For reasons that may or may not be obvious, I rarely write about sport or sectarianism. Life is short, they are subjects I have little interest in, and by and large writing about them causes more trouble than it’s worth. On the other hand, and more often than you might think, you could flick through the pages of this blog and find positive comments about individual nationalists – when they say something that makes sense.
Today’s post is a rare occasion when I respond to all these things I found in one place – a radio piece by nationalist-leaning journalist Kevin McKenna, who usually writes for The Herald and the separatists’ in-house tabloid, The National. Yesterday, he had a five-minute slot on the new-ish BBC Radio 4 programme From our Home Correspondent. His subject was the history of the rivalry between Rangers and Celtic football clubs and ‘what it tells us about Glasgow today’ (it starts at 11:29 on the recording linked above – it’ll probably disappear from the BBC website after a few weeks).
Here is part of what McKenna said:
In 2012 the Scottish Government decided to rid the country of what it called ‘Scotland’s shame’ when it passed the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. This carelessly drafted scrap of legislative sophistry made global legal history by creating a virtual crime. This is because a fellow can be charged with espousing sentiments deemed to be offensive even when no-one is present to be offended. All over the country and especially in West Central Scotland fans with no previous convictions have experienced dawn raids by police. In 2013 sheriff Richard Davidson described the Act as ‘mince’ adding, ‘If they can prescribe a list of songs which people are banned from singing they will find the courts are full and the grounds empty.’ The sheriff was right. Cracking down on sectarian behaviour in such a way is simplistic and illiberal. What is harder is delivering these communities from their real ills – poverty, squalor and disease, and homelessness.
I make no apology for the extended quote. It’s pretty damning.
In 2011 the SNP, having formed a minority government for the previous four years, gained an absolute majority in the Scottish parliament. This ‘carelessly drafted scrap of legislative sophistry … simplistic and illiberal … mince,’ was one of their early priorities. It joins a long list of policies over nearly ten years where their actions have been ineffective.
Earlier in his piece, McKenna listed what he saw as the causes of the ‘real ills’ in these communities – ‘[poor] health, educational inequality, unemployment, alcoholism and crime.’
Ask yourself which of those things the Scottish parliament is responsible for or has a major influence over. How about all of them? If you want to see a shocking example of some of the worst conditions that people in these communities have to put up with after ten years of SNP government, look no further than the Facebook Let’s save Govanhill page. Govanhill is in the constituency of which MSP? Correct, Nicola Sturgeon.
You might wish to consider the true nature of ‘Scotland’s shame.’
Footnote: As always, I’m happy to publish comments on what I write but don’t expect me to engage in discussion on football or sectarianism.