Tom Devine, Patrick Harvie and Tam Cowan call for repeal of ‘Offensive Behaviour’ laws


Academics, politicians and figures from the world of football sign letter against the Offensive Behaviour Act
HISTORIAN PROFESSOR TOM DEVINE, Greens leader Patrick Harvie and football commentator Tam Cowan have signed their names to an open letter condemning the ‘Offensive behaviour’ laws and calling for them to be repealed.
The letter, which carries the names of many academic, political and civil society figures calls for the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 – commonly referred to as the Offensive Behaviour Act (OBA).
The Scottish Government intended for the act to combat sectarianism at football matches. But campaigners argue that the laws are anti-democratic, unworkable, and target young working class football fans.
“This Act is therefore an unjustifiable attack on freedom of speech and the rights’ of fans to political expression.” Letter calling for the repeal of the OBA
The letter, signed by over 50 public figures and organisations reads: “We do so on the basis that it is wrong to create a law which applies to one demonised sector of society, which this act does to football fans. It is by definition a discriminatory piece of legislation and we also note that the government has failed in its commitment outlined in its Equality Impact Assessment to carry out an equalities audit in regard to this law.
“We also oppose this legislation on the basis that it is practically impossible and inherently dangerous to criminalise offensiveness. This Act is therefore an unjustifiable attack on freedom of speech and the rights’ of fans to political expression.
“This legislation was a clumsy political response to one football match which serves only to unjustly criminalise football supporters and should be repealed as a matter of urgency.”
Political figures to sign the letter include left wing Labour MSP Neil Findlay, Scottish Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie, Rise candidate for Glasgow in the 2016 Scottish elections Cat Boyd and candidate for London Mayor George Galloway.
The OBA has led to escalating tensions between police and football fans in recent years. In March 2013 hundreds of Celtic fans were kettled , and 13 arrested, by around 200 hundred officers in Glasgow’s Gallowgate.
In November 2015 CommonSpace reported an incident where a Police Scotland officer allegedly verbally abuse one young fan on Glasgow’s High Street, telling him ” I will fucking ruin your life “.
The letter is made public on the same day (1 March) as the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee hears evidence from the Scottish Government in response to campaigning group Fans Against Criminalisation’s petition calling for the repeal of the OBA .
The full list of endorsements is as follows:

Fans Against Criminalisation

Liberty, (also known as National Council for Civil Liberties)

The Irish Voice, Irish Community newspaper

The Glasgow Irish Heritage Group

Danny Boyle, Parliamentary and Policy Officer, Black and Ethnic Minority Information Service

Paddy Callaghan (Comhaltas Development Officer Scotland)

Evin O Dunaigh (Personal Capacity / Development Officer – Conradh Na Gaeilge Alba)

Tom Grant , former Celtic Director

John Paul Taylor , Fans Liaison Officer (Celtic Football Club) – in a personal capacity

Alasdair McKillop , Co-Founder of ‘The Rangers Standard’

John Higgins, professional snooker player

Tam Cowan, broadcaster

Stuart Cosgrove, broadcaster

Alan Bissett , Author and Playwright

Gary Lamont, Actor, (River City)

Joseph M Bradley, Senior Lecturer, University of Stirling

Carlton Brick, Lecturer, University of the West of Scotland

Craig Daly , Senior University Teacher, University of Glasgow

Lesley Doyle , Senior Lecturer, University of Glasgow

Sir Tom Devine, Emeritus Professor, University of Edinburgh

Jeanette Findlay , Senior Lecturer, University of Glasgow

Patricia Findlay , Professor, University of Strathclyde

Tom Gallagher , Emeritus Professor, University of Bradford

Marion Hersh , Senior Lecturer, University of Glasgow

Liam Kane, Lecturer, University of Glasgow

John Kelly, Lecturer, University of Edinburgh

Willy Maley , Professor, University of Glasgow

Maureen McBride , Doctoral researcher, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, University of Glasgow

David Mckendrick , Lecturer in Social Work

Stuart Waiton , Senior Lecturer, University of Abertay

Cat Boyd, Parliamentary Candidate, RISE

Maggie Chapman, Co-Convenor of the Scottish Green Party

Neil Findlay MSP, Scottish Labour Party

Colin Fox, National Co-Spokesperson, Scottish Socialist Party

George Galloway

Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-Convenor of the Scottish Green Party

James Kelly MSP, Scottish Labour Party (Shadow Cabinet)

Paul Martin MSP, Scottish Labour Party

Liam McLaughlin , Scottish Socialist Party (Executive Committee)

Michael McMahon MSP, Scottish Labour Party

Siobhan McMahon MSP, Scottish Labour Party

Thomas Rannachan, Parliamentary Candidate, Scottish Labour Party

Suki Sangha , Parliamentary Candidate, RISE

Anas Sarwar, Parliamentary Candidate and former MP, Scottish Labour Party

Fariha Thomas, Glasgow City Councillor, Parliamentary Candidate, Scottish Labour Party

Tony Callahan, Solicitor

Sinead Corrigan, Solicitor
Paul Kavanagh,

Barry McCormack, Solicitor

Paul Mullen, Solicitor

Ann Ritchie, Solicitor

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