So, you're on the Glasgow subway with some friends and one of them does something cute or funny or otherwise worth recording for posterity. You take out your phone to capture the moment.....
What should happen next is....nothing. Life should go on as normal. However, if Strathclyde Partnership for Transport gets its way, new bye-laws could mean that you're on a slippery slope to a £1000 fine. The operator has put their new proposals out for consultation and they include the controversial clause 12.1:
Passengers must not take photographs, or make video audio or visual recordings on any part of the subway.There is a get out clause - but it involves you obtaining the written permission of SPT in advance. So much for spontaneity.
This brings to mind the situation under the last Labour Westminster Government when amateur photographers were apprehended by Police under the controversial Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.This report from the Independent summarises how people innocently taking photographs of public buildings, tourist attractions and even a fish and chip shop found themselves being stopped and searched. By and large, although the law applied in Scotland, it was largely ignored. I wrote in 2010 that while over 200,000 people had been stopped south of the border, only 79 searches had been recorded here.
I always tend to take the view that if an authority is given a power, it will use it.That's why we need to make sure that any powers they have are both necessary and proportionate.
The photography ban is only the tip of the iceberg. Some of the other proposed bye-laws, also carrying a potential £1000 fine for their breach, are equally questionable. Failing to report lost property to a member of staff, singing, using musical equipment in a way which might annoy a reasonable person, being drunk (which isn't defined, but may well apply to a fair few people taking the subway home on a weekend night) or going the wrong way up or down an escalator all carry the same penalty. So does trying to get on a train before the last person has left and trying to jump the queue. These things can be rude, but deserving of a four figure fine?
Have a read of the proposed rules here and make sure you send your response to the consultation by 15th June. It needs to go to:
FAO: Joanne Gray
Glasgow Subway Byelaws Consultation
Transport Policy Directorate
Area 2 D North
or e-mail joanneDOTgrayATtransportscotlandDOTgsiDOTgovDOTuk
Do it today or it will be too late! Do it in your lunch hour.