Scrapping the OBFA plays into the hands of sectarian bigots

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 (OBFA) was an act designed to deal with the very real problem of sectarianism in Scottish football. It has always been an act born out of knee-jerk politics and has been flawed since the start, but as the only piece of legislation that specifically targets sectarianism. It sent out a message that as a society, Scotland was done with supporting sectarianism or looking the other way to let things happen.

This week the first step to repeal the act in a private members bill from Labour MSP James Kelly was passed to repeal it. Now as said the act is flawed; it curtailed political expression as well as crack down on the offensive bigotry we see so often in Scottish football but nobody in favour of repeal has suggested an alternative. Actually, that isn’t true; the standard line is ‘education’ along with ‘use existing laws correctly’ but the problem with this is we know fine well this isn’t going to work because hate crimes need specific punitive legislation to deal with it.

Now the argument against it ranges from the hard left argument that it now gives the working class a voice which is astonishingly offensive as it assumes the working class are a mass of barely literate bigots who can only find release by chanting hate at each other. Then there’s the illiberal argument which is true but all hate crime legislation is illiberal so do we allow complete free speech which means anti-Semitism, racism, and all the stuff we don’t want in society to pass unchallenged. So do we single out hate speech or do we tell vulnerable minorities to deal with it as to crack down on it is illiberal? Then there’s the folk who are political opportunists and of course, the people who want the act gone so they can throw out vile bigotry at football matches unchallenged.

And this is the problem. When the act was passed an informed discussion never really happened, and now, on the verge of repeal, an informed discussion isn’t happening even though the majority of the public supports the act, and is clearly tired of sectarianism.

I’ll tell you what happens in the future. The act is repealed. An ‘incident’ will happen. Someone, or a few people, will be abused, hurt, even worse. Scotland’s politicians and media will demand ‘something’ must be done and nothing will end up getting done because Scotland’s politicians and media (on the whole) want to prolong the life of sectarianism, and don’t even expect the SFA or the clubs themselves to do anything serious because they don’t want to lose support. So we have a section of the left arguing themselves into a corner over this while a section of the left are drooling with the prospect of social division.

What would I do? I’m no expert but I’d engage an open debate on what sectarianism is. Define it. Engage with people and point out to them what they do causes offense and harm to people. Show them the effects of their bigotry. Give them support to change but if they don’t and carry on then have a punitive law to crack down on them. I’d give the SFA a kick up the arse so they work towards making Scotland better. I’d not glibly sit back and let things go unchallenged as Labour, Tories and a chunk of the establishment would like.

Most of all I find it repulsive that with everything going on right now, there’s a number of people who put as their number one priority fighting for the chance for people to chant about being up to their knees in ‘fenian blood’. When the worse does happen I don’t want to see these people demand ‘action’, I want to see them accepting responsibility for what they’ve done and maybe, just maybe, actually suggest a way to make things better.

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In praise of the NHS in Scotland

The NHS is under attack. The UK’s once proud service which millions of us use every year has suffered decades of successive Westminster governments hacking away at it in order to open it up more for full privatisation. In Scotland, Tory, and a few Labour MSP’s sit in eager anticipation of someone photogenic dying on a trolley in a Scottish hospital so they can launch weeks of attacks on a service pushed to the limit but somehow managing to not fall apart. As a service the NHS in Scotland stands ahead of other services in the UK mainly because the Tories haven’t got their grubby hands on it.

This is not to have a go at the NHS in England. After all it saved my life. Twice. Since retuning to Scotland in November 2016 to mainly recuperate, but also to escape the collapse of the NHS in England,I’ve been a frequent user of the SNHS. I’ve praised the NHS back in Bristol who were amazing, but as the staff here have done the dull day-to-day stuff of helping me pull myself together rather than the lifesaving part it is only fair to give the staff the credit they deserve against a wave of shocking political opportunism from Ruth Davidson’s Tories (and we know exactly what as Tories they’d do here in Scotland)   and the empty dead-eyed vacuousness of Richard Leonard’s student politics.

Of course all parties throw around the NHS as a political weapon yet I don’t think folk here in Scotland quite understand just what is happening in England, and the possible consequences of letting what we have in a fairly well protected NHS in Scotland, slip. For the last 15 months I’ve been improving in health, returned to work, and yesterday (barring anything unexpected in my bloods) was confirmed to be in remission for cancer for a year so I’m past the first crucial marker and can start thinking of the future as my survival chances are now pretty much normal though my stroke recovery may well affect that.

That’s thanks to NHS staff who’ve poked, prodded, helped and in the case of the physios I’ve seen, get me walking again. There’s all the ancillary staff, plus the folk at MacMillan and the staff at The Beatson. All these people do an astonishing job in hard times and having to spend the winter listening to the likes of Ruth Davidson kick the NHS when she’d gladly rip its heart out is demoralising for me, so I’ve no idea how the staff feel.

I’d like to see like-minded parties come together and work out a long term plan to protect the NHS, especially with Brexit threatening to hurt Scotland so badly, but party politics come first it seems but I wish these people would remember that lives are saved, or made better, every day by people who work ridiculous hours for money that isn’t enough while being kicked (sometimes literally) by supposed allies and foes alike.

So thanks to the NHS. We need to all work together to preserve what we’ve got or frankly, people like me won’t be around to write blogs like this.

Grasping the Thistle: A documentary about Partick Thistle…

Supporting a football team can be easy if you’re just jumping on a bandwagon and supporting a team because they’re successful. When you support a team like Glasgow’s Partick Thistle, success, is measured by different metrics than winning European trophies or billion pound sponsorship deals.

Back at the early days of this millennium, Partick Thistle were pushing hard to gain promotion to Scotland’s top flight. This BBC documentary is full of everything that makes supporting smaller teams painful, and wonderful, at the same time.

Enjoy…

The road to Brexit

By Monday we should know whether the UK has pulled its head out its arse, agreed on compromises with the EU and saved the prospect of the UK walking away from Brexit negotiations with a ‘no deal’; an outcome Brexiters like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg want as it delivers their free trade, unregulated dream. For the rest of us it’ll be a nightmare, and as we now know, the Tories have no plans to sail us through the biggest thing the UK has done in its history in peacetime which leaves us a bleak future.

The EU isn’t just about trade. It intertwines so much of what we do that if the UK walks it means we’d have to organise things like when planes fly, radioactive isotopes for cancer patients, the shipping of food and tens of thousands of other things overnight and like any disaster, the most vulnerable will be hurt the hardest and first.

Bizarrely both main UK political parties are hell-bent on Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn of Labour seems to think that we’re in for a socialist Year Zero upon leaving the EU, and yes, the idea of an ‘internationalist’ party choosing to take a protectionist route is not lost on people. But compared to the clusterfuck which is the Tories, Labour seem vaguely sane. Simply put the Tories are taking us into a recession mixed with a collapse in social decency as ethnic nationalism and imperialism mixed with a hard, rigid form on Unionism drives them towards dooming hundreds of thousands of people to a harder life than they have now.

Brexit makes no sense though. Not unless you think the UK ‘gave away’ itself to the EUSSR and those bloody Polish and Somalians on buses should go back where they came from. Essentially Brexit is based upon irrational madness and we’ve got 72 hours to save the country. Wish us luck, we’ll need it…

”Dad, have we taken back control back yet?”

Alex Salmond’s RT show helps highlight hypocrisy

Former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond has a new chat show thingy on Russian propaganda outlet RT, and this is sending the usual suspects on the British media circlejerk insane.This article from David Torrance (for those outwith Scotland, Torrance has made a career from talking about Salmond) is the very height of smug hypocrisy from someone who has himself worked for RT.

One of the things about Scottish politics is the sheer, mind-numbing closed-minded inanity of it. The same people say the same things in the same outlets, and as a state broadcaster the BBC acts as a firm outlet for this as much as the other increasingly tired aspects of the Scottish media. So the faux outrage about Salmond appearing on a channel many of the people have also appeared on is just pitiful hypocrisy.

This isn’t to say RT is an innocent bystander here. It isn’t. As a mouthpiece for Putin it supports an anti-democratic, homophobic regime that clearly despises human rights and has its hands dripping with blood. It’d do well for some in the SNP/Indy camp to remember this and not just blindly support it because it stands against the UK’s propaganda. Of course the UK has propaganda arms but perhaps some folk need to engage a little bit of critical thinking before praising RT.

That said, the likes of the BBC and much of what’s called the ‘mainstream media’ are themselves openly biased and themselves propaganda tools for the British state.The fact is politicians will appear anywhere to get themselves heard, and although Salmond is no longer a politician, he is still a political figure and thus people are worried that he may gain a platform where he words can’t be spun to fit the propaganda spun by the British state.  In short it is simply the most hypocritical instance of tedious wankery by people expressing faux outrage because someone they despise (and in Torrance’s case, uses as a business plan for a career) has went off-piste much to their annoyance.

Why the United Kingdom needs to die

The New York Times has an interesting take on the state of the UK in 2017. Titled No One Knows What Britain Is Anymore, the NYT goes in for the kill with this brutally true paragraph;

The ambitious Mr. Johnson was crucial to the victory of Brexit in the June 2016 referendum. But for many, the blusterings of Boris have lost their charm. The “great ship” he loves to cite is a nationalist fantasy, a remnant of Britain’s persistent post-imperial confusion about its proper place in the world, hanging on to expensive symbols like a nuclear deterrent while its once glorious navy is often incapable of patrolling its own coastline.

The point made that the UK can’t patrol its own coastline came up during the Scottish independence referendum, but during the Brexit campaign was never mentioned as all the supporters of leaving the EU had this vision of the UK that was rooted in the past where a ”British Empire” was still a thing.

The UK is seen as an international joke. A bit like the mate who’s broke up with every girlfriend but never blames himself while living off past glories.but the UK, or to be more exact, England, hasn’t gotten over the loss of empire and that’s something that needs to be dealt with at some point but that isn’t going to happen soon.

The Empire is dead. True we live still with the trappings of Empire, but as some have pointed out, we don’t have to endorse such things and before anyone says anything about Corbyn’s Labour changing things all they’ll do is tweak down the edges of the British state. and the entire Brexit process is about regaining central power from the devolution process.

So what to do if the state won’t change and the establishment won’t let it naturally die? Well, if the series of scandals we’re seeing now continue the entire thing might collapse anyhow, but it’ll survive this as until we realise that Unionism has become one of the last defenders of neoliberalism, even fascism, in the mainstream then we won’t change anything.

The UK needs to be broken down so something can come out of it which benefits all of us, not just an increasingly distant elite because what the UK is mutating into isn’t something to be proud of. Hopefully the dark times that are coming lead us into real reform rather than a more extreme version of what we have right now.

A quick word about Catalonia

Catalonia yesterday became the planet’s newest country as it declared itself independent of Spain, and Spain in return are trying to impose direct rule. A massive can of worms is now open and it really is one that isn’t going to go back in easily, but right now cool, calm heads are called for and not the ones demanding action now to ‘resume order’.

I’m not going to offer an opinion on whether Catalonia should be independent as I don’t know enough to make an informed judgement but I do support their right to choose peacefully and that has been denied to them by the sort of brutality we saw at the referendum. There is now a shrill cry of panic coming from Spanish unionists and their supporters not just in Spain, but across the world including idiots like Malcolm Rifkind foreseeing ‘separatist violence’ on the news this morning.

On the other hand this has sparked elements in the Scottish independence campaign to demand Nicola Sturgeon declare UDI, which is exactly the wrong, and undemocratic, thing to do. I want Scotland to be independent but UDI isn’t an option but I do feel people are rushing towards making opinions with less than an informed head and I want the Catalan people to decide their own fate. I don’t want them to be used as a pawn in a larger game or to suffer the violence we saw from the Spanish state.

So I was glad to see Sturgeon’s government putting out a calm, measured statement.I’m less glad to have seen the likes of Julian Assange, Nigel Farage and all the other usual suspects poke the flames. We’re in a dangerous phase and we need leaders, diplomats and politicians rather than people working towards a more dangerous vision for the world and a cold war becomes hot.