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Background Info

It is significant to note that when this Act was ushered through Parliament, the Scottish Government gave an explicit guarantee that this legislation would be reviewed in full by August 2015. It is our contention that they have utterly failed to do so.

The government have published an Evaluation report carried out by researchers at the University of Stirling and believe that by doing so; they have fulfilled their obligation for such a review. The University of Stirling team themselves however released a statement to clarify that this work was not in any way a review of the Act or, indeed, fully supportive of it.  We also feel that the Government were selective in terms of which section of the Evaluation Report they chose to highlight.

First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, stated that he wished to build a consensus around this issue and legislation, prior to it being voted on in Parliament, yet it had to be forced through on the basis of the SNP majority alone since no other MSP or any party was willing to vote for it.  Years have since passed and still the only consensus which exists is in opposition to this act. Every mainstream opposition party in the Scottish Parliament opposes it, as do fan groups, lawyers, judges and football clubs (such as Celtic FC who have released several statements to that effect).

We remain adamant that a full and frank review, at which we (as well as other interested stakeholders) would be given the opportunity to provide evidence, is in the public interest. The government cannot reasonably expect to kick this political football in to the long grass and have the issue disappear. The statistics released by the Scottish Government provide their own story as to the mess which has been created, with recent figures showing convictions rates as shockingly low as 22%. This demonstrates that far greater scrutiny is required.

The Stirling report also revealed the fears of prominent judges that the OBAF Act infringes upon civil liberties, and policing concerns that violence at football matches has in fact increased as a result of resources being diverted to police offensiveness.

Above all, however, two key concerns remain paramount.

To create a law which clearly discriminates against one section of society, creating a criminal offence which only applies to this group, is fundamentally wrong. This Act by definition  football fans and discriminates against them.

And secondly, to create a law which outlaws something as subjective as ‘offensiveness’ is both ridiculous and inherently dangerous. If you outlaw 'offensiveness' it creates a broadening blurring of what is allowed and what is not. It is very easy to see how freedom of speech is under immense risk within this context.

No satisfactory rebuttal has ever been offered by the Scottish Government in regards to these concerns. This Act has been opposed by every mainstream opposition political party, lawyers, sheriffs, fans groups, football clubs and civil liberties groups. Fans Against Criminalisation feel that we have sufficient evidence to demonstrate that this act is unjust and unworkable. We feel that we should have the right to present such evidence in Parliament to make the case that this legislation must be repealed within the context of a full review.

Ultimately, our aim is for this Act to be repealed however a proper review would grant us as a pressure group the opportunity to properly make the case that this is required for the benefit of society. It is unjust and undemocratic that the Scottish Government have been able to flaunt what we believe to be a skewed analysis of statistics without being properly challenged, especially on a matter which has been so divisive.

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