For the second time in the space of a few months, the centre of Scotland’s largest city was taken over by a horde of drunken aggressive men, destroying public property and attacking the police, passers by, and one another, and leaving a trail of destruction and chaos in their wake. Up to 15,000 Rangers fans congregated in the city in order to celebrate their team’s victory in the league. They ignored the official guidance prohibiting gathering in large groups. Few wore face coverings and there was little attempt at social distancing. The fact that Glasgow is perched precariously on the verge of a third wave of the virus and this mass gathering could have acted as a super-spreader event did not factor into the selfish calculations of those present. All that these entitled men (and they were overwhelmingly men) cared about was their own god-given absolute right to act as they pleased without caring about the consequences.
It was notable that those Conservative politicians who had been quick to condemn last week’s protest against the Home Office raid in Kenmure Street were silent when it came to speaking out against the Union flag bedecked yob violence which scarred Glasgow at the weekend. However the day before the violence the Tory MSP Murdo Fraser sought to draw a false equivalence between the Pollokshields protest and the anticipated “celebration” due that weekend. This was crass even by Murdo’s standards. A peaceful community protest is not remotely comparable to a drunken violent rampage by football hooligans. The residents of Kenmure Street did not choose for a Home Office van to descend on their street and attempt to detain and deport two of their neighbours. They were reacting in the only way possible to an unwanted event which had been visited upon them. There was no other way to prevent their neighbours’ deportation. Urgent and immediate action was vital. It is shameful, as some Conservative and British nationalist apologists have done, to attempt to draw a moral equivalence between this and drunken yobs going on a violent rampage as they assert their privilege and entitlement.
The Rangers fans in Glasgow at the weekend were attacking police officers, setting off dangerous fireworks, fighting with each other, throwing objects around, destroying public property, smashing bottles and urinating in the street. The socially distanced protestors at the marches or those responding to the attempted deportation did not do any of this. They took steps to act responsibly and to ensure that those not involved were not negatively impacted. The hooligans in George Square made a point of causing distress, upset and harm to other people.
However Rangers fans did not need to congregate in their thousands in the streets in order to celebrate their team’s victory. Far less did they need to embark upon a violent and destructive rampage while chanting sectarian hate-filled songs. If they had just wanted to celebrate, they could have celebrated at home and while obeying lockdown restrictions in the exact same way that the rest of us have been forced to celebrate important and significant life events during the course of this pandemic.
But for many of those present this wasn’t about celebration, it was something far more primitive, it was a territorial assertion of ownership. Those union flags were British nationalists telling us all that they own this city, that they own these streets. The violent and aggressive gathering was a reflection of the deep sense of entitlement of British nationalism. When you assert that “We are the people” you are implying that others are not part of “the people”, that they are somehow alien and less deserving of rights and recognition. When you accompany that with sectarian anti -catholic songs, it’s clear that you are asserting that Scots with an Irish catholic heritage are not properly Scottish at all.
However there are also institutional failures at play here. Police Scotland seemed to have been ill-prepared for disturbances which could have been predicted based upon the behaviour of some Rangers fans in March. The force stands accused of double standards, being markedly more tolerant of the misbehaviour of right wing thugs and Rangers fans waving union flags than it was of socially distanced Black Lives Matter protestors. Such double standards merely reinforce the sense of entitlement of those running riot and tells them that their bad behaviour will be indulged.
The football authorities must also take responsibility. The only way that fans will learn to behave is when they realise that their poor behaviour has negative consequences for their club. The SFA must apply severe sanctions to a club after its supporters have behaved the way some Rangers fans behaved over the weekend. The SFA has described the events of the weekend as an abomination not a celebration. But will they give meaning to their words?
The best way to ensure that this sort if thing does not happen again is for fans to be self-policing but that will only happen when fans see that their club will have to pay a heavy price when groups of fans misbehave. These sanctions should include the club being stripped of titles and trophies, clubs being forced to play matches behind closed doors, the loss of points, and in severe cases instant relegation. Fans will continue to misbehave if they think that the worst that will happen is that their club gets a slap on the wrist. I don’t care for football, I have no interest in league titles or trophies. I have no skin in this game, but the behaviour of some Rangers fans over this weekend was egregious enough that the club should be stripped of the title whose win was being “celebrated”. Unfortunately that’s unlikely to happen. We’ll get some platitudes and nothing meaningful will happen, exactly the same as the last time and all the times before that.
We have come to accept it as normal in Glasgow that anti-catholic bigotry is freely displayed on our streets. There’s nothing normal about it at all. They call themselves Loyalists but they are not loyal to the rule of law or to standards of common decency. The only thing that they are loyal to is what they perceive as their absolute right to impose themselves on the rest of us. And that is British nationalism in a nutshell. British nationalists in Scotland rail against the “divisiveness” of another independence referendum but turn a blind eye to the sectarian divisions fostered by some of their own supporters.
NEW MODERATION POLICY
In the wake of recent events I am determined that this site will not become a home for bigots and conspiracy theorists. They will not be welcome here. Moderation is the most stressful part of running a blog, but this site is going to continue to make the positive case for independence. With this in mind as of today a new moderation policy is in force.
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