Wednesday, 21 December 2011
You can say what you like, except you can't
Following the debacle of their ill-considered 'let's make alcohol harder to buy' legislation, in which they demonstrated that they weren’t even smart enough to anticipate (and therefore prepare for) even the most glaring loopholes in their cunning plan, they have now acted to ‘solve’ the problem of sectarianism in Scotland.
The new legislation, according to Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham, is designed to catch any songs that create or risk public disorder. In cases where the chants or songs might fall short of the ‘public disorder’ benchmark, it will be up to individual police officers to decide whether the chants and songs are offensive enough to incite wider disorder.
So, to summarise: What you’re singing at a football match might be likely to get you thrown into jail. Or it might not. It all depends upon who is on duty at the time.
The very idea of this legislation makes some big statements about how the political class view the people they purport to represent. They have placed us all on a continuum that has name-calling at one end and attempted murder at the other. We are not, in their eyes, a nation of rational or resilient individuals; rather, we are a collection of fragile, damaged, volatile morons in need -above all else- of protection from ourselves.
They will see this legislation as being necessary because they believe that we are all either potential victims or potential perpetrators; we’ll either suffer psychological damage by being called a fenian or a hun, or we’ll be the kind of person who will start by using those words and then take a few tiny steps along the continuum to the point where we’ll start sending parcel bombs to celebrities.
There might well be a connection between shouting something inappropriate at a football match and sending someone a parcel bomb, but it's the same kind of connection that exists between having a knife in your kitchen drawer and actually stabbing someone.
Sadly, Scotland is now a country where teenagers -as recent examples have shown- can be jailed for singing a song or for posting an idiotic opinion online. We shouldn’t be inclined to trust governments at the best of times, but we should never, ever trust any government that would seek to outlaw the expression of socially /politically /culturally 'awkward' opinions.
In any sane and civilised society, the kind of people who would author legislation like this would be allocated, at best, a job looking after the coloured pencils.