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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

First, I thank all members for their contributions to the debate this afternoon and, like others, thank the organisations that gave evidence, from different perspectives, to the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee in its scrutiny of the bill. I am glad that there is clearly widespread support across the chamber for the bill’s general principles and for Glasgow taking its place on the world stage alongside the other 11 host cities, which Annabelle Ewing helpfully listed, as part of the UEFA European championship’s 60th anniversary.

I will take away and consider all the points of constructive feedback that have been raised in the debate. As I said in my opening remarks, I will address those issues when I go to the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee for stage 2 of the bill and will seek to do so in a spirit of collaboration and co-operation.

As we are all aware, official sponsors provide a vital source of funding for the championship, as Stuart McMillan mentioned, without which it would not take place or might require additional public investment. The bill not only helps to protect sponsors’ investment by preventing ambush marketing, but it will ensure a welcoming environment for spectators, protect the character of the event and help to ensure safe access to the event zones. Crucially, as other members have highlighted, the bill will criminalise ticket touting for profit, which will support the official sale of tickets and ensure fair access to football matches for fans, as James Dornan indicated.

We seek to strike the right balance in providing reassurance to UEFA that commercial rights have been protected in key areas, while minimising the impact on local businesses and allowing them to benefit from the economic opportunity that Euro 2020 represents. With 200,000 visitors expected in Glasgow and Scotland more widely during the championship, there will be an increase in trade for local hotels but also, importantly, for shops and restaurants in and around the event zones. We believe that the championship as a whole presents a significant economic opportunity for Scotland and for Glasgow in particular.

In the time remaining to me, I will address some points that members raised earlier. First, I thank all parties for expressing their support for the bill’s principles. Mike Rumbles made the important point that, although we based the bill on the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Act 2008, we should seek to make the bill as good as possible—I share that sentiment.

To do that, we added section 9, on street traders, to the bill before it was introduced. Section 9 states:

Glasgow City Council must offer alternative trading arrangements to existing street traders during the times when the trading offence applies.”

That section was included after consideration of issues relating to the ECHR, and to ensure that the street traders who will be disrupted have some economic benefit. I am grateful to Conservative members, as well as to James Dornan and Annabelle Ewing, for raising that point.

Members raised points about the zones and engagement. I have spoken about the engagement that the Government and Glasgow City Council have previously undertaken. I note that we will have meetings with Mount Florida community council on 7 November, and a meeting with Hampden residents, the SFA, Glasgow Life and other stakeholders is planned for 14 November. That engagement will continue in order to ensure that businesses are clear on what the bill entails. That work will be done with the community council, and I look forward to clarifying some points with it.

Many of the points that the community council raised, and which members have raised in the debate, relate to the ECHR and enforcement. Quite rightly, there has been a strong focus on civil liberties and on how we get the balance right. When the bill was being drafted, ensuring compliance with articles 5, 6 and 8 in relation to the enforcement of offences was considered. Sections 20 and 21 were included in the bill to protect compliance with the ECHR.

The committee, including Ross Greer and Mike Rumbles, focused on enforcement in relation to section 19, which is on the power to enter and search. The SPF also mentioned enforcement in its written and oral evidence to the committee. I draw members’ attention to the third bullet point in my response to the committee’s report, at which I say that we will clarify

“that the power to enter and search a place without a warrant in section 19 can only apply where permission to enter and search is given by a person who is able to grant that permission in relation to the property, by explicitly stating this on the face of the Bill.”

I will look to do that at stage 2. I hope that, when that is done, some of the concerns that have been raised with start to fall away.