Old Firm Summit

– in the Scottish Parliament on 10th March 2011.

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Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Scottish National Party

4. To ask the First Minister what progress was made at the summit on Tuesday 8 March concerning the disorder at and following recent old firm football matches. (S3F-2954)

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government, at the request of Strathclyde Police, was happy to convene Tuesday’s summit to chart a way forward. There was good will from all parties in addressing the issues that we know are our collective responsibility. There is no place in football for those who let their passion for the game become violence or their pride in it become bigotry. These issues will not be resolved overnight. I know that the chamber is united in supporting that continuing process and the work of the action group that came out of Tuesday’s meeting.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Scottish National Party

Does the First Minister agree that one of the biggest concerns about football violence is related domestic violence? That is not caused by football, nor is it caused by alcohol. Football gives the excuse; alcohol turns thoughts into actions. Until we, as a society, tackle the underlying issues that allow some men to think that violence is acceptable behaviour, all the summits in the world—welcome as that one was, especially as it was held on international women’s day—will not turn the problem of domestic violence against women around. We need to get to the root of the problem, which means not just asking why some men are violent after football games, but asking why some men are violent, and what each and every one of us can do to tackle that together.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

I thank Anne McLaughlin for raising the issue. The rise in the incidence of domestic violence after old firm clashes was charted and presented by the chief constable and was one of the central reasons for the summit.

Domestic violence is abhorrent and it has long-term implications for future generations. Work done by the violence reduction unit, for example, shows that children who witness such behaviour at home are damaged and go on to be disturbed and violent adults who repeat the cycle. There can be no excuse for domestic violence—not alcohol, not football—but that does not mean we cannot take targeted action together when we see flashpoints and when people and institutions can be mobilised to help the campaign.

One of the positive results of the summit was the police initiative, supported by the old firm clubs, for an agreement to examine the use of football banning orders and the clubs’ codes of conduct to deal with criminal behaviour away from the grounds. That criminal behaviour—and it is criminal behaviour—includes domestic violence. That was one of the positive ideas that came out of the summit.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

I welcome the continuation of funding to groups that are involved in shifting attitudes against sectarianism. There is no doubt that it is a complex issue that requires a coherent response backed up by leadership. In addition to that funding, what specific civil service resources will be used to provide support and guidance to those groups to bring about a positive change in attitudes in our communities?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

I salute the work of the nine anti-sectarianism groups that are funded by the Government. As the member well knows, that funding has increased substantially during the past three years and it is money well spent. The actions and direction of organisations such as the sense over sectarianism project, Nil by Mouth, Show Racism/Bigotry the Red Card, the Iona Community, the Youth Community Support Agency, Bridging the Gap and Supporters Direct in Scotland are community-based actions that should be lauded and supported by every single person in the chamber.

Earlier I mentioned the action group that was formed from Tuesday’s summit. That will go ahead with good work. The work of the other groups that I mentioned is to be supported and co-ordinated so that we can be certain that the excellent work that they do has the maximum effect. In addition to supporting each of those groups, as we should do, the co-ordination and the will to make that happen will mean that community initiatives receive greater support from the national Parliament and have greater impact in the communities in which they work.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

Does the First Minister agree that the overwhelmingly searing image of the recent events was the sight of the manager of Celtic and the assistant manager of Rangers squaring up to each other, following a number of on-field incidents involving players and staff? Does the First Minister agree that when football managers and players are paid the sums of money that they are and act as role models for our young people, the clubs and the Scottish Football Association must get their houses in order? Was that discussed at the summit? What undertakings did the First Minister get from the clubs on those issues?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

Yes, that was discussed at the summit. The clubs willingly made undertakings and the police made proposals that were directed at addressing and reinforcing that point. They were well received and agreed at the summit.

I want to mention another important aspect. Football players and management are heroes or role models to hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland. That must be well understood and they must take responsibility for it.

The summit also considered the spread of threats and violence, particularly because of the recent threats against the Celtic manager that were, of course, condemned by everyone, as we would expect. Threats and sectarian behaviour on the internet were also discussed. I thought that it was a positive aspect of the summit that the police indicated their determination that there can be no immunity and no anonymity. If people commit illegality over the internet, they shall be traced and dealt with just as if they had committed illegality in any other aspect of life.