The news today that a senior member of the Police Scotland union has slammed the Celtic supporters will come as no surprise whatsoever to those of us who are concerned by the impending appointment of Bernard Higgins.
Police Scotland’s top brass treat football fans with contempt.
Unless you’re an Ibrox fan pissing up the statues in George Square, that is.
The comments last night from David Hamilton were ridiculously over the top and they were designed to be.
If you were somebody who was arrested for singing a song, and that prosecution had cost you your job or your livelihood you would not find his comments in the least bit amusing as so many of our journalists seem to.
Indeed, you would find them crass and offensive.
And this was the intention of course; to insult people. To play down the severity of what the Offensive Behaviour At Football Act was and what it did.
I cannot express enough my continued anger at what that law attempted to do. You lived under a different set of regulations and rules than if you followed any other sport. You were liable to be prosecuted even if you were miles from a stadium.
And for what? For singing songs which were no different to the national anthems being sung at Rugby. It criminalised speech. It criminalised free expression. But only if you were a football supporter.
It was an indefensible outrage, and Hamilton is giving it a credibility it does not deserve.
And this isn’t me speaking as some bleeding heart lefty; the anger at this act was reflected across ideological lines.
One of the writers who wrote most eloquently – and brilliantly – in denouncing it was Alex Massie, the Scottish born right-wing polemist from The Spectator, who in a series of brutal articles ripped the law to absolute shreds.
He was the first writer to point out that you could be prosecuted under this disgraceful act even if you had not attended a game and had no plans to.
“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,” was how the High Court interpreted it, and Massie wrote that up in a scathing piece.
In another paragraph in the same piece he summed up superbly one of the principle reasons that the law reeked as badly as it did; the “reasonable person” test.
In any other law involving conduct which the law considers a breach of public order, the test is that your behaviour must reach a threshold which the “reasonable person” found in some way concerning.
That’s vague but most of us recognise what it means.
But the OBAF Act had a different criterion. The High Court said, “The 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 member of the public …”
In short, this was a law written to protect the delicate sensibilities of psychopaths who may take offence to just about anything that you did or said or sung.
Massie’s fuse was lit by another part of the act, one which on its own should have been enough to have it tossed in the dustbin of history.
You were liable for prosecution even if you were standing alone in the middle of nowhere singing a “banned” song … since a ‘person likely to be offended’ didn’t even have to be present, or even to exist, to make it a criminal offence.
“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,” Massie wrote in obvious disgust.
For those still confused about why this is a big deal, about why this guy’s appointment is a big deal, think on it like this; if you were singing a certain song coming out of a Charlie And The Bhoys concert you would be fine, even if the police were everywhere.
But sing the same song coming out of a Celtic game and you were liable for prosecution.
On top of that, if you were amidst a crowd of people who were singing it and you were specifically targeted by the police that would be a case of selective prosecution and this is the kind of thing that happened over and over and over again.
You had people’s lives being ruined over subjective nonsense about theoretical people who “might” be offended even if all you were doing was singing a song in your own garden having watched a game.
This was hundreds of our fans if not thousands; certainly thousands were affected by it, once the circles of destruction spread outwards to friends and family members of those who had to see their names dragged through the muck of court appearances, branded bigots on the basis of their support for the Irish War of Independence.
It is one of the sticks the SNP has been beaten with over and over again, and deservedly; independence over here good, independence over there bad.
It is shameless hypocrisy.
Reading Hamilton’s comments today was to read of Police Scotland’s sneering contempt for all of those people and the many others at different clubs who suffered the same. That our club would even consider appointing one of the men whose subjective judgements were used to make criminals out of decent, hardworking folk for singing songs … it is unconscionable.