Published on Saturday 3rd December, 2011 by Celtic Trust
Meeting between FAC and Humza Yousuf MSP
On Tuesday 29 November, FAC met with Humza Yousuf, the Glasgow list SNP MSP at his request. Mr Yousuf indicated that he wished to enter into discussions with us re amendments to the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill. The meeting was held in St Mary’s hall and the discussion took place over a couple of hours.The FAC members present reiterated the reason behind our opposition to the Bill ie
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 Glasgow 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.
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.
Cathal was Mr Mason able to give any indication on how the new legislation would have produced a different outcome in the Neil Lennon assault case? The charge was competent and the jury was empowered to remove, as they did with the Breach of the Peace charge, the religious aggravation element.
I received a reply from John Mason MSP re this Bill, and he reiterated that the Bill was not perfect but that he would be backing it as the extended legislation was necessary - he cited the decision in the Neil Lennon case at Edinburgh as an example that present legislation was not comprehensive enough!!! Makes no sense to me. I have replied to him, and await his response.
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