Thursday, November 03, 2011

A Bill so bad that even authoritarian Labour can't support it......

Well, the SNP Government's bill to tackle sectarianism really can't have much going for it.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats and Greens opposed it from the start, even before the measure attracted criticism from across Scottish civic society.

I thought it was a good sign when Alex Salmond decided not to rush the Bill through before the Summer recess, but, sadly, the Government has not listened to the criticism that has been resoundingly heaped on the measure.

You would expect the Liberal Democrats to stand up against anything that could have implications for freedom of speech, but Labour love creating new offences and infringing people's civil liberties. I mean, when they were in Government at Westminster, requesting a vegetarian meal on a plane could be enough to have the security services giving you a second glance, taking a picture of a building could have you stopped by the Police and walking through Parliament Square could have you stopped and searched under Section 44 of their Terrorism Act. The fact that they are opposing this Bill speaks volumes.

Of course, the SNP will complain that it's just everyone else ganging up against them. That might have some traction if the Bill hadn't been so resoundingly criticised during the consultation. The most articulate opposition I've seen comes from a nationalist, the fabulous Lallands Peat Worrier. My learned friend won't be invited round to Kenny MacAskill's for egg nog this Christmas, that's for sure, as he has been scathing about the Bill and the quality of the scrutiny it's given from SNP dominated committees which he describes as "embarrassingly craven and intellectually sloppy".

Of course sectarianism needs to be tackled. As a highlander, I grew up blissfully unaware of such bigotry in my country and it came as a shock when I encountered it for the first time. This bill is not the way forward, though. There is much that can be done under existing laws, but the key is effecting cultural change by education. There is a whole load more the football authorities should be doing, too. Why doesn't the SFA tell clubs that if they don't get their fans in order, they'll be playing games behind closed doors? I'm sure the loss of the gate money would concentrate their minds.

I'm glad that the opposition parties in Holyrood have decided to work together to oppose this Bill. From my point of view, it's confusing, I'm not convinced that criticism of religion won't be penalised. I'm not in the business of hating anyone but I reserve the right to question, politely and rationally, their religious beliefs if they impact on mine or anyone else's freedoms. There are just too many potentially unintended consequences of this legislation as it stands and it really should be withdrawn.And if the SNP listens, and does withdraw it, they should be commended, not slated for a U-Turn. This issue is too important for childish point scoring.

Alison McInnes, the Scottish Liberal Democrats' Justice Spokesperson said:
“While it is clear that sectarianism needs to be tackled in Scottish society, it has been plain from the outset that this Bill is ill-thought-out, rushed and will do little to address the underlying problems associated with sectarian behaviour.
 “The SNP Government have not made the case for this Bill and the lack of any kind of consensus should act as a very clear warning sign that the Bill is seriously flawed.
 “The First Minister should not have charged ahead with this Bill and he must now withdraw it.”



cynicalHighlander said...

Liberal Democrats answer to everything is we must do something so lets set set up another commission to look at it. A 100 years of supporting Home Rule and you still haven't worked out a solution.

Is Scotland going to have delay after delay until a solution is found or are we going to try something now and see if it brings results?

Anonymous said...

As you say:

"This issue is too important for childish point scoring."

So debate the Bill in Parliament, and come up with constructive and sensible amendments. The result might be a better law and an enhanced reputation for constructive opposition - a LibDem win/win in this hard world there for the taking if your party has the wit. I can't resist a bit of childish point-scoring myself: it's probably a better bet than getting your cartoon department on the case.

I've been asked to verify myself with 'sionat' Shurely shome mishtake? Should be 'cybernat'


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