Calm down, repealing OBFA is consensus politics in action
I don’t want to get too deep into why I think the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act (OBFA) is a bad law as we have gone into this before.
There are many well articulated serious arguments out there as to the problems with the law. In fact, the consultation paper on the draft repeal bill makes a lucid and substantial case.
Despite many prominent pro-independence people making intelligent arguments against the law, many believe that those arguments don’t fully explain their stance. Some find it hard to understand that it is possible for a pro-independence supporter to use the powers of mere logic and come up with an opinion that contradicts the SNP.
There must be another reason not based on rationality. They must have been subverted by a unionist plot to halt the march of independence.
Some indy minded folk are refusing to vote Green over this outrage, even though the Greens are more gung-ho about independence than the SNP at the moment. People are taking CommonSpace off of their bookmark lists on the back of one dodgy article they subsequently corrected, even though CommonSpace produce by far the most diverse and balanced content of any pro-indy outlet.
Others are calling the opposition parties lazy for proposing a repeal bill instead of coming up with alternative legislation.
It is hard for them to understand that those against the bill believe that no alternative legislation is actually needed. Many things are criminalised under OBFA that we believe shouldn’t be a crime, and the things that should be prosecuted were already crimes before the law was introduced. It is not lazy to fail to propose an alternative when one is not needed. Besides, it is a lot of work to produce a private bill, send it out for consultation and put it through parliament. (Incidentally, pretty much everyone agrees that the way to deal with the dirty side of football is for the SFA to start docking points for the nasty behaviour of fans).
For some, it is easier to dismiss all of the prominent, intelligent arguments by a broad range of people, from all walks of life and all sides of politics, than to admit the Scottish Government might have got this one wrong.
The Anti-Social Behaviour at Football Act is the only act that has been passed in the Scottish parliament without cross-party support. The fact that is was rushed through by a majority government, not in need of consensus, is one reason it is undoubtedly so unfit for purpose. This gets to the heart of why repealing it isn’t all bad for those independence-minded folk who support the bill.
For repealing based on the rational case put forth in the draft bill is a public demonstration that our system is working properly.
That the consensus politics we talked about so much in the run-up to the 2014 referendum actually makes a difference. Compare the Scottish system to Westminster, where a party with less than a third of the popular vote can have complete control over everything.
Now, if like me you believe in turning Scotland into a more representative and as such, egalitarian country, then you are going to have to get more used to losing a few debates.
We are going to have to learn to be more open and engage more easily with the arguments of others. What is going to happen to OBFA isn’t politicking, OBFA is getting punted due to being subjected to a superior form of politics than the one that sorts out the big ticket issues still reserved to London.
If the UK had a system that was designed to force consensus we wouldn’t have the bedroom tax or benefits sanctions.
OBFA was passed during a period when the Scottish voting system was broken by a remarkably hard to repeat SNP performance.
So, when James Kelly introduces his bill and it goes through the Scottish parliament, those disappointed by the decision can console themselves with the fact that they have been the victims of a better kind of democracy. It will enhance your repertoire of pro-indy arguments.
You will know exactly what to mention when an undecided tells you that ‘all politicians are the same so what’s the point’ or when a unionist heckles that ‘Scotland is a one-party state’.
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