The SNPs parliamentary majority and comfortable lead in opinion polls makes it likely they will pass their Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill this week, once and for all removing government and police responsibility to produce separate reports on sectarian crime. Instead, a range of offenses, some new, some old, will be lumped together, including a myriad of profanities.
Alex Salmond’s government has been reluctant to provide a breakdown on sectarian crime despite being asked to produce them since 2007 and has presided over the destruction of all but last year’s data. Even the release of this data required research and analysis to divine the nature of the crime.
They have also refused to re-collect data from police records, demonstrating shocking arrogance on a subject they have invested enormous amounts of resource elsewhere on. Your last window on sectarian crime under this government, acute though it is, is about to be bricked in.
The Government have also politicised the police in a manner reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher’s government during the miner’s strike. An Anti-Sectarian Crime unit appeared on the ground, without any reference to churches and community groups most affected by sectarian crime. After the Nottinghill Carnival riots of the 1970s the Metropolitan Police learned painful lessons about how necessary it was to involve community groups and leaders in any action which can be perceived to be focused on any specific section of society.
The leadership of Strathclyde Police, which looks likely to benefit from Scottish Government changes to stage a takeover of the entire Scottish police operation, appears to be, quite literally, 35 years behind their London counterparts, who long ago learned that community engagement comes first.
In the light of how they have served each other’s interests with little regard to the public, this cosy relationship of non-consulting and ambitious number of police officers from Glasgow and Holyrood politicians must be prevented from harvesting control of a combined Scottish force – the biggest prize up for grabs in policing in decades.
The proposed Bill has received almost no support from the football community and faith groups. Repealing it and de-politicising ambitious police officers will surely be one of the key promises of Salmond’s political opponents at the next Scottish Parliament elections, who will at least be able to find a popular rallying call.