Published on Saturday 24th November, 2012 by Celtic Trust
Religious Aggravated Offending in Scotland 2011-12
The figures released today and the slant put on them by the mainstream press are indicative of the complete misunderstanding of ethno-religious bigotry in Scotland, for which we, as football supporters, are often blamed. A number of points are clear from the analysis (which is entirely based on Section 74 Offences (Criminal Justice Scotland Act)):
- The SNP plan to misrepresent bigotry as something which is something confined to football fans appears to be working to plan. Specifically police forces are using the Offensive Behaviour at Football Threatening Communications Act instead of the Section 74 Offences and thereby showing a downturn in the latter for the only month in which both pieces of legislation were in place. So bigotry in the community is now masked as bigotry around football.
- The figures which show that over half the cases involved a police officer as the victim, combined with the fact that 96% of the charges do not involve any violence and that 40% of charges are in the City of Glasgow is consistent with our view that Strathclyde Police force is now actively seeking out offence (from songs, t-shirts and flags) and taking on the role of ‘offended’ victim for the purpose of securing a conviction.
- The strand of the SNP plan, inadvertently betrayed by Christine Graham, Chair of the Justice Committee, to make sure that ‘equal numbers’ of Celtic fans and Rangers fans are convicted might appear to be working if today’s reports are to be believed. However, the Report does reveal that arrests by stadia do not distinguish between home and away supporters and therefore, contrary to what is being suggested, these figures do not support the ‘two tribes’ theory.
In addition, it is clear from these figures that Scotland’s 16 per cent minority Catholic community (from which a significant proportion of the Celtic support come) face two disproportionate lines of discriminatory and demonising behaviour.
- The first one is from the four-centuries-old anti-Catholicism which means the Catholic community are, at the very least, five times more likely to be targeted by public expressions of bigotry and hatred. Not all Celtic supporters are Catholics by any means but they are all subject to these offences on the grounds that they are ‘perceived’ to be Catholic.
- The second one is the criminalisation of public expressions of aspects of their cultural background and ethnic background. The criminalisation of aspects of Irish identity, particularly around football, continues apace under the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act as predicted by many when the Bill was going through Parliament.
- We are aware of a number of cases of young people being dragged back and forward to courts for waving Irish flags and ultimately charges being dropped.
- We also are aware of cases of young people pleading guilty at an early stage in order to avoid continued disruption to their lives, jobs and/or studies
On that basis, we can predict that the balance of the statistics for next year (when the Offensive Behaviour Act has had a complete year of operation) will paint the very picture this Act was designed to paint – there are no bigots in Scotland except for football fans and they are all in Glasgow.