The Brian Rix approach to anti-sectarian legislation

Now, I like a good laugh as much as the next guy; but farce has no place in government legislation, particularly when it comes to the serious business of tackling the poisonous problem of sectarian or offensive behaviour in Scottish society and / or football.

I (and I am absolutely sure, the vast majority of Celtic supporters) fully endorse the objective of eradicating these evils from our national and sporting life.  Indeed, by nature of the history of the problem and its punitive application, we have a considerable vested interest in the support and promotion of any genuine initiative aimed at such eradication.

In so doing, though, in the time-honoured spirit of truth and reconciliation, we first have to acknowledge that we, as a community, have a contribution to make to the process.  While, most definitely NOT the “other side of the same coin” in the perpetration of vile sectarianism, as we are commonly portrayed throughout a highly partial society that is reluctant to confront the blatant reality of the situation, we are not entirely without blemish.  There are aspects of our traditional behaviour that need no spelling out and that, directly or indirectly, contribute, however minimally, to the problem.  We all know what they are and to take full control of the moral high ground, we need to ditch them – which does NOT imply abandoning pride in our historical roots and origins.  Quite the contrary, it is precisely such pride that should determine us to promote it in a totally positive manner, free of any negative connotations … or, to put it another way, of any that can be seized upon and portrayed as such.

In this respect, we are fortunate in having at our disposal an impressive array of tools, without resorting to the potentially provocative and to some, unquestionably offensive.

Before the traditional diehards among us start shouting me down, let me say that I fully understand the clear distinction between the political and the sectarian (the former being perfectly legitimate, in the proper forum … the latter, totally abhorrent, whatever the context) – but rightly or wrongly, depending on your point of view, that knife can cut both ways.  One man’s guerrilla is another’s terrorist … and all that.

But characteristically, I digress.

It seems to me it’s not more legislation that’s required, however well-meaning it may, or may not be – particularly the sort that is dangerously precipitate, starts descending into farce before it even hits the statute book and is thereby laid wide open to misinterpretation, flawed application and downright abuse by the mischievous, with potential loopholes as wide as the Channel Tunnel.

All that is needed is for the genuine will to tackle the problem to exist; for that will to be channelled effectively through the enforcement of powers already in force; and to devote the necessary resources to make that possible.

The laws are already there – and the breaches of those laws are so blatantly obvious that they cannot fail to be spotted, even by the most reluctant observer.  But there’s the rub – no matter how much legislation you introduce; no matter how many sanctimonious proclamations you utter; no matter how many eminent lawyers declare that common sense will prevail, there’s none so blind as those that will not see.

Action, not words, please, Holyrood – and less of the farce!


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