Sport & Politics DO Mix

Independence CelticContrary to the cliché, sport and politics DO actually mix. Whether you think that is a good thing or not is where the debate comes in.

Most people seem to like politics at football (or sport in general) as long as it is politics they agree with.

In order to see where you stand on the political issues you could compare your reactions to what Tommy Smith and John Carlos did at the Mexico Olympics or Emily Davidson becoming a martyr for the suffragette movement to some of the right-wing banners you see, for example, amongst the Serbian fans.

I was happy last night because there were two little political bits that I noticed that were both up my political street. At the Celtic V Barcelona match I was happy to see this banner in amongst the support…

But I’d have to say that yesterday the politics in football trophy goes to Greenpeace for their amazing protest which involved abseiling off the stadium roof and unfurling a huge banner at the Basel V Schalke match.

Here are a couple of videos of the event. I also notice that UEFA are blocking some of them…


Time For A Review

k1Recently the Scottish Government have suggested they aren’t particularly interested in speeding up a review of the Offensive Behaviour Bill, but I think some of the following information might make people want to see a review before 2015, when the review is due to come up.

These statistics were obtained from the Scottish Government by Siobhan McMahon MSP and were stated in an interview by  Jeanette Findlay from the Celtic Trust and Fans Against Criminilisation. You can find the original recording here, starting from about 66 minutes.

The first question put was…

“What projects have been funded to tackle sectarianism in each of the last two years?”

This was asked to get an idea of what educational projects were underway. The answer gave some rather surprising facts about where the money was going.

In short, according to Findlay and McMahon (via ScotGov)…

  • A large amount of the funding for anti-sectarianism educational projects, in fact more than half of it, went to the FOCUS (Football Coordination Unit for Scotland) group of the police.
  • In 2011-12 this group received 75% of the funding
  • In 2012-13 they received 32% of the funding
  • They received 1.82 million in total
  • This unit consists of no more than 10 people

Furthermore, this group are there to police an act which at no point mentions sectarianism, but rather mentions “Offensive Behaviour”.

Findlay went on to say…

“One of the things that FAC (Fans Against Criminilisation) has always said is “in whose interest is this?”. The only people in whose interest this act now remains is the police service of Scotland because this is funding which is separate from their core budget. They have a core budget which is getting squeezed so  they need to find other nice tempting budgets that they can get into, and they seem to be swallowing up the bulk of this budget.

A second question was put…

“How many people have been convicted under the Offensive Behaviour Act?”

  • 64 people were prosecuted and of those, 54 were convicted  under the part of the act which is about offensive behaviour at football between 1st March 2012 and 31st December 2012
  • Before taking into account the costs of the lawyers, the court system etc, that works out as £33,703 per conviction.
  • There were 4 people prosecuted under the part of the act which is about threatening communications and one person was convicted under that.
  • Of Celtic supporters, who have been involved in the major protests against the bill and rightly or wrongly feel somewhat more persecuted by it, no one who has pleaded “not guilty” (and therefore gone to trial) has actually been convicted.

BHKhiunCMAIqRK9.jpg largeFindlay also said that another question will be asked about whether these people could have been convicted under existing section 74 offences (such as Breach of the peace, religious aggravation).


  • If you look at 2011-12 the last full year of Section 74 stats, only 8% of all religious aggravated offences took place at football grounds.
  • Therefore, only 8% of offences but then 75% and then 32% of the budgets for anti-sectarian projects are directed towards the policing of football. That makes 50% of the budget for 8% of the offences.
  • More than 10,000 letters have been sent to MSPs raising concerns about the bill. That was in turn discussed in the Justice Committee meeting of the Parliament of the 23rd April.

It’s time to bring forward the review of this.

Finally, she suggested people should be putting in Freedom of Information Requests.



My podcasting colleague has informed me that, contrary to the impression I got from a recent interview on the subject of bringing forward the review, the law cannot be reviewed formally at any given time, although an informal review can obviously be done at any time.

Further, the requirement to report is built into the act itself and the law would need to be amended to speed up any review.

That said, given the car crash nature of the law, they should just get on with it.

Is Britain Corrupt?

People have been sending me this guy’s stuff for quite a while now but I have to admit 2 things – the first is that the one below is the first one I have really paid attention when I was watching, and the second is that he has a point.

It’s worth remembering that this is a character the guy plays but at the same time, he has been active in many political arenas too. He had an MP in the back of his taxi one time too.

I don’t think I agree with him on all points but in this one, more or less…

For A’ That 25 – Debating The Point

CorporatePestControlFor episode 25 of For A’ That Andrew and I were joined by Kate Higgins of the Burdzeyeview blog and others.

It was unfortunately unavoidable to talk about Farage, so we did.

We also spoke about the recent TV debates. Entertainment or real debate? Enlightening or just sound and fury? BBC or STV?

Kate spoke about the new victims and witnesses bill that is coming up and this moved us on to topics apart from the referendum. Should we be doing that more? That’s “we” in the sense of the podcast and “we” as in the sense of the people.

Finally, it’s about time someone gave Walt Disney what for, the question is, should it have been me or should Alex Salmond be doing it?

(The documentary I referenced is called “Mickey Mouse Monopoly” and if you want to watch it, the full thing is HERE.)

Hope you enjoy…

As usual, this is the direct download link (right click and save as)

You can listen to the show online at its web page

Or you can subscribe with itunes


Michael Greenwell

Oh and in case you were wondering, the outro is in honour of our guest, who was tweeting about Eurovision the other night.

A Venezuelan Footnote

Something arrived in my inbox and with the permission of its author, who is the political cartoonist Rick The Pleb, and I think it is worthy of a wider audience.

It’s a story direct from the recent protests outside the Venezuelan embassy.

I think it is interesting in a couple of ways. Firstly for what it says about the continuing campaign to undo what Chavez and his companions did, and want to continue doing,  and secondly for what it says about protest in the modern age and how protests are occasionally organised by the rich and powerful to give the impression of a grassroots movement of the people where no such movement actually exists.

Even the Guardian seemed to cover the story from a particularly one-sided perspective, neglecting to mention that there has also been some fairly aggressive behaviour toward Venezuelan consular staff by Capriles supporters,  so I hope this provides some kind of corrective.

Here’s Rick…


I’ve come back from London, where I was attending a counter-demonstration outside the Venezuelan Embassy.

The Opposition supporters who have refused to recognise the election result had organised a demonstration, so a group of us in the Venezuelan Consul yesterday agreed to organise a counter demonstration.

Here’s how the day went…DSC_0170

We (the pro-democracy, pro-Maduro group) arrived early and started to talk to people walking past. Then a few early Opposition demonstrators arrived. I talked to them and tried to reason with them. I quickly realised that facts do not matter to them.

One of the Opposition was from Italy. We ended up talking about Cuba. He said he knew about Cuba because he had seen a documentary on TV !!

“I’ve been to Cuba 7 times” I said.

“But you’ve only been to Havana!”…so I reeled off a list of places I’ve been to “Havana and Santiago, Santa Clara, Guantanamo, Cienfuegos, Bayamo, Holguin, Camaguey, Remedios…”

“Ah, but did you speak to any Cubans!!!” Er…yes!

We clearly would not agree. I said that the Carter Centre and the EU have verified Venezuelan elections as free and fair…and said it would be a big conspiracy if he was correct(!)..a conspiracy of the Venezuelan Government with the EU, Jimmy Carter… “Yes!” he replied.

He even asked me if I was being paid to be there! Er, no. I spent £14 on a train ticket! I said, “OK, can we agree that when the rest of the paper ballots are counted (54% have already been counted)…if it is the same as the electronic vote…can we agree that Maduro is the President?” No prizes for guessing the answer: “Um, er..” and he walks away.

Then the mass of the Opposition arrived. We had already occupied the space around the Embassy, so they could not get near.

One of the Opposition walked down our line saying “Shame on you!”. I gestured comically in shock, so she said “Speak Spanish!” (assuming I couldn’t)…so I said “Yo hablo español” [“I speak Spanish”]…so she walked away.

The Opposition protest organisers had called the police, they wanted us removed! The police arrived and simply stood between the two groups. About 8 policemen, all were OK. The police faced us and had their backs to the Opposition. After about an hour they faced the Opposition – the more likely side for trouble! We were worried that the Opposition would simply kick the crap out of us, so I was quite pleased to have some police there. We were outnumbered by the Opposition, it was their demonstration after all, and the counter-demonstration was only organised yesterday so we didn’t have much time to get people there.

An Opposition demonstrator entered our group and called one of us a “Paki” [slur for Pakistani, or anyone with slightly brown skin]. She swore at him, and then the police escorted him back to his side of the demonstration. There were a few more incursions, mainly to try and remove our flags that were taped to the Embassy wall.

The Opposition were perhaps 99% white, and in their 20s or early 30s (except for a few little kids), and seemed to be mainly Venezuelan or British. I think they clearly had more Venezuelans than us, but then our demonstration was organised in just over 12 hours.

We were a complete mix of ages and colours, and had people from Britain, Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Cuba and Paraguay.Untitled

“Go to Cuba!” they yelled at us. “Go to Miami” we yelled back. By this time we had a proper sound system. We were outnumbered but we were by far the loudest.

The Opposition suddenly had a massive Venezuelan flag. Measuring perhaps 1 metre by 20 metres long! I asked who paid for the flag…no answer. I asked more and more people…one said I had to speak in Spanish! So I asked in Spanish…still no answer.

The funny thing was the number of stars on this flag. The Venezuelan flag has 8 stars. Chavez’s government added the 8th. The Opposition still say there are only 7 stars…but their massive flag had 8.

They put the flag in front of us, then held it up high to block us out from their photos (I assume). Sometimes they would turn and look over the flag to yell at us. If we were speaking English over the megaphone…they would yell “Speak Spanish!!”…so we’d get a Venezuelan, Cuban or a Chilean to speak.

One Opposition girl was speaking at us. I decided to use a metaphor: “If someone comes second in the Olympics, they can’t have the Gold Medal. It’s the same with elections, Capriles came second”. The metaphor was lost on her, she said I knew nothing and walked away.

They continued to complain to the police, but the only people the police had to move away were Opposition protesters trying to cause trouble.

I think we drowned them out with sound, and their films for YouTube or the Opposition Media are hopefully ruined. I don’t think they were happy with our presence!

Then the strangest thing happened. Many of us had been asked if we were being paid to protest. Clearly not. I had looked at my phone to see what time it was. It was nearly 5pm. Then suddenly the entire Opposition protest walked away?!

Now I have been guilty of “clock-watching” in my office job sometimes, and leaving at exactly 5pm. But why would a whole protest suddenly vanish at 5pm? Were they all from the same bus? Were they being paid until 5pm? Were they flown in especially from Venezuela and had to catch the flight home? No idea, but its very strange. Any ideas?

We then had the entire area to ourselves. As people who had probably been visiting the Museums nearby were walking past and taking photos, a group of various nationalities and colours were dancing and singing in a big circle!

En Solidaridad


There are some photos and videos from the event here and here.

For A’ That 21 – The Ex PM & Libel

BHXR7EaCIAA_ben.jpg largeFor episode 21 of the For A’ That podcast, Andrew and I were joined by Peter Bell.

We talked about the passing of Thatcher from a number of different perspectives including historical revisionism, her legacy (and what should be done about it) and were the parties unseemly or not? Andrew spoke about how Scotland may not have been quite as clearly anti-Thatcher as some would like to have us believe.

The second major story of the week was the legal letters that were sent to the people who run Wings Over Scotland and National Collective. On this we spoke more about what this says about the campaign in general that we have so quickly come to such a situation. This got us talking about donations in general and how parties should manage them.

I also made a nice little intro…

As usual, this is the direct download link (right click and save as)

You can listen to the show online at its web page

Or you can subscribe with itunes


Michael Greenwell

Saturday Matinee 21 – Taking Liberties

Civil liberties have been in the news again a lot recently. At the UK level Teresa May floated the idea of withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights and in Scotland there has been much discontent at the Offensive Behaviour Bill.

It’s interesting to take a look back then to the previous Labour Government’s attack on civil liberties and this documentary makes a pretty chilling point. It is of course still relevant as many of the laws they discuss are still being used every day, though the ID card scheme was scrapped.

So here’s the film. Prepare to get angry.

The other films in this series are here.

The Scottish Independence Podcast 17 – Lorna Waite

928008e0-c274-4489-8084-393746de259dThe Scottish Independence Podcast is back after a little break and I hope to have the regular Wednesday = Scottish Independence Podcast, Sunday = For A’ That podcast up and running for the forseeable future.

For this 17th episode I spoke with poet Lorna Waite , author of The Steel Garden, and we had a few topics of conversation.

Firstly we speak about Lorna, herself and her work, and why she believes that any division between the cultural and economic reasons given for independence are false.

We talked about the role of women in the Indy debate and also the more unpleasant colonial aspects of the union, and how we might combat the lack of self-respect that those colonial problems have created in Scotland.

Language got a look in as we spoke about t9780956628343he historical suppression of both the Gaelic and Scots language.

Lorna is also a Rangers supporter and in the second part of the conversation we moved on to talk about a topic that I began with Kris Kujawa in a previous podcast, and talked about how the debate is playing out among football supporters, this time specifically amongst Rangers fans.

We didn’t come up with the brightest prospects in that bit.

As usual this is direct download link (right click and “save as”)

Or you can listen on the show’s homepage.

Or you can subscribe and get it on itunes.