RISE Welcomes the result of the stage 1 vote taken in the Scottish Parliament, to repeal the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act.
We have supported the repeal of the OBFA since our very first policy conference where many of our members spoke first hand of the treatment they had received from police officers targeting them under this act.
Our opposition to this act is simply that we believe it does absolutely nothing to combat sectarianism, as is widely suggested. It has instead been disproportionately used to politically police young working class football fans, who have been in no previous conflict with the law. Existing laws are already in place to tackle hate crimes and religious bigotry throughout our society. We oppose the act which grants license to target a specific section of the working class for political gains.
We remain committed to actively engaging with people across Scotland in stamping out religious divisions, divisions which have been engineered to keep working class people at each other’s throats. Unity can only come from education, engagement, shared experience and common struggle.
The irony of this bill whilst trying to impose a morality from above, using strong arm tactics and a politicised police force has only proved to bring fans from across Scotland together to defend themselves. An act that has failed to target sectarian hatred at a handful of clubs has united a generation of young football fans across the country, a generation who have fell foul of a tactically inept police force who had hoped to protect funding, and done nothing to prevent sectarian chanting. In a misdiagnosed attempt to separate football and politics, coordinated actions from fans across the country has proven to politicise many young fans.
We have no doubt that for many the support for this act is well intentioned, unfortunately the resulting tactics, strategy and roll out of the act has proven chaotic, ineffectual and counter-productive. The causes of religious and hatred run deeper in our society than football, they are entwined within our social and economic structures, they are the result of decades of misinformation and division peddled by a system designed to break the cohesion within our communities and divert our attention away from those who cause us the most harm.
The causes of Sectarianism are forced upon us, a solution won’t be found the same way.
We commend Fans Against Criminalisation (FAC) who have campaigned for many year to get the repeal to this stage and we commend the work done by Labour MSP’s in parliament.
We appeal to the SNP, we welcome attempts to combat sectarianism but feel this act has been ill thought out, misused and has shown to have dangerous consequences. There is no shame in repealing the bill in order to rethink and propose new initiatives to rid Scottish society of religious bigotry. A Government willing to do so would show leadership in the face of adversity.
The repeal bill is currently in Stage 2 which allows amendments to be considered, this is expected to be completed within the next month before being voted on again by the Scottish Parliament.
RISE are planning a serious of Public meetings on the OBFA to further the debate and understanding of the act and the impact it has had on football fans and their families.
We remain committed to the cause of Scottish Independence, these debates are crucial as we continue to look at how we build a fairer society.
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