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UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th November 2019.

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Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

I am glad to open this debate on stage 1 of the UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Bill and to seek Parliament’s backing for the general principles of the bill.

The UEFA championship is a remarkable sporting event that attracts global audiences, and in June and July next year—2020—we look forward to seeing the best of football at Hampden park as part of one of the biggest sporting events in the world. The Scottish Government and our partners in the local organising committee for the event are delighted to be involved in the 60th anniversary of the event, which will provide a “Euro for Europe”, with 12 cities across the continent hosting matches, including Glasgow. We look forward to welcoming others from across Europe to our shores and to enjoying the tournament together.

Glasgow and Scotland have a strong track record of successfully delivering major global sporting events, which bring significant benefits not just for our economy but for our international reputation. Importantly, we expect that the excitement and memories that are created by the championship will be on a par with those surrounding other famous football matches that have taken place in Glasgow. The impact will be magnified if, as we hope, Scotland manage to qualify through the nations league play-offs.

Hosting a major event often involves meeting certain requirements of the rights holder. The bill that we are debating today seeks to ensure the successful delivery of Euro 2020 in line with the requirements of the Union of European Football Associations for all 12 host cities. The bill will protect commercial rights in relation to ticket touting, street trading and advertising. It also contains measures in relation to enforcement.

The bill provides for three event zones in Glasgow where fans can enjoy the occasion and where the street trading and advertising restrictions will apply. I recognise that a key area of interest for Parliament and those who are affected by the bill will be where the zones are. For that reason, during stage 1, I shared with the committee draft maps of the proposed Hampden park, George Square and merchant city event zones. I have also shared illustrative regulations to indicate how the Scottish Government expects to use the powers that are included in the bill, and I welcome any feedback on those.

I turn to the scrutiny of the bill. The timescales for consideration are shorter than usual, which I appreciate has made scrutiny more challenging. I therefore commend and thank the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee for the diligent way in which it has undertaken stage 1 consideration. The committee heard from a range of stakeholders, and I also thank those organisations for contributing to the process. I thank the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee and the Finance and Constitution Committee for their consideration of the bill.

We now have the stage 1 report. I welcome the lead committee’s unanimous support for the general principles of the bill. I think that we all have the same aim, which is to ensure that the bill plays its part in delivering a fantastic event. In that spirit, I will now say more about the Government’s thinking on some of the matters that are raised in the report. I particularly want to focus on the timescales and plans for evaluation of the bill, the enforcement powers and our proposals for ticket touting. Finally, I will talk briefly about engagement on the bill.

On timescales and evaluation, members may be aware that the Scottish Government and its partners had worked to establish whether it would be possible to meet UEFA’s requirements without the need for additional primary legislation. However, after that was explored in detail with UEFA, it was confirmed in only April 2019 that a bill would be necessary to provide the level of protection that UEFA requires to host the event. Since then, the Scottish Government has been working swiftly to develop the bill. In doing so, we have sought to learn from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Act 2008, which is the most recent piece of legislation in Scotland for a major event. Subject to parliamentary approval, the Scottish Government proposes that the bill completes its parliamentary process more quickly than usual so that the secondary legislation can be laid early in 2020 in order to give those affected as much time as possible to prepare. Thinking forward, I have committed to evaluate after the event how the legislation for Euro 2020 worked in practice, which could help to inform the consideration of legislative requirements for future events in Scotland.

The enforcement provisions have been a key area of scrutiny during stage 1. The consideration included the range of powers that enforcement officers should have, who should be able to be appointed as an enforcement officer and who should be able to assist an enforcement officer. I welcome the feedback from the committee on those points in the stage 1 report and when I appeared in front of the committee.

The enforcement provisions are almost identical to those in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Act 2008 and are similar to enforcement powers in other pieces of Scottish and United Kingdom legislation. The provisions are also supported by Police Scotland. Nevertheless, following the committee’s scrutiny and my deliberations, I recognise that it is possible to make the provisions clearer and that it may be helpful to strengthen protections in some areas. As a result, the Scottish Government will lodge amendments at stage 2 to respond to a number of the points that have been raised by the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee. I have set out my evaluation of those points in more detail in my response to the committee’s stage 1 report. The proposed amendments include adding criteria to limit the appointment of enforcement officers to people who are employed by Glasgow City Council or other local authorities in Scotland.

I turn to ticket touting. Sadly, as members will know, many major events are blighted by the presence of ticket touts. The Scottish Government, working in partnership with UEFA, wants to prevent that from happening for the Euro 2020 championship. The bill will help to ensure fair access to tickets by creating a new criminal offence, carrying a maximum fine of £5,000, which will act as a deterrent and allow action to be taken to address ticket touting that is carried out either in person or—crucially—electronically.