  You look very old in your picture – do you use one finger per button in your replies?

          • Jambo25

            Sorry Bear but it isn’t nonsense. What is the only city in the UK where a team cannot hold a cup or league winners procession through the city? Let’s have a big guess and say Glasgow.

            As the name suggests I know and regret the few dozen nutters in our travelling support who sing the “Gorgie Billy Boys’ but we don’t have major rises and falls in crime figures in line with results. We do have Catholic Jambos and lots of Proddy Hibees. We don’t have poor so and sos, like Mark Scott, being murdered due to which foot they kick with. We leave that up to sections of the populace in Glasgow and the West.

            Incidentally, we no longer have sections of the Labour Party trying to stir up religious divisions to bolster their political position vis a vis the SNP. We also leave that up to the West as well.

            • Al☠ Bear

              No Winners procession, nothing to do with trouble ? Thats for Diddy teams that win something every 20 years if not longer. Celtic & Rangers fans are used to winning, why would they want to hold a procession , Fans head to Celtic park or Ibrox to see the League trophy , maybe see the Cups first game of next season ? When I was Young I remember my Dad taking me to see Rangers show the Cup from the balcony of the St Enochs Hotel , these stopped due to lack of interest. ‘Major rises in crime figures’, That Police Officer should have been exposed for the liar he is, totally manipulated crime figures, to justify the ridiculous Police costs and bully boys tactics of the Strathclyde police. Like everyone else he’s blaming societies problems on Celtic & Rangers fans, DRINK is the real problem , not football, all over Scotland. Have you looked at the REAL crime figures, 4% of crimes are ‘sectarian’ football related (even thats using the catch all definitions of the Government/Police/Courts). Don’t try and whitewash Edinburgh teams problems, I lived there all during the 80s, must admit got on better with Hibees than with Jambos , but they’re a lot more than a couple of dozen in both supports.

              • Al☠ Bear

                I don’t even think, that 4% was of the TOTAL crime figures , but a particular set, btw it was totally dwarfed by Racially motivated crimes, in Scotland, something that we try to kid ourselves is an English problem and doesn’t happen up here. Scotlands REAL shame (including endemic anti-Englishness)

                • terregles2

                  Are you suggesting that there is no anti Scottishness in England. The abuse that Tony Blair’s government received for having many Scottish ministers within it was extreme.

                  The word Scottish was an accepted insult as in the Tartan mafia, Gorbals Mick, Scottish Raj. Gordon Brown also received much abuse for being Scottish even though we are a United Kingdom parliament at Westminster. It would seem that Scots will be tolerated only if they have no power.

              • Jambo25

                Yes. everybody’s bad but the Huns. You’tr delusional. Strangely enough, drink doesn’t seem to be much of a problem at Murrayfield when there’s 60-70,000 fans present and bars in the ground. Not a lot of difficulty with drink at Edinburgh derbies. Just when the Huns and Tims get involved.

              • terregles2

                Drink and male aggression indeed quite a bad combination.
                Domestic violence does increase after certain Scottish football matches. It is shameful.

                • Jeanette Findlay

                  Well, terregles, watch the STV news at 6 tonight and you will find that in fact that is just a distortion of the figures by the police in order, I suspect, to support their demands on the public purse and in a manner which trivialised the very serious issue of domestic abuse. The figures for domestic abuse have not fallen this season now that ‘certain Scottish football matches’ don’t take place – they have risen. Your discussion of anti-Semitic remarks by supporters of an English team are irrelevant to the article, since the Offensive Behaviour Act does not apply to them (unless they happen to ordinarily reside in Scotland – in which case they could be arrested here for it).

                • terregles2

                  I did not think my comments about anti semitic abuse were irrelevant. I have previoulsy said I know nothing about football chanting between

          • terregles2

            I have never been to an Edinburgh or Dundee derby. I have never been to any foorball match anywhere in the world. The idea of being inside any football ground holds no appeal for me.
            My friend though was at a match in London and she was disgusted by the anti-semitic abuse that some “fans” were shouting.
            Listening to what she told me made me glad that I have never been to a match anywhere. I am sure listening to crowd chants would be dreadful.
            I was once in Manchester and some fans out in the street were shouting horrible things about Victoria Beckham. Can’t say it made me want to get close to any football crowd.

      • Jambo25

        A number of games involving Tottenham Hotspur; a team with a link to North London’s Jewish community, have been marked with opposition fans simulating the hissing noise of gas entering gas chambers.

        • terregles2

          I think the abuse against Jewish people at some English football grounds is disgusting and I cannot understand how after the holocaust any sick people can take part in it. They should be ashamed.

    • allymax bruce

      The whole anti-semetic thing doesn’t really make any sense to me; the word ‘semetic’ derives from the Old Testament word ‘schemen’, of which denotes an alter of worship to God. Many ‘religions’ have similar schemens/alters. In practicality, schemens/alters, specifically denote ‘a position of preparation, for prayer, to God’. Like I say, I cant think how that’s offensive, to anyone. As far as Massie’ article, I’ve been thinking recently, that this future new world, has accelerated too fast, and too much, for me. I’m an old fashioned, good morals, genuine straight-talking jock; this new fangled future, that would criminalise me for having an opinion, is not for me. I’m glad I’ll soon be gone.

      • terregles2

        I am surprised that you refer to yourself as a Jock. On some of your other posts on different topics you refer to yourself as English and you have voiced strong English opinions.
        You are right, life is indeed very confusing not least of all on this forum

        • allymax bruce

          I don’t think I’ve ever referred to myself as English, I’m very proud to be Scots’.
          I do consistently give credence to all 4 Home Nations of these ‘British’ Isles;I lived in England while I studied my postgrad’, had my cancer op’, chemotherapy, and recuperation in England, and they were very good to me. I have high esteem for my English cousins, but I am absolutely ‘jumpin’ at the thought/impending Scottish independence. The English people are good people; its only Westminster that let’s us all down; hence me/Scots wanting our independence.

          • allymax bruce

            This is my comment; I wanted to correct the predictive text word of ‘let’s’, but I pressed the delete button by mistake. But, this comment above, is my comment. Just wanted to make sure there’s no ambiguity about it.

          • terregles2

            Of course the English are good people. Who would disagree with that. Most of us have English friends and family and enjoy and appreciate English heritage and culture.
            People voting YES wish to have a change in the way they are governed they have nothing but good will towards the English people none of that will change.

    • HarryTheHornyHippo

      Do you have an SNP microchip in your pants?

  • global city

    Scotland really is in danger of becoming some sort of poor parody of Albania if it continues to vote for the SNP.

    Having said that though we have our own legislation that sees people being sent to trail for saying contentious stuff, no matter how lame, if someone within earshot or even told about the comment from someone in earshot if they decide to ‘take offense’.

    This has led to some incredibly cruel impositions, usually involving people losing their right to earn a living and/or being castigated, usually as some sort of racist or intolerant.

  • Spammo Twatbury

    For all the vehemence of opposition, I still await evidence of any notable misjustices wrought by this legislation, or any alternative practical proposals for either improving the bill or otherwise tackling Scotland (by which I mean Glasgow)’s sectarian cancer. By all means criticise the bill, but is there any chance we could hear criticism more constructive than that it’s “stinking”?

    • Alex Massie

      If you don’t think criminalising speech ensures injustice then we’re not likely to have much room for common ground.

      • Spammo Twatbury

        It’s not speech that’s being criminalised, it’s *speech liable to incite disorder*. That principle has existed in law for a very long time, usually illustrated as “free speech” excluding the right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, without the amount of hysterical angst that’s been directed against this bill.

        I’m entirely open to hearing practical suggestions for improvement of the bill which might help achieve its entirely laudable aims, or alternative methods of achieving those aims. I’m bored of inexplicable, overblown rants about how it will turn Scotland into Stalinist Russia, implying by absence that the best strategy is to do nothing.

        • Alex Massie

          I’m not interestes in “improving” the bill, I’m interested in scrapping it. And it is speech that is being criminalised, not least since no disorder need actually be provoked and, indeed, as made clear above, entirely *imaginary* people can be invoked who “might” have been (but were not, of course) so provoked.

          For instance: you can be prosecuted for singing a song about the Easter Rising in an entirely empty train carriage. If no-one hears you sing, are you still guilty of “offensive behaviour”? Apparently so. This is a nonsense.

          Moreover, since its aims include the abridgement of speech right I dispute the notion that its aims are “laudable” let alone “entirely” so.

          • Spammo Twatbury

            “I’m not interestes in “improving” the bill, I’m interested in scrapping it.”

            Grand. In favour of what? Or is it your view that there’s in fact no problem, and that we should just let Scotland’s sectarian blight carry on like it has for the last hundred years?

            “For instance: you can be prosecuted for singing a song about the Easter Rising in an entirely empty train carriage.”

            Clearly an aspect in need of fixing, then.

            “Moreover, since its aims include the abridgement of speech right I dispute the notion that its aims are “laudable” let alone “entirely” so.”

            Just so we’re clear, then – you think it’s fine to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre? You keep ducking that point (along with the one that the songs and speech involved are very often actively intended to cause disorder).

            • Kaiser

              “Or is it your view that there’s in fact no problem, and that we should just let Scotland’s sectarian blight carry on like it has for the last hundred years?”

              What does the word ‘Sectarian’ mean? You see, below you agree that Irish songs are not sectarian, but yet you support a bill banning the singing of them for being well….. em….. ‘sectarian’ or at least ‘likely to provoke disorder’.

              There’s a logical inconsistency over and above the legal right to ‘free speech’.

              • Spammo Twatbury

                I didn’t mention “Irish songs” at all, you’re the one with a bee in your bonnet about that.

                • Kaiser

                  So tell me what your idea of sectarianism is?

                  What does it mean to say that Scotland or Glasgow has a Sectarian ‘blight’?? How does this manifest itself?

                  Again, we’ve clarified that Irish songs are not….

                  What is?

            • salieri

              You say, okay, “an aspect in need of fixing”, but that is the whole point of the article, isn’t it? It protests against the criminalisation of behaviour likely to incite disorder even when no-one is likely to be incited. What then does ‘likely’ mean?

              Your repeated analogy with shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre suggests that this point may have eluded you. Look again at that fabulously Kafkaesque logic: the section applies “if public disorder would be likely to occur but for the fact that… persons likely to be incited to public disorder are not present.” Now apply it to your analogy: what is “likely” if you shout ‘fire’ in a theatre attended only by deaf people, or being cleaned before the performance by a single charlady, or a completely empty theatre (the lip-reading CCTV being there just to ensure your prosecution) – or for that matter a play in which one of the actors has to shout, “fire”?

              The Sheriff’s display of common sense has, unhappily, been anticipated by the thought police. In Scotland, speech liable to incite public disorder is now the same as speech liable not to incite public disorder. It’s the public, you see, that has been dispensed with. O, brave new world.

              • terregles2

                The most important point is that if this bill proves to be unpopular the Scottish people can quite simply vote for a political party who will scrap it. After independence Scotland will be able to choose what kind of society we live in. What a welcome change that will be having a political voice.

            • Jeanette Findlay

              Spammo is it your position that Scottish citizens are not entitled to support the concept of a united Ireland or to believe that there are certain circumstances where the use of force is acceptable in pursuit of a political cause (the answer to the second clause must be no unless you are a pacificist – a position I respect but don’t hold)? Why do you think that the very large minority of people who are of Irish descent, many of whom hold (Irish) nationalist or republican views are not allowed to remember their past in song, in one of the few arenas where it was safe to do so? Where is your evidence that these historical or political songs are ‘intended’ to cause disorder? There has been no significant disorder in Scottish football since the 1980 Cup Final yet these songs, and others, have been sung regularly since then. Your own Queen (if you are not a republican yourself, which you may be) laid a wreath recently in memory of the very Boys of the Old Brigade to whom one of the most disputed (and criminalised) songs refer. Is there any chance that you and others in this discussion – some of whom proudly proclaim that they don’t go to football – could stop pontificating on something they appear to know almost nothing about?

              • terregles2

                Not everyone livng in Glasgow who are of Irish descent are interested in Rangers or Celtic or in looking at the past. Many are too busy building a better future for everyone living in Scotland whatever their origins.

                • Jeanette Findlay

                  I think that is what is called a non sequitur – but lets leave it at that

                • terregles2

                  Didn’t think it was an illogical statement but as you say let’s leave it at that. It is not exactly the most important issue on the planet.

          • terregles2

            If you sing a song in an empty train carriage would you not get off with it as nobody would know?

            • HarryTheHornyHippo

              If you’re in a train carriage it’s not empty.

          • abystander

            Well win an election in Scotland first.
            Oh, sorry. You are a Tory.
            So what do you suggest?

            • terregles2

              Don’t ask he might suggest that we look to UKIP and Mr Farage . He thinks the Scots need guidance and governance from their superiors.

        • retundario

          A practical suggestion to improving the Bill would be to reduce its reach – the aspects of its reach that the writer considers excessive are explained VERY thoroughly throughout the piece.

        • CraigStrachan

          “if you don’t think singing songs in praise of IRA hunger strikers at or around an Old Firm match”

          Except it wasn’t an Old Firm match, was it? It was a Celtic/ Ross County match in Dingwall (which by the way doesn’t sound to me as if it would be much like a crowded theatre at all, at all…)

      • terregles2

        Is speech not already criminalised for example if somebody phones a government office and threatens violence to the PM or some other government official they will find the police knocking on their door.
        They will also be prosecuted if they threaten the safety of an aircraft etc.

      • abystander

        Certain forms of speech are criminal. Speech is not free in the sense that anything can be said to anyone.

    • Kaiser

      The danger your argument leads you into is suggesting that singing songs taught in Irish Schools as ‘Sectarian’. The ‘Old Brigade’ let’s remember are ritually commemorated in Ireland by Politicians of most hues.

      So either everything about Ireland post independence is ‘Sectarian’ or the songs are not. You choose.

      The irony of Scottish Politicians infused with the same idiotic Nationalist nonsense as those the songs are about, locking up fellas for singing them, is likely lost on the SNP apparatchiks.

      • Spammo Twatbury

        “The danger your argument leads you into is suggesting that singing
        songs taught in Irish Schools as ‘Sectarian’. The ‘Old Brigade’ let’s
        remember are ritually commemorated in Ireland by Politicians of most hues. So either everything about Ireland post independence is ‘Sectarian’ or the songs are not. You choose.”

        Not being Irish I don’t know this, so perhaps you can tell me whether Irish schools teach songs about IRA hunger strikers.

        • Kaiser

          I’m sure certain teachers may do. City Hall in Cork is named after one.

          The point being, the IRA have been given retrospective legitimacy by the Irish State. You can accept that this fact just runs through the whole system in Ireland (don’t take my word for it though) or you can say Irish = sectarian. Again, you choose.

          • Spammo Twatbury

            I don’t accept either of those choices. I certainly don’t think that Irish = sectarian, and I refuse to agree that that’s the same thing as saying “Singing songs about IRA hunger strikers at Rangers fans is clearly an attempt to provoke disorder”.

            • Kaiser

              So can you then explain what Rangers Fans, or anyone else, have against IRA hunger Strikers, which would cause offense or provoke disorder?

              Remember before you answer that these are Irish Patriots you’re talking about. Therefore, if it’s likely to ‘provoke disorder’ in Scotland, why?

              Certainly those singing them are not being sectarian. Glad you’ve clarified that.

              Go into most pubs in Ireland on a Saturday night and you’ll hear these songs, are we to expect that the SNP issues a ‘not safe to travel’ order too?!

              • Spammo Twatbury

                “So can you then explain what Rangers Fans, or anyone else, have against IRA hunger Strikers, which would cause offense or provoke disorder?”

                Sorry, if we’re operating at this level of stupidity I’m out.

                • Kaiser

                  Ok, if that’s below you. I’ll put it very logically following on from what you’ve learned here this very evening.

                  You ask: what “alternative practical proposals for either improving the bill or otherwise tackling Scotland (by which I mean Glasgow)’s sectarian cancer” is there.

                  You agree that Irish songs are not sectarian.

                  Therefore it follows –

                  Answer: Stop arresting fans for singing Irish songs which aren’t sectarian.

                  Whatever else it does, it immediately improves the bill. That it would also save lots of time and money should also be welcomed.

              • terregles2

                Well whatever is good or bad about this bill the Scottish people have the power to have it scrapped.
                Having a political voice and the power to vote for the government that you wish for is a wonderful prospect.

              • Jambo25

                How about the choruses of “You can stick your effing poppies up your as.e” sung in front of dsabled ex-servicemen at Tynecastle by delightful Celtic fans? Irish patriotism Kaiser?

          • Jambo25

            I don’t think he means Terence Mac Swiney. I think he’s referring to the lovely lads of PIRA. The thing is, you know that too and are being deliberately dishonest.

      • terregles2

        The SNP campaign for Scottish independence and some English people are members of the SNP.
        It is a political party about self government it is not idiotic to want to govern your own country. It is indeed a concept that all countries aspire to.

        • Kaiser

          Here’s a clue for you: Google ‘Nationalism’.

          • terregles2

            Why would I google nationalism. I do not vote SNP but I am voting YES in 2014 because I think Scotland should be like every other country in the world and govern itself.
            After a YES vote in 2014 the SNP might never be in power again after the first elections.
            Why is it only Scotland who are accused of being mad natiionalists for wanting self government.?
            Are English people mad nationalists if they vote to be no longer part of the EU.?

            • Kaiser

              Ok don’t google anything. Instead learn basic comprehension.

              I suggested Scottish Nationalism is the same Idiocy as Irish Nationalism and you can throw any other Nationalism you wish to, in there. I’m making a political point about my distaste for it in general.

              But you’re welcome to your beliefs. Good luck with that.

              • terregles2

                I thought I was as capable of comprehension as anyone else. I abhor all nationalism and I think you are being disingenuous to suggest that anyone living in Scotland who wishes to live in an independent Scotland is a nationalist.

                Scottish people wanting self determination are no more nationalist than any other country in the world who have chosen independence. There are now more than three other political parties in Scotland campaigning for a YES vote along with many other groups who are also in favour of independence. The SNP are just another faction within the YES for INDY campaign.

              • Jambo25

                What nationality are you Kaiser?

              • Jambo25

                Sorry Kaiser, I must have missed the mass murder and terrorist campaigns which were taking place, in Scotland, at the behest of evil Scottish Nationalists. When did they take place again?

                • Kaiser

                  Sorry, Jambo, missed this one. Scotland never had Poynings law and colonialism to deal with. But hey, I agree with you. You’re Nationalists are a tad better than ours, but then again your murderous and rapacious imperialists were too. Congratulations.

                • Jambo25

                  Oh yes we did. We had internal colonialism as well. We didn’t have the kind of romanticised violence so beloved of Irish Republicans at least not after the defeat of the Jacobites. As for the vileness of our different imperialists. You do realise that many of the shock troops of the Empire were Irish as well as Scots. In the 18th and 19th centuries the British Army couldn’t have operated without them.

                  One of the stranger quirks of history is that the rise of Paddy’s Day as a national Irish celebration was probably due to the British Army which made a big thing out of it with it’s various Irish regiments from about the late 18th century

                • Kaiser

                  Everyone suffers from ‘Internal colonialism’. That’ll still be there after Scottish independence. Just as the Irish Ruling Class continued to pillage post 1922.

                  Why are Scotland not independent?
                  Scotland are not independent at the moment, because their own colonial adventures in Panama, the Darien Scheme, were so disastrous, that those involved went to London begging to be bailed out with a unification deal. Ireland had Poynings law imposed on it. That’s the difference from a Nationalist point of view – I find Irish Nationalism silly, but no more so than British or Scottish Nationalism.

                  As for the shock troops of empire. Irishmen of course took part, but we don’t celebrate them with poppy appeals or rattling a box collecting for the ‘wounded heroes (sic) of Afghanistan’ the way you do along the Royal Mile.

                  As Jesus Christ put it “And why behold you the speck that is in your neighbour’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye?”

                  We’ll worry about the political violence of the IRA, you concern yourself with the bigger problem.

                • terregles2

                  When the Union of parliament was passed in 1707 the ordinary Scottish people rioted in the streets because their future was sold by the curse of all progress, the aristocracy.
                  History is important but we gain nothing by wallowing in the past. The future is ahead of us and we will never build a better future by concentrating on the past.
                  You instruct us to concern ourselves with the bigger problems that is what Scots who want independence are doing now. If we want to look at the past all of the UK are being asked to honour WW1 in 2014. What the Tory government has not mentioned is that for every 100 soldiers slaughtered in WW1 28 were Scottish 22 were Irish and 11 were English.
                  You persist on harping on about the silliness of Scottish nationalists. You have the luxury of denigrating nationalism from the luxury ot an independent country.
                  I am voting YES in 2014 not because I am a nationalist. I could not care less if anyone living in Scotland is Irish, Scots, English, Welsh, Pakistani, French, or Romanian.

                • Kaiser

                  I’m not sniping at anything. I’m juxtaposing the SNP banning expressions of Irish Nationalism with it’s own nationalist rhetoric. It’s an obvious irony that you cannot deny.

                  I’ve said more or less nothing on Scottish Nationalism other than to point this absurdity out and express my displeasure of it generally – mostly Irish Nationalism, as it effects me more directly.

                  Now, the reply from Jambo25 (the tweedly dum to your tweedle dee in responses to me) is that Scottish Nationalism is peaceful. Good, I welcome that but I didn’t invent political violence and I didn’t sit down to create Irish history and culture. Irish Nationalism has had long periods of violence. Ireland is independent because they weren’t peaceful and it was successful.

                  Now forgetting everything else, my general point is this simple: –
                  This bill attempts to stop football fans (or as the article notes; anyone really) singing Irish songs. But Irish Culture is all about singing songs praising violent Irish Nationalists who sacrificed themselves fighting for independence from British interference (the tourism and hospitality industry actively market this in TV adverts!).
                  So the bill criminalises expressions of Irish culture in Scotland. You either support that or don’t but you haven’t argued that it isn’t the case for the simple reason that it is the case.

                  The only argument put forth is from Jambo25 suggesting the lamentable position that there is somehow an authority (himself and his Ma’s family it seems) who can decide what is and isn’t an acceptable display of Irish identity. As though there’s a line somewhere making nationalist violence acceptable. But even that’s an absurdity, on the face of it, as one of the songs causing offense is _The Boys of the old Brigade_ about events from a century ago.

                  So it really is this simple, IF YOU SUPPORT THIS BILL you effectively say “expressions of IRISH IDENTITY in Scotland ARE OFFENSIVE”.

                  In Scotland, that’s what you deem ‘Sectarian’. That is a huge problem. It seems that you have no idea of what sectarianism actually is.

                  I’ve yet to see a response to me saying how it can be otherwise. But I welcome you, Jambo25, Spammo Twatbury or anyone else explaining to me either why Irish culture is so offensive or how this bill is not targeting expressions of Irish culture.

                • terregles2

                  He is tweedly dum to my tweedly dee. You don’t tolerate differing opinions very well do you?
                  My mother was Irish and my father Scottish/Swedish. My husband is a mixture of English/Scots so I have always thought nationality is irrelevant. I am an internationalist and I view myself as a European rather than Scottish.. I did say in an earlier post that I thought the bill had inherent problems but that the bill had been introduced with good intentions. Governments bring in flawed legislation all the time.
                  What I was trying to point out was that some people Mr Massie and yourself included have used this legislation to denigrate the concept of Scottish independence when it is quite likely that the SNP will not be elected to government after 2014.
                  When we are independent we can scrap or amend the bill if it has not been changed before then. Many of us have no interest in football and really do not see this bill as a priority. We are more concerned about getting rid of nuclear weapons from Scotland and scrapping the bedroom tax etc.
                  I am voting YES in 2014 and I am looking forward to the first elections in 2016 in an independent country. People sneering at my country and calling me a stupid nationalist
                  will not dampen my enthusiasm for the future.

                • Kaiser

                  I’m very tolerant of differing opinions, hence I don’t wish to see expression of them outlawed.

                  This blog post is about a piece of silly legislation, that’s what I’m commenting on, not Scottish independence. You seem either incapable of understanding that or deliberately decide to miss it. As I noted in my last point, I’ve said very little really on Scottish independence.

                  But here goes. I hope Scotland vote for independence as, if nothing else, it will make the world a more interesting place and that’s always welcome. I would caution that true sovereignty, as Ireland has discovered, necessitates control over currency. Provided Scotland can achieve monopoly issuing power over it’s own currency, independence could be a good thing. And you’ll get a thistle on your passport.

                  Back to the substantive issue, the Bill: I don’t believe the intentions behind it were good (targeting working class lads going to football and criminalising them) and when governments bring in flawed legislation (as you correctly say they usually do) it’s up to decent people to oppose that. Why do you not oppose this Bill??

                  At no stage did I call you stupid nor sneer at your country. I said this legislation is outrageous and again, you’ve failed to provide any argument to cause me to reconsider that.

                  You either support the Bill or you don’t – independence is a different subject altogether. I won’t engage with you again unless you keep to the substantive issue of the blog – the bill criminalising aspects of Irishness is Scotland.

                • Wessex Man


                  You will always find terregles2, taking offense at any comment you make and accusing you of being racist, it’s her favourite defense/attack mode!

                  You will also by now have realised that to the point of absolute boredom she will turn any subject into the Scottish referendum of 2014 and along the way will accuse the English of many dreadful things and yet say that she loves us.

                  When I saw the headline of Alex Massie’s comment, I decided not to post on here as it was clearly a Scottish Football article and nothing to do with me.

                  Then I read her ramblings about – “there are lots of anti Semitic chants at some London Grounds” and she goes on to say that she’s never been to a football match in her life. So it’s OK for her to attack the English on an article about Scottish Football and then bring the referendum and then to claim that we wicked English sent more of the Scots to their deaths than English

                  I have been a season ticket holder at an English League Club for many years, have watched the idiot skinheads of the 70s and 80s and a very very small amount of halfwits using some really foul abuse at opposing fans, along with the stone age fans of three or four clubs who should be thrown out of the league.

                  I now fully expect to have a rant thrown at me in reply!

                • terregles2

                  I wouldn’t throw any rant at you I am too embarrassed on your behalf for your childish name calling. We are not in a playground grow up.

                • Wessex Man

                  don’t be embarrassed for me, everything that I pointed out you put in print on this article.

      • Jambo25

        An awful lot of irish life, post independence, was sectarian. I can put you in touch with people who were Irish Protestants. Note the word “were”.

        • Kaiser

          I’m Irish mate, nice to meet you. I’m going to deal with all your replies to me here just to make it easier.

          Nationalist violence is nationalist violence, I would say. you seem to think there a line in the past beyond which it is more acceptable. Whether it was Dan Breen, Michael Collins, Terrence McSwiney or Bobby Sands. You’d like to pick a line and say this IRA is somewhat ok (Terrence McSwiney) , that is bad (Bobby Sands), as you must do in order to argue as you have done. The difficulty for you is that both were elected representatives to British controlled parliaments and the Irish State has given retrospective legitimacy to IRA political violence (as must every state, eh George Washington). It’s acceptable and patriotic. I didn’t choose that to be the case, it just is.

          Therefore, you run the risk of saying effectively Irish = unacceptable and Sectarian. Though, to be fair to you, you seem very comfortable with that (interesting coming from Scotland – a country that banned Christmas for centuries because it was a papist festival!).

          Anyway, here’s how it goes.

          My cousin from Paisley, Chris, was over visiting me in Cork a few months ago with his wife.

          We ended up in my local pub having a few drinks and a sing song started. Pretty much every sing song in Ireland will bring out rebel songs (Four Green Fields, Black and Tans, Old Brigade, Broad Black Brimmer etc), that’s just how it goes (will someone please think of those poor offended Scots). After a while, people noticed the new faces and Chris was asked to sing. He duly obliged with Flower of Scotland to rapturous glee and for his trouble didn’t put his hand in his pocket for the rest of the night.

          Now, imagine I’m in Scotland in a pub (football on TV), a sing song begins and I’m asked to sing, so I oblige with one containing within it the exact same sentiments as Flower of Scotland (only less triumphalist as most Irish songs usually are). Not only will I not be bought drink for the rest of the night. I could face arrest if plod get word of my illegal behaviour.

          That’s the situation we’re in. Not an exaggeration.

          Now that point generalises to everyone who comes to Ireland from Scotland – sing and be merry – and to anyone who goes to Scotland from Ireland – head down or plod will lift you.

          And people support this Bill?

          Whatever sectarianism is or isn’t, this won’t help. Rather it’s a huge step backwards.

          • terregles2

            Are you saying that Ireland is responsible enough to be an independent country but Scotland is not a country either capable or deserving of independence.?

            • Kaiser

              “Are you saying that Ireland is responsible enough to be an independent country but Scotland is not a country either capable or deserving of independence.?” Jesus Christ, man! No.

              Here’s my last word on this. There’s a serious problem with the framing of the so called ‘Sectarian cancer’ in Scotland(or Glasgow) debate. Here it is.

              No-one would seriously argue that Rangers Fans songs and attitudes are typical of Scottish Culture. The problem is that Celtic Fans songs and attitudes are fairly typical of Irish culture (drink pints and sing nationalist songs about battles with England – now by necessity that’s a simplification of Irish culture but it’s accurate enough for our purposes here).

              So if you equate these two sets of fans and their behaviour as unacceptable you effectively say:

              Irish Culture is unwelcome in Scotland.

              That’s the problem here. So you have two choices – be comfortable saying Irish Culture is offensive or rethink what ‘sectarianism’ actually is.

              I wish you and the SNP all the best.

          • Jambo25

            Sing ‘Kevin Barry’ or ‘The Bold Fenian Men’ or ‘The Foggy Dew’ in a sing song in most pubs or at a private party, in Scotland, and nothing will happen to you. I’ll join in with you as I know all the words from my Ma’s side of the family. Sing ‘Roll of Honour’ or chant ‘Ooh, ah; up the Ra’ in a match at Ibrox and you might well get done.

            As for the difference between Mac Swiney and Sands. It’s quite simple really. Mac Swiney wasn’t a terrorist.He was an Irish politician wishing the independence of that part of Ireland which, indisputably wanted it’s political independence Sands was a PIRA hood with pretensions who was wanting to force a majority of an established state into a unified Ireland they didn’t want.The other salient point about the songs you mentioned is that you are talking about songs sung in Ireland. I don’t really understand about the obsessional need of a lot of Old Firm fans to sing ‘Irish’ songs, from both sides of the divide, when they and their families have lived in Scotland for generations. In most cases they aren’t ‘celebrating’ a heritage but simply winding up the other side and that is the main point. It’s the context in which the songs are sung.

            I do have a slight problem with the law in question as I think it’s superfluous anyway as there are general public order laws which control this kind of activity anyway. The people who have , so far, found themselves in trouble for activities of the sort described in Mr. Massie’s article have been arrested under those laws. That, incidentally, is true in most parts of Europe. Virtually all jurisdictions have laws regulating what are or what are not permissable expressions in public.

            Anyway, I’m off now, to Germany, where you can get into real trouble for singing certain songs or chanting certain slogans.

            • Kaiser

              You essentially confirm what I suggested to you; that there’s some line in the past beyond which political violence is acceptable but after which it’s somehow not. Just applying your own logic and morality had the provos been more successful they’d be considered as acceptable as previous generations of IRA dead. Had Bobby Sands and Gerry Adams been as successful as McSwiney and De Valera, Roll of Honour would be fine by you. That’s not my opinion but the inescapable truth of your logic. Now, you either think that’s a reasonable position to take (And perhaps your Ma’s family do too – I disagree) or you don’t understand that this is what you’re arguing. I have a problem with such bourgeois political hypocrisy.

              You’re position vis a vis the bill is (to briefly update from my last point above): Irish Culture and song is ok in Scotland provided they ignore anything after 1960.
              It’s ridiculous and indefensible, and it’s apparently the Law in Scotland! 😀

              As for what songs football fans sing: I’m sure West Ham’s singing of Forever Blowing Bubbles makes sense to you. In any event, what’s wrong with football rivals winding each other up??

              The rest about policing ‘context’ and freedom of speech is just the typical nonsense of a political reactionary and I disagree, but you’re welcome to the views. Hey, sing about them!

    • Jeanette Findlay

      Dear Spammo, who are you awaiting evidence from? A close examination of the figures produced last week by the Crown Office and the evidence provided by those who are actually the subjects of the increasingly heavy-handed policing of the act (eg Fans Against Criminalisation) would provide you with plenty of evidence that this Act is wide open to abuse and already has been so abused. You might also want to read the judgement referred to in the article in question and then tell us that this is an acceptable piece of legislation.

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