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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 Claire Baker Claire Baker Labour

This has been an interesting debate. Although there has been criticism of the timescale that we have faced with the bill, we have had the opportunity to give a good airing to the issues. Members have identified the key issues. In closing, I will consider where we have reached consensus.

We should not lose sight of the excitement, anticipation and drama that Glasgow’s involvement in such a special tournament will bring. The bill is necessary for our successful involvement in it. Once we have the measures in place, we can focus on the preparations and the possibilities that the events will bring.

The Law Society of Scotland has provided a good description of what we are seeking to achieve with the legislation. It says that

“It is important that the measures in the Bill are commensurate, transparent and appropriate.”

As members recognise, UEFA’s requirements mean that there will be an impact on street traders whose regular business—enabled by having a trade licence—will be affected during the tournament because UEFA is strict about the need to protect its sponsors.

That will impact on traders’ incomes, so the Government might want to say more about what it anticipates the impact will be. Rachael Hamilton talked about measures that have been announced by Glasgow City Council, so perhaps the minister can also say more about that in his closing remarks.

Members raised a number of issues about boundaries for event zones. Clarity on that matter as soon as possible would be welcome. Annabelle Ewing highlighted the impact on street traders and the Law Society’s comments on the need for awareness raising when we know what the boundaries of the event zones will be.

Enforcement powers are a key issue for the committee. As the minister said, the relationship between the police and enforcement officers is supported by Police Scotland, which assured the committee of police and enforcement officers’ ability to work together. Police Scotland said that it

“is confident that there is nothing outlined in the provisions of the proposed Bill that would negatively impact upon that positive working relationship.”

However, a number of members expressed concern about enforcement officers. Ross Greer, I think, described the powers in the bill as being too “broad and invasive”. There is a need for clarity on who can be an enforcement officer. The minister’s comment about local authority employees was welcome.

There is also a need to clarify the limits on the use of

“any other person as may be reasonably required”.

Mike Rumbles mentioned the committee’s recommendation that the police be notified in such circumstances. Having looked again at our report, I accept that the committee needed to be clearer. It would be helpful if the minister would respond in his closing speech to Mike Rumbles’s comments.

I also ask the minister to reflect on the apparent tension between the role of the enforcement officer and that of the police officer. As I understand it, an enforcement officer’s responsibilities are similar to those of a trading standards officer. However, evidence from Calum Steele, from the Scottish Police Federation, suggests that there is an on-going debate about the appropriate balance of power between police officers and trading standards officers. Will the minister say whether that is to do with the bill or is part of a broader debate?

Ross Greer talked about the legacy and how we sustain the interest that major events and sporting successes generate. As he said, there has been disappointment about the extent to which the benefits of the Commonwealth games cascaded down to communities to provide longer-lasting benefits. We need to consider that.

Brian Whittle focused on public engagement and pointed out that not just the scrutiny time is short, but the implementation period is, too, in the lead-up to the tournament. There is a lot of work for everyone to do.

Stuart McMillan pointed out that the bill is similar to elements of the bill that became the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Act 2008. However, that bill was more extensive. Although the committee had more time to consider it, it took less evidence and concentrated on hearing from ministers and officials—although that might have been to do with attitudes to the Commonwealth games sometimes being warmer than attitudes to UEFA.

The timescale has been challenging for the committee. Issues were raised in the request for responses, which it was important for the committee to have the opportunity to scrutinise.

James Kelly and Stuart McMillan talked about the prevalence of ticket touts at big venues and events, as well as online. Ticket touting across sectors has been difficult to tackle. Resale of football tickets has been banned since 1994, but it is not illegal to resell for profit a ticket for a music event. The minister might want to clarify why the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 does not apply to the UEFA European championship.

The introduction of a voluntary code of conduct changed the behaviour of Ticketmaster and raised standards across the industry. The Competition and Markets Authority’s work to enforce the existing legislation has been important. The CMA agreed to legal undertakings by StubHub and Ticketmaster last year, but was forced to serve Viagogo with a court order.

When I was checking facts for today’s debate, I put “UEFA Euro 2020” into a search engine. Members will imagine my horror when the first link that came up was “Europe 2020 tickets on sale” from the Viagogo site. It was only when I clicked on the link that it became clear that the tickets are for soft rock group Europe, which is touring with Whitesnake and Foreigner. The point of that story is that the first link to come up was not about football or the tournament but about Viagogo’s attempts to sell secondary tickets. The bill and enforcement of the existing legislation must be robust enough to prevent ticket touting during the tournament.

The confirmation that it will be possible to auction tickets for charity is welcome. A number of members talked about the importance of striking a balance.

Members also talked about the concerns of residents in and around the event zones. Miles Briggs highlighted restrictions on businesses. He called for the regulations to be clear and for businesses to be supported to comply.

This is an important stage of the bill. I look forward to the amendments that the minister is expected to lodge. The issues that MSPs have raised in this afternoon’s debate need to be addressed. We all want the tournament in Glasgow to be a positive experience for everyone who is involved.