To ask the Scottish Executive whether it has any concerns about the public order implications of the decision of the Scottish Football Association to stage the semi-final of the Tennent's Scottish cup between Heart of Midlothian FC and Hibernian FC at Hampden Park on Sunday 2 April 2006 at 12.15 pm. (S2O-9451)
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I was temporarily in despair.
Hugh Henry's answer about the use of videoconferencing and information technology was
Maureen Macmillan has written to me about that issue. I will reply to her shortly.
Along with SLAB, we need to reflect on a number of aspects of the matter. We must consider not only the availability of solicitors, but what other options might be provided, including publicly funded solicitors. In addition, certain parts of the rules may need to be examined and perhaps changed. There is no doubt that justice cannot be delivered if parts of Scotland are neglected, so we must demonstrate flexibility and imagination to ensure that everyone has proper access to justice.
In response to Mr McLetchie's question, I say that the decision to stage the match at Hampden was one for the SFA to take following consultation of the clubs, police and other relevant parties. As a football fan myself, I know that the vast majority of people who attend events like the semi-final do so to enjoy themselves. If everyone heeds the advice of the police and stewards, Scottish football will be the winner.
I do not know about Scottish football being the winner; I hope that it is Hearts football team. Does the minister agree that the SFA's decision to stage the match at Hamden instead of Murrayfield betrays a total disregard for the interests of some 50,000 supporters, especially given the considerable inconvenience and expense to which they will be put? Indeed, the decision is all the more galling when we have a magnificent neutral venue in Edinburgh in which to stage the match. Does the minister further agree that policing costs will be higher as a result of the decision? Will she advise the SFA that it should pay proper regard to the interests of fans and to the costs to the public purse in future decisions on the dates, timings and venues of such games?
I may at times wish that my responsibilities extended to the Scottish Football Association. I am afraid that they do not—indeed, it would not be appropriate for them to do so. Of
As an interested neutral—I would not, of course, take any side in the matter—I say that Hearts last won the cup in 1998, which is the year after Kilmarnock won it, but that Hibs last won it in 1902. I would make no prediction of the result on that basis, however.
I well remember that cup win, Presiding Officer. [ Laughter. ] I expect it to be repeated with gusto.
I am concerned about the number of people who will have to queue for tickets; not the assured tickets at Waverley station, but those that will be distributed on a first-come-first-served basis, the estimated amount of which is 1,500, but the special trains can carry only 1,700. Can the minister do anything, even at this late stage, to alleviate the considerable possibility for tension?
As I indicated in my previous answer, the match commander has been in touch with supporters organisations and the various police forces—Lothian and Borders police, British Transport police and Strathclyde police. I understand that the intention of the police is to ensure that the message gets across to fans that, if they do not have a ticket to get on one of the trains, they should not turn up at Waverley station. The police are asking those people to look for alternative methods of getting to the match.