James Kelly MSP
I’d like to start this week’s column by passing on my congratulations to Rutherglen and Hamilton West’s new MP, Gerard Killen, who was elected in a major victory for Labour in this area.
Voters backed Ged: a strong local voice with a proven track record as a councillor. I have no doubt he will do a great job of fighting for our area and put Rutherglen and Cambuslang first.
It’s time to scrap the football act
Illiberal, ineffective and immoral. That is exactly how the SNP’s discredited football act has been described time and time again.
I’m leading a member’s bill in the Scottish Parliament to repeal the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 which has now been introduced at draft legislation.
Nicola Sturgeon’s government’s obsession with maintaining this broken legislation speaks volumes about the nationalists’ priorities for Scotland.
When the football act was introduced, I called it out for being a PR stunt which achieved little other than breaking down years of progress between fans and the police.
Five years on, the statistics prove this to be exactly the case. Young, working class men have been criminalised, while there is little evidence of any reduction in sectarianism in Scotland. In fact, the SNP have gone on to cut funding for anti-sectarianism initiatives which would make much more progress in tackling real bigotry.
The conviction rates are alarmingly low and the scenes from football matches show crowds intimidated by police pointing video cameras in faces as the vast majority of fans just want to spend their Saturday watching the game in front of them. I have heard countless stories of the police pursuing the most absurd threads of evidence in desperate bids to convict one person in a crowd, but with cases falling because officers did not understand the lyrics, or unable to ascertain which verse they caught individuals singing.
This broken legislation sums up the SNP for me: unable to understand the priorities of Scotland and being wholly ineffective in government. Their stubbornness to not even think again about the football act shows clear their arrogance; that they think better than Scots when it comes to consultations, legal experts and commentators all calling out their law.
It boils down to this simple fact: Nicola Sturgeon and her loyal group of parliamentarians will never admit they’ve got it wrong. On education, on our NHS and on justice, countless independently measured statistics show that Scotland has been failed by 10 years of the SNP in government.
That’s why it’s time to get rid of the football act and for the SNP to accept their mistake in introducing it in the first place.