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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 Joan McAlpine Joan McAlpine Scottish National Party

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate on behalf of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee. My committee unanimously agreed our report on the UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Bill last Thursday, and it is symptomatic of the compressed timetable for the bill that this debate is taking place today. In that regard, I am reminded of the words of Leonard Bernstein, who said:

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.”

I thank all the members of the committee and those who provided evidence for their support for our scrutinising the bill within a constrained timetable. As always, I also thank our clerks, who worked so hard to get the report out on time. The compressed timetable has affected me personally because I have a long-standing appointment to support some of my constituents from Langholm, who have travelled to meet the transport minister today. I have alerted you to this, Presiding Officer, but I apologise to members who will speak in the open part of the debate that I will have to step out. My constituents have travelled a long way and I am keen to support them.

The committee recognises the significant culture, tourism and social opportunities that hosting the matches at Hampden park represents for Scotland. Nevertheless, the committee, as one would expect, raises a range of issues with the bill in its stage 1 report. I want to explore those this afternoon, and I am sure that my fellow committee members will want to expand on them.

Euro 2020 will be hosted by 12 member associations of UEFA to mark the 60th anniversary of the European championships, and four matches will take place in Glasgow. To date, five countries are using primary legislation to meet UEFA’s requirements for hosting Euro 2020 matches, while other jurisdictions, such as England, are using secondary legislation. The governance for hosting the Euro 2020 matches is being undertaken by a local organising committee that comprises representatives of the Scottish Football Association, the Scottish Government, Glasgow City Council, Hampden Park Ltd, VisitScotland and Police Scotland.

While considering the bill, the committee became aware that the need for primary legislation became evident only in April this year despite individual members of the local organising committee, such as Glasgow City Council, having been aware that existing legislation would not be sufficient to meet UEFA’s requirements. In contrast, the legislation for the 2014 Commonwealth games was passed in 2008. The committee considers it regrettable that the local organising committee, which includes the Scottish Government, did not anticipate the need for legislation far sooner, given that the Euro 2020 matches were awarded in 2014. However, I welcome the minister’s commitment in his response to the committee’s stage 1 report

“to learn from this experience”.

I am aware that the delay was certainly not connected to the minister, who came into post only recently.

The bill contains a range of measures that seek to protect the commercial rights of UEFA and event sponsors. Specifically, it contains provisions that will put in place restrictions on ticket touting, street trading and advertising, as well as a range of provisions relating to the enforcement of those offences. The provisions replicate equivalent measures in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Act 2008.

The measures in the bill with regard to ticket touting were supported in the evidence that the committee received. However, the committee has sought to understand why the bill provides an exemption for UEFA, particularly as it was clear when it provided evidence to the committee that it has absolutely no intention of engaging in ticket touting. I am sure that we all welcome that.

The committee recognises that the minister considers that the provision is necessary to protect UEFA when reselling tickets on an online platform. Nevertheless, the committee recommends that the Scottish Government reflects on whether the policy intention of the legislation can be made clearer via an amendment at stage 2.

The committee also welcomes commitments that the Scottish Government has made to ensure that 2020 tickets that are sold at above face value for charitable purposes are exempted from the ticket touting provisions.

The street trading and advertising provisions, which seek to prohibit unauthorised street trading in the Euro 2020 event zones in Glasgow, were generally supported. The committee expressed concern that the activities of buskers and charity collectors could be impacted by the street trading measures. Presiding Officer, as you will be aware, Glasgow boasts some of the finest street performers to be found anywhere in Europe and I am therefore delighted that the minister has committed to making busking and charity collections exceptions to the street trading offence. That can only help to add to the atmosphere that travelling fans will experience in the Euro 2020 event zones.

A substantial proportion of the bill deals with the enforcement mechanisms that are designed to underpin the advertising, ticket touting and street trading offences. The bill proposes that enforcement officers are designated to enforce those offences as a practical measure to reduce the resource implications for Police Scotland during the championships. Concerns were expressed by some stakeholders regarding that approach, which replicates the approach that was taken for the 2014 Commonwealth games. For example, the Scottish Police Federation considered that enforcement officers could blur the distinction between police officers and others who are exercising powers that resemble police powers.

Enforcement officers will be local authority officers who deal with trading standards and consumer protection and will be drawn primarily from Glasgow City Council in the first instance. The minister recognised that that is not evident from the bill as currently drafted and he has offered to make the position more explicit in the bill. The committee recommends that the minister lodges such amendments at stage 2.

In addition, the bill proposes that an enforcement officer should be able to seek assistance from another person to assist them in their role, without defining who those other persons may be. The committee considers that to be a potentially wide-ranging power. We therefore recommended that an enforcement officer, when seeking external expert assistance, should notify the police in advance of seeking such assistance.

I recognise that, in his response to the committee’s stage 1 report, the minister has committed to lodge amendments at stage 2 to make the enforcement provisions clearer and

“to strengthen protections in some areas.”

Presiding Officer, I know that public engagement is an issue to which you attach great importance. The Scottish Government recognises that, due to the late recognition of the need for primary legislation, there had not been sufficient time for a full public consultation prior to the introduction of the bill. Similarly, due to the constraints on the time available for scrutiny of the bill, there was limited scope for stakeholders to engage with the parliamentary process. The committee therefore welcomes the on-going efforts of Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government to undertake public engagement. The committee also welcomes the information distribution programme that UEFA intends to implement. However, the committee is unaware of any public engagement that has taken place to date with local community groups, residents or organisations that represent football fans. Accordingly, the committee recommends that the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council consult such groups.

I will briefly consider the approach that is taken to legislating for major events. The committee welcomes the success that Scotland has had in recent years in attracting major events, and it recognises that doing so remains an on-going objective for the Scottish Government. The minister has referred to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Act 2008 as the “gold standard” for such legislation. However, the committee is aware that no formal evaluation of the operation of the 2008 act has been undertaken. The committee has recommended that there should be

“a formal evaluation of the operation of the legislation” following next summer’s Euro 2020 tournament.

The use of individual pieces of legislation in order to host major events was questioned in evidence to the committee. For example, the Scottish Police Federation said:

“If we have weaknesses, we should address them in a substantive way rather than in a way that involves periodically coming up with sticking plasters—if that is an appropriate descriptor—when large-scale events come around”.—[

Official Report

,

Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee

, 3 October 2019; c 26.]

The committee considers that if there are weaknesses in devolved legislation, those should be addressed in a substantive manner, rather than in a piecemeal fashion. Accordingly, the committee has recommended that the Scottish Government should give serious consideration to developing an events framework bill following formal evaluation of the operation of the UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Bill. I acknowledge that the minister has already addressed that point.

The committee recognises the significant cultural, economic and social opportunities that hosting Euro 2020 matches represents for Scotland. The committee hopes that our scrutiny of the bill will improve the approach taken to legislating for hosting major events in the future.

For some of my fellow committee members, football is—to quote that doyen of Scottish football managers, Tommy Docherty—a “lovely, incurable disease”. I know that Glasgow will make a huge success of hosting Euro 2020—the only thing that will enhance the experience of hosting the tournament in Glasgow will be for Scotland to qualify for the tournament. Unfortunately, Presiding Officer, that is an issue over which the committee has no influence—you may consider that that is probably just as well. However, the committee supports the general principles of the bill.