The first report that shook the Metropolitan Police came in 1981, after the Brixton Riots. Two major recommendations of The Scarman Report were followed up on; an independent body was set up to take complaints about the force, and they increased training times for new candidates. The racism which was endemic in The Met wasn’t rooted out.
The second report was by Sir William McPherson, into the murder and cover-up of the death of Stephen Lawrence. It was published in February 1999, and it highlighted that same racism, and a culture of cover-ups and lapses in oversight which were breathtaking. It concluded that the Met, as an organisation, was “institutionally racist.” The Met swore to reform.
The third report was just this year. The Casey Report, named after Lady Louise Casey, its author, was the culmination of the inquiry into the murder, in 2021, of Sarah Everard by a serving officer in the Met, Wayne Couzins, who had been reported several times for crimes such as indecent exposure and “flashing” but had somehow escaped sanction.
Casey’s findings were devastating; it revealed that the full toxic culture at the Met extended way beyond racism. She said it was misogynist, homophobic and fundamentally corrupt.
Bigotry and discrimination were, she said, “baked into the system.”
The Met is the biggest police force on this island, by far. Responsible for counter-terrorism, diplomatic protection, investigating serious organised crime and for policing any event held in London, which means that every political demo or protest, every Royal wedding or funeral and the duty of patrolling Whitehall, Downing Street and The Commons are within their area of operations, there can be few more critical organisations in the country.
No-one should want to accuse them of any of that. But three separate reports over the last four decades have done exactly that. All of them have found evidence of corruption. All have found evidence of racism. All have found discrimination is rife, even in officer-to-officer relationships. The Met remains powerful … and everyone knows it is broken.
Here in Scotland, we’re in the midst of a scandal involving senior members of the judiciary and the police force in relation to the liquidation of Rangers. The malicious prosecution scandal has already cost the taxpayer an estimated £60 million, with the figure set to rise.
The prominent former journalist, the Shadow Justice Secretary for the Tories, Russell Findlay has called on an independent inquiry sitting outside Scotland to examine the whole affair. Why outside Scotland? Simple. He knows what goes on here. He doesn’t trust that the Scottish judiciary won’t cover for its own guys, that the Scottish Police won’t lie for its and that the same forces and motivations which led to this scandal in the first place would ensure that no good came of it.
Put bluntly, he thinks those people were prosecuted because Rangers had collapsed and “someone had to pay for that” and that senior police and members of the judiciary went all-out to make sure someone did … and that led to hasty trials, flimsy and fabricated evidence and the eventual acquittals of every person who was put in front of a jury over multiple trials.
Think of how incredible and sustained that campaign must have been. And how badly botched. The shadow justice secretary of the Tory Party, a former investigative journalist who was so relentless in pursuit of his quarry when writing about gangsters that one of them threw acid in his face on his own doorstep, believes that an inquiry from within Scottish judicial ranks would only cover up the scandal. That is a honest-to-God admission of what a lot of people do not want to face.
Although Rangers proved more than fallible, that “institution” and its successor still have a solid grip on so much of national life here. Scotland, you have to remember, like the rest of the UK, is a religious state and we see the evidence of that every July. And that religious state, and the lodges both Orange and Masonic, the flag and the crown, aren’t terribly friendly to our own institution, founded by the Irish immigrants and supported by their ancestors.
Never forget not only what we are but what we represent. Never forget what it is that our success represents; the ultimate repudiation of their superiority complex as exemplified by their slogan We Are The Peepul. For that’s what it means, that’s what it’s all about.
Every right-thinking person in Britain accepts that the largest police force in the country is institutionally corrupt and racist and that this has caused untold grief and suffering, and in spite of decades of promises to get it right they’ve never reformed properly.
Every right-thinking person who has studied our own police force in Scotland knows we have major issues here including sectarianism and bigotry being rife; the malicious prosecutions are high profile, sure, but the thin end of the wedge as no doubt an independent inquiry would prove. The prevalence amongst the judiciary of membership in both the Masonic and Orange lodges is also an accepted fact.
And we know, historically, that at least some of those attitudes, if not all of them, have been and continue to be prevalent at Hampden. We know that because we’ve proved it. Celtic survived the Irish tricolour affair in the 50’s. During the 80’s several officials were well known prominent Orange men and later proved it by going on the Sash Bash circuit. In the 90’s Fergus took over and brought down an SFA President who, along with his head of registrations, deliberately delayed the registration of a key player for our club, Jorge Cadete. Cadete later had a crucial goal chopped off at Ibrox by another gloating self-confessed Rangers fan who has never actually hidden the motivations behind that decision. In the last decade, we saw a head of referees, Hugh Dallas, lose his job because he sent an anti-Catholic email around his colleagues; a refereeing strike at that time sought to blame Celtic for putting officials under pressure. This was after one of them had been caught deliberating lying to our manager about a decision.
And none of this comes close to the scandal of the EBT’s and another President of the SFA, Campbell Ogilvie, who presided over an organisation from which the football club he was most closely associated with had been “hiding” contractual details on its players … and he had signed the first of those dodgy “side contracts” personally. That entire period, the period of “the Wee Tax Case” was deliberately left out of the “independent inquiry” into that affair, where the SFA head of registrations, Sandy Bryson, offered a novel excuse for all those involved. Bryson was the other guy Fergus wanted out at Hampden during the Jim Farry and Jorge Cadete affair.
So what’s “baked into the system” at Hampden?
What does it sound like? What does it sound like when the two “full time VAR officials” are Andrew Dallas, son of Hugh Dallas, and the now infamous Greg Aitken, he of internet chatroom fame, an alleged Lodge member and lifelong Ibrox fan, the only club in Europe since VAR was introduced not to concede a penalty kick on league duty?
“Our refs are honest,” is the frequent refrain from the media. But Hell, when you call a cop to your house, or one is sent to question you about a crime, you ought to have total confidence that person is also honest, and that you will come to no harm if you are too, and yet we know that those most prominent of public servants aren’t always upstanding people.
We know, for example, that at Hillsborough they lied and blamed the victims for their own deaths. According to The Casey Report, female victims of rape and sexual assault are frequently hit on by the officers sent to take their statements, and in some cases subjected to quite severe levels of harassment after the fact from those officers. We know that stop-and-search has been used to terrorise black communities. We also know that in two high profile cases involving Irish suspects, the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four, that innocent people were framed and sent to prison for decades because they were Irish or had friends who were.
And we know in Scotland that people, who were subsequently framed and then later acquitted, were arrested for their “roles” in the collapse of Rangers by officers who sang Ibrox terracing songs at them as they were being questioned.
But we’re to believe in the stand-up characters of a few hobbyists, most of them hailing from West of Scotland “associations” which are well-known repositories of bigots and chancers? And all under the watchful eye of Hampden, where at least two recent Presidents have been caught either going after Celtic or protecting Ibrox from the worst of its sins? These are the people whose integrity and morals and standards and behaviour and motives we dare not question?
I have long experience of political activism and the study thereof, and I’ve read the Stephen Lawrence Report and the Taylor Report, I’ve gone through the finer points of Widgery and whilst I can’t claim to know in detail what’s in Scarman or Casey I do know the major findings of both and about the events that led to them … and I know a little bit about how corruption in major institutions and organisations works.
I know that you don’t need to have a conspiracy before you wind up with a girl murdered or a murder inquiry subverted or the deaths of 96 people blamed on the dead themselves. That’s not what institutional corruption means … it’s not how the rot sets in.
Do I think there’s a shadowy cabal at the SFA whose explicit intent is to subvert the game and deny Celtic as much as its in their power to do?
No. But there doesn’t have to be.
If there’s a culture at Hampden which is antithetical to Celtic’s interests that’s all you need. Because everyone at any level in the power structure knows what the cultural expectations are and that meeting those expectations is rewarded whilst opposing them is punished.
Let me put it in simple, easy to understand language.
Almost all of us have worked in places where there was a weird undercurrent of Things Happening That Shouldn’t Happen. There were people who the bosses looked favourably on and bent the rules for. There were other people who were just intimidating and ran roughshod over everybody, the bosses included. And when you see some people punished for minor infractions and others being allowed to do whatever they please, you get some sense of the power dynamics and how the playing field isn’t level. That’s been every workplace I’ve ever been.
And as numerous people in public service roles, from Rory Stewart to local authority whistleblowers, will tell you, when we think about certain professions like the legal profession and the police force and the NHS and teaching, we forget something that we shouldn’t, and oddly enough even without the official records we have a pretty good touchstone on what that lesson is in a fictional setting; that of David Simon’s masterpiece The Wire.
The picture The Wire paints, over its five seasons, of its cops, its criminals, is lawyers, its teachers, its politicians, its judges and its journalists is searing because its grounded in the real and the raw. What that show hammers across again and again and again is that everyone, whether on the streets or in the squad cars or the classrooms or the halls of power are just ordinary folk doing nothing more than trying to get through the day.
Think about that. Ordinary folks just trying to get through the day.
From the street level gangbangers to the politicians, these are nothing more than people with jobs and for the most part, and with very few exceptions, that’s exactly how they see them. There’s no idealism in these folk, they aren’t good or evil or driven to do the right or the wrong thing, they are just bobbing along, just getting by … until occasionally they are put in situations which require them to go above and beyond that.
And the thing of it is, some of them don’t, and won’t do that. Some of them don’t want to rock the boat or cause themselves any undue stress. Some of them are just heart lazy and are in it for a steady pay cheque and would be doing something else if it gave them less work to do and still paid the bills. That’s real life. That’s every major institution in this country; they are full of people whose first and only loyalty is to their own well-being.
And that’s why some us worked for years in places full of the kinds of people you would not want to associate with in any other walk of life, and it didn’t take any of us long to work out what the pecking order was or that the rules only applied to certain people.
Yet, in every one of those workplaces, no matter how feudal, no matter how it was all oriented around the concept of “every man for himself” disloyalty to the team was the most frowned upon thing, and in some of them, perhaps a great many of them, those few people who did complain to management found themselves blacklisted or given the crap jobs because there is nothing certain cultures look down on more than “the grass”.
The police force has always run on that basis. Not everyone inside the Met is a criminal in hiding, or a bigot flaunting his or her racism in the cafeteria.
Amidst its ranks are all manner of depraved and degenerate individuals and they do whatever they want, protected by a workplace culture where some people are in on the joke and share the same views and others are too scared to object and others still just want to keep their heads down and just get through the day.
When those reports talked about “institutional racism” they weren’t talking about meetings of the upper crust where the policy was to beat up black people and treat everyone with a foreign second name as if they were the scum of the earth; those at the top had come up through a system where that stuff was normalised and commonplace and part of the culture.
That’s what Casey meant when she says it’s “baked into the system.”
And so even if you aren’t a bigot or a sexist or a guy who, to quote a great movie moment, joined the police so he could “shove a black guy’s head through a plate glass window” you’ve worked with and socialised with and covered for people who were. You might even call them your friends.
As a result, you know how it all works, and you might even think that you are expected to behave the same way if you want to progress. They’ve even got a name for it; you “go along to get along.” Those who don’t get frowned upon, frozen out and sometimes worse.
That’s a corrupt culture. That’s institutionalised. That’s how I see Hampden and all the little clubs and associations which make up the lower structure, which for years you had to rise up through if you wanted to make it to the big time there. Even if you started out honest and with the best intentions, can you really rise through those ranks without the stink of it all on you? How are you supposed to run a straight table when you know the rest of the structure works on the basis of something else? Of understandings and insights that have nothing to do with fair play?
We live in a sectarian state. We live in a theocracy and our club represents a minority in direct opposition to that. It’s infected the police force, the judiciary, the political class, it used to dominate various elements of our national life from the old “what school did you go to?” question when you were filling out a job application and its still there in the jokes you can still hear in the workplace canteen … it is all around us all the time.
And we’re supposed to believe that at the doors of Hampden is a decontamination shower where you walk through it and all that stuff is washed away and you’re clean?
But how many people do you think were on the Hugh Dallas email list?
Someone leaked it, sure, but Dallas didn’t know someone would do that, which means he trusted everyone on that list, and trusted the people they might then send it to. Which tells you all you need to know about how safe and secure he felt ever distributing that in the first place.
What does that tell you about the culture he was part of? The culture he had complete confidence would laugh at the joke and further send it on to their mates. It paints a picture, doesn’t it? And it’s not a pretty picture of life at Hampden, is it? Yes, someone sent that email on to someone who wasn’t meant to get it and it found its way to Phil Mac Giolla Bhain of all people … but who knows how many got sent it and didn’t report it, either because they found it funny or for those other reasons I outlined above? Because it’s “baked into the system.”
And that’s Scottish football, that’s Scottish football’s ruling body, which supplies us with match officials and VAR operators, one of them the son of Hugh Dallas himself. And just try for a second and imagine the culture of the Dallas household if you dare.
If a man felt safe sending that kind of email to people he probably only knew socially, can you imagine what things he might say in the privacy of his home? Are we really to trust someone who didn’t merely work in the proximity of that man but was raised by him? Who grew up under the same roof as someone who did that and then came through the very system that allowed Hugh Dallas to rise and where he felt safe sending an email like that around colleagues?
Well, we’re expected to, and we have a media here which pretends that’s normal and that that’s okay. Because our refs are honest. Says the media, and we’re supposed to trust them and that their motives are pure although we know the sports desks aren’t honest and they are filled with people who wish us ill, including the BBC who we continue to joke only requires that you played for an Ibrox club to get a job there and who keep on hiring these guys as if they’re not only in on the joke but determined to emphasise that although we call it that, we’re not actually joking at all.
Some of them talk about having “no skin in the game” when they dismiss our concerns as paranoia and label us conspiracy theorists, but that always reminds of something from Russell Findlay’s expose Acid Attack, which talked not only about the gangsters who came after him when he was still a journalist but about the editors who refused to back him because they didn’t want to get on the wrong side of anyone who might make their lives hard for just five minutes … the top men at national newspapers, exposed not even as cowards which you can understand in a sense but worse; as jobsworths just trying to get through the day.
Celtic’s entire history has evolved in the shadow of a corrupt government, the one at Hampden, and it continues to be the biggest threat to our continued success, bigger even than our own tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot and fail to build on a position of strength.
Well, there’s something about those three reports into the Met, over a period of decades, that I started this piece with and which you have to understand; all of them were high profile, released to a blaze of publicity and they met with promises of change and reform, and actual changes and reforms flowed from every one.
Yet they’ve never managed to clean the Augean Stables of their filth.
We’ve never had an independent inquiry into the SFA and the culture that surrounds it, although Celtic asked for one in light of the EBT scandal.
If the Met can’t eradicate its toxicity and change that culture over the course of decades, with the best will in the world, how do you think we’re getting on, allowing ours to fester?
Alan Morrison and Brian Gilmour, on the Graham Spiers podcast on referees, both referred to the Hampden “culture” and how it influences behaviour, and Alan talked about a “pattern of assistance.”
Well, this is how these things happen, and it doesn’t take a shadowy band of sniggering bigots in a committee room to create a “conspiracy.”
This is cultural. This runs deep. This is “baked into the system.”
Hell, this is the system.