Football, offensive behaviour and Pete Wishart MP

wishart on obfa

Disclaimer: before anyone sounds off, I have virtually no interest in football at all, at club or national level, ‘sectarian’ or not, and I support no team. Unless they’re abusive I’ll publish any comments people care to make about football based on this article but I won’t engage in debate about them.

Is that enough? I just want to make clear this post isn’t about football specifically, or even sport generally. It’s about the tweet above. As I have to remind myself, tediously, whenever I cite a tweet by SNP MP Pete Wishart, I’m not sure of the circumstances he posted it in because he blocked me on Twitter a long time ago. Nevertheless, it’s there and I haven’t seen anyone dispute that it’s authentic.

I had to check what he means by ‘OBFA’ although I was aware of the general context. To give it it’s full title it’s the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, about which I’m aware a deal of controversy rages and there may be a proposal in parliament to abolish. I’m in no position to make a judgement on its practical impact. I will say, however, that being of English origin and living in the North East, I find sectarianism – which in football terms at least, the Act is all about – at best a strange and archaic phenomenon, at worst a debasing and hurtful characteristic of human nature.

That out of the way, what I really wanted to do was question Mr Wishart’s judgement that ‘if the OFBA goes we’ll certainly be up to our knees in it.’

I want to question it because (a) I’d like to understand what he means by it and (b) if he means what I assume him to mean, what evidence can he quote?

The question I, and maybe others have, is ‘What is it we’ll be up to our knees in?’ It’s a curious phrase to use in the context. Could he possibly mean ‘up to our knees in sectarian leaflets’? Or perhaps he means ‘up to our knees in sectarian chants’ although being a musician to trade he’ll know that doesn’t really cut it as a metaphor, ears or vocal chords being more suited to chanting than knees. No, the only colloquialism I’m aware of that would fit the circumstances is ‘up to our knees in blood.’

And this is where I’d like to ask the MP for Perth and North Perthshire whether that’s what he really means. Is he seriously suggesting that the abolition of the Act will lead to some sort of spilling of blood on a large scale? If so in what circumstances – at or around a limited number of football matches, in some Glasgow city centre pubs, across the country generally, or specifically in the Fair City that he represents, although at Westminster not Holyrood? (There is, of course, a further, unpleasant,  implication that the Conservative and Labour parties may share responsibility for the shedding of blood if the Act is abolished but I’ll just leave that one sitting there)

I’d like to ask these questions but of course I can’t, except indirectly, because he chooses to put out this sort of contentious stuff to the world generally on Twitter but to bar part of the world from questioning him, which is all I’d like to do.

It’s cases like this that make me think there’s a fundamental cowardice and insecurity amongst a limited number of SNP politicians who block people with opposing points of view on Twitter. I shall be returning to that subject, and to the list of SNP ‘blockers’, shortly.

Footnote … later. Someone has pointed out to me on Twitter that Wishart’s words are ‘a reference to a line from the song “The Billy Boys”, which was traditionally sung by Rangers fans about Irish Republicans.’ I am ignorant of the minutiae of this sort of stuff, although Pete clearly isn’t. Now see, if he hadn’t blocked me he could have told me that himself, although it doesn’t make his tweet any the more acceptable.

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One Response to Football, offensive behaviour and Pete Wishart MP

  1. The Times today has a very good column by Alex Massie on the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. No link as it is behind a paywall, but the title of ‘Football act is an offence against free speech’ and the subtitle ‘The SNP’s bill was a shambles from the start, did little to address sectarianisn and was gesture politics at its worst’ summarise it well.

    In the interests of full disclosure I am a regular attender at Hearts matches.


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