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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 Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

The 16th UEFA European championship is an exciting opportunity for Scotland. To celebrate the tournament’s 60th birthday, 12 cities across Europe have been selected as hosts, from Amsterdam to Munich.

As we have heard, Hampden park won the bid to host matches during the 2020 European championships, so I am, as the Scottish Conservatives’ tourism spokesperson, delighted that Glasgow will be able to take advantage of the opportunities that will come from fans visiting Glasgow and the surrounding area, which will bring in much-needed tourism and contribute to the local economy.

Today we address the bill that will allow that to happen. It addresses areas of Scots law that do not meet UEFA’s standards for protecting sponsors’ commercial interests. It also covers restrictions on ticket touting, street trading and advertising in relation to the UEFA European championship 2020. Crucially, the bill must be enacted to ensure successful delivery of the championship by meeting commitments that are required by UEFA on commercial rights for event sponsors during the period of the event.

The Scottish Conservatives support the bill. We are grateful to the members of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee for their hard work. However, we have some concerns about the bill’s potential impact. We would like clarification from the Scottish Government on the hours of operation and the precise geographical limits of the event zones, and we would like a response on concerns around the European convention on human rights.

I will address issues that were raised in Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee evidence sessions, and in submissions, on the impacts on local businesses and residents and on enforcement of legislation.

We are already familiar with the process of introducing legislation in relation to hosting major sporting and cultural events. The successful Glasgow Commonwealth games back in 2014, for example, saw the Scottish Parliament pass legislation in the build up to hosting that event. That legislation was prepared much further in advance of the event than the bill that we are debating, and an extensive public consultation was carried out.

That approach would have been beneficial for Glasgow residents by enabling them to prepare and feed their input into the conversation surrounding event zones and trading licences. First and foremost, the people who live in the vicinity of Hampden and near other event zones must be given priority. Conservative councillors on Glasgow City Council have raised the issue and believe that there should have been better public consultation. We must take note of likely disruptions and changes to services for residents in such areas. The challenge is to minimise the impact of road closures and to deliver a safe and secure event.

Members of the Mount Florida community council have been instrumental in providing evidence to the committee and have made their views clear. They raised a number of points, the most important of which was that the economic benefits of Hampden events have previously been gained elsewhere—for example, by hotels in Glasgow city centre—rather than in the local area.

As with any area around a major venue, issues spill out on to the local streets. Major events also increase the impact on everyday life for residents—a point that the Conservative group on Glasgow City Council has also brought up with me. When rugby is on at Murrayfield, residents endure similar traffic chaos and parking restrictions, and due to the trains not running on time—or at all in some cases—they suffer the double impact of bad parking and increased traffic flow on the roads.

In the run-up to matches, there must be better engagement with the local community to ensure that everybody is on board. Residents also raised concerns that the powers that are being granted to enforcement officers to enter and search private property could breach the European convention on human rights, because the powers would affect individuals’ right to respect for private life and family life. Perhaps the minister will address that matter, which will also be dealt with as we progress with the bill.

It is clear that the bill has raised the local issues that I have just discussed, especially those concerning event zones and the impact on local businesses. There has been stakeholder engagement on that front, and there has been the establishment in Glasgow of a local organising committee to deliver the event, so we must see their advice taken on board.

As well as Hampden, two other event zones are being created: George Square and the merchant city. No street trading licences are issued for the merchant city or George Square event zones. However, 113 street trader licences will be impacted on by the proposed Hampden park event zone. I am glad that Glasgow City Council will, as per section 9 of the bill, have to work with traders who will be affected by the championship. That is action that Glasgow Conservative councillors have put pressure on the administration to take. Glasgow City Council has said that it will allow alternative trading arrangements in the Hampden park event zone, and traders will be obligated to comply with the licensing application process, should they want to trade in alternative locations.

I will return to the European convention on human rights. Restrictions on street trading and advertising could inhibit businesses’ peaceful enjoyment of their possessions and their ability to thrive, rather than to suffer, as a result of the increased footfall. The championship is a not-to-be-missed opportunity for them. The committee considered how the bill could avoid preventing established local businesses from advertising products or services in their windows, or immediately outside their premises. In the past, small retailers have gone out of business due to cordons and zones that were applied during the Olympics and other major events, and which led to temporary inaccessibility for deliveries and customers.

We must not allow that to happen in Glasgow. The issue should be taken seriously in the making of regulations and in defining the geographical limits of event zones. It is incumbent on the people who make the regulations to ensure that all those factors are taken into consideration.

Prevention of ticket touting is a very important subject that has been touched on and in respect of which—I am glad to hear—the Government is on board. We do not want ticket touting to spoil the experience of people attending the UEFA matches, so I am thankful that the bill seeks to address the matter. Scots law already includes restrictions around ticket touting, but they relate only to causing a public annoyance to persons who are approached to purchase tickets, or to others who have reasonable grounds to be to be annoyed by the sale of tickets. As discussed, the provisions do not meet UEFA’s requirements, so through discussion with UEFA the Scottish National Party Government determined that primary legislation is necessary in order to meet fully the requirements for hosting games in the 2020 championship.

Demand for tickets is expected to exceed supply, so the bill aims to provide a deterrent to anyone who would seek to make a profit from resale of tickets, and to provide a basis for preventative actions and punitive actions, in the event of breaches. Conservative members support fair access to tickets so that as many people as possible can enjoy the matches, so making touting a criminal offence for the event will ensure that it is successful and that the ticket touts who sell at overinflated prices, either privately or through secondary sites, will be committing a criminal offence. However, there should be a clear distinction between well-meaning individuals and ticket touts. That will perhaps be looked at. The question remains; how can the ticket touts be ousted?

Conservative members support the bill in principle, but want the Scottish Government to look closely at the impact of event zones on local residents and businesses. We have heard the comments of Mount Florida community council, Police Scotland and others about how the bill could be strengthened to ensure that businesses and communities around Hampden are comfortable with the legislation and its implications for them.

We want the championships to bring the best possible opportunities and economic benefits, and to put Glasgow on the map. At the same time, the bill must allow local people’s needs to be taken on board. The bill must not contravene the European convention on human rights, so clarification must be provided on that.

We will vote tonight to ensure that the bill moves on to stage 2. All we need now is for the Scotland team to qualify.