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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 Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

I am pleased to close the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee’s debate on the UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Bill for the Scottish Conservatives. As a member of the committee, I am delighted by contributions from members from across the chamber, and by the consensus that has developed.

Scotland’s hosting of matches at Hampden park during the 2020 European championship is fantastic news for Glasgow and Scotland. We recognise the importance of Euro 2020 and the economic benefits that the tournament will bring to the communities around the stadium.

The bill addresses areas of Scots law that do not meet UEFA’s standards on protection of sponsors’ commercial interests. The Scottish Conservatives support the bill in principle, but we will seek clarification around event zone requirements and the on-going concerns related to the European convention on human rights, which are to do with restrictions on street trading and advertising, which could inhibit businesses. We want to ensure that business is not inhibited.

The powers that are granted to enforcement officers to enter and search private property also need to be looked at. We have discussed at some length the restrictions and the issues around enforcement officers. The possibility that businesses’ peaceful enjoyment of their properties could be affected will, of course, be limited to the times when the event zones are in place during the tournament.

The bill proposes safeguards in relation to enforcement officers’ exercising their powers to enter and search private property. That will occur only if the enforcement officer is accompanied by a police officer or if a warrant has been issued by a sheriff.

The Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee gave its backing to the

UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Bill last week. We looked at, and continue to take, evidence and briefings from a number of organisations. I pay tribute to the organisations and individuals who came and gave of their time to talk about their concerns.

In summary, the range of provisions that the bill seeks to introduce include ticket touting, street trading and designing fan zones. Questions were raised during the committee’s evidence sessions about ensuring that buskers and charity collections would be allowed in the designated fan zones. I am delighted that the Scottish Government has looked at the issue and has created exemptions to ensure that such activities will be allowed during the competition.

I reiterate that the bill consists of five components: prohibition of unauthorised sale of championship tickets for in excess of face value or with a view to making profit; prohibition of unauthorised street trading in event zones while they are in operation; prohibition of unauthorised advertising in event zones; creation of criminal offences for touting, unauthorised street trading and advertising; and designation of enforcement officers and their powers.

We have had a lot of good contributions from across the chamber; I will draw on many of them. Many members spoke about engagement and the opportunity that that engagement has brought, and about ensuring that priority is given to it during the bill’s process.

The minister spoke about Scotland’s track record and the event zones. Committee members were delighted to receive maps that gave us an idea of where the zones will be placed. We were also happy to hear that the Government is listening and will lodge amendments in the next stages.

The committee convener, Joan McAlpine, spoke about the briefing note that we received from the Law Society for Scotland that gave its recommendations. Those recommendations must be listened to and acted on, because they give us real clarity.

Rachael Hamilton spoke about consultation of residents and the business community, which is key to ensuring success. We want a safe, secure and successful event on match days, and in the run-up to them. That is vitally important.

Ross Greer and others highlighted the rushed timescale, about which many of us on the committee had some anxiety. The point was well made: it is important to ensure proper scrutiny in the bill process.

Mike Rumbles talked about the powers that will be given to enforcement officers. There is some dubiety about those officers’ role and responsibilities, so it is important that we look at that. The bill process will give us the opportunity to do so. Brian Whittle talked about Glasgow’s record of hosting international events and said that such events can require appropriate legislation. He also spoke about enforcement and timescales, which are important matters.

The Scottish Conservatives support the bill’s principles, but we will seek clarity from the Government about the hours of operation and precise geographical limits of the proposed event zones. I am sure that the minister will give us some clarity on that in his summing-up speech.

Like the Commonwealth games that Glasgow hosted in 2014, the UEFA championship is an outstanding opportunity for Scotland. Our national stadium will take centre stage, but we must ensure that lessons are learned from the Commonwealth games. We will seek clarity on that as the bill progresses through stage 2 to stage 3.

We welcome the opportunity that the UEFA championship brings to put Scotland on the map, and we welcome the possibilities and opportunities that it will bring for Glasgow and the whole country.