A nice day out at the Parliament....

Published on Wednesday 21st December, 2011 by Celtic Trust

Eddie Rice gives a personal account of the FAC protest at the Scottish Parliament.

There was a time when I was quite political; it was a long time ago when I was in my 20’s. Becoming a Dad combined with work commitments brought an end to my aspiration of being the Scottish Che Guevara.  So it came as a surprise to my daughters when I informed them that I was going to Edinburgh and the Scottish Parliament to protest about the new Offensive Behaviour Bill. It was an early start for me that morning, my youngest daughter was travelling to London for an operation and she had to be at the airport for 5am. After dropping her at airport I went back home and had a long bath before travelling to Glasgow to get the coach through to Edinburgh. I met up with other fans who I’d never met before but we all shared at least one thing in common, this new legislation was an attack on football fans and Celtic fans in particular. Some good natured banter on the bus brought home to me the inclusiveness that comes with being a member of the Celtic support. Some lively debate with others on the bus led me believe that these people really knew their facts and were clearly well informed on the issues around this legislation.

On arrival at the Parly building a banner was unfurled, not until Scotland’s finest had checked out as to whether it was offensive or not. FANS NOT CRIMINALS, short and to the point, it said everything it needed to say in a way that was neither provocative nor confrontational, exactly the message that accompanies  Celtic fans wherever we go throughout the world.  Onwards to what can only be described as an inspirational building, what a design, my first time seeing it close up. To go inside felt like a real privilege for me personally, knowing that I was here not for a tour but to protest about a Bill that could have an effect on my grandchildren felt like a really momentous thing to me.

After a bit of petty officialdom at the entrance we proceeded to enter the building and were given our tickets for the day’s debate. Hugh McMahon, Labour MSP, escorted us to a room on the first floor where another Labour MSP explained the procedure for the day ahead.  A group Nationalist MSP’s entered the room at this point, to use a term from my childhood, they came in ”team handed” and it has to said in a semi-aggressive manner. A short debate took place where members of the Celtic Trust and others put forward their opposition to the Bill. During the debate Christine Graham (Chair of the Justice Committee and alleged bigot) came into the room, she stayed a short time then left, on leaving the room she was seen and heard speaking to the head of security of the Parliament, allegedly she made a complaint about the tee-shirts we were wearing that spelt out the words FANS NOT CRIMINALS and on the reverse SNP SHAME ON YOU. 

The debate continued in the room with the SNP’s John Finney totally making a fool of himself by his lack of understanding regarding the Bill and its meaning in relation to football and existing legislation, all the points he said the Bill was meant to address were already covered by existing legislation. When this was pointed out he then proceeded to address issues that had nothing to do with the proposed Bill. I was quite taken aback by the SNP’s lack of understanding on these matters and concluded that this really was an ill thought out piece of legislation.

Within minutes of the debate finishing we were getting ready to go up to the viewing gallery when we were informed that unless we removed our tee shirts we would be denied entry to the debating chamber. As our protest with the tee shirts was to be a silent protest we didn’t understand what the issue was, it wasn’t as if we were going to disrupt the debate by causing a commotion in the public gallery. We held a discussion among ourselves and decided that there was little to be gained by watching the debate as we had already heard the flawed arguments from the SNP. We heard at around this time that another MSP had overheard Christine Graham making a complaint about us to the security officer and he had reported her concerns to the Presiding Officer who then upheld her complaint.

Unbeknown to Ms Graham this proved a very good publicity scoop for the bored press pack, we took umpteen photo calls with our tee-shirts displaying our slogan FANS NOT CRIMINALS. Members of the group gave umpteen interviews to the press who at least had something to report other than the usual sound bite from Mr Salmond. We actually stole the day, so Ms Graham thank you and we hope the investigation into your conduct finds against you as you proved during your questioning of Professor Tom Devine that you had an agenda and it had nothing to do with offensive behaviour.

I’m at home now but for me this isn’t the end of my story in relation to this Bill, I have now written to all the SNP MSP’s in my area asking for their personal reasons for supporting this Bill. I will continue to protest till this Bill is repealed and my grandchildren can attend games in the knowledge that they will not be singled out for arrest merely because they are football fans.


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