COMEDIAN Frankie Boyle has branded the Scottish Government’s controversial anti-bigotry laws “an attack on freedom of speech”.
Boyle, a Celtic supporter of Irish descent, said the new laws were an attack on Scotland’s working classes and has criticised the measures as “colonial”.
He said the Scottish Government should take steps to end religious segregation in schools rather than attack the “valid” cultures of Old Firm fans.
Boyle’s views have won the backing of anti-bigotry group Nil By Mouth, which has criticised the Scottish Government’s crackdown against offensive chanting at football matches, claiming sectarianism is a much wider issue.
However, the minister responsible for the legislation, forced through Holyrood by the SNP last month despite opposition from all other parties, insisted the new law would fill “clear gaps” in the existing laws and that “banter and passionate support” for football teams would not be punished.
Glasgow-born Boyle has run into repeated controversies due to the hard-hitting nature of his material, which normally steers clear of Scottish football. Boyle said sectarianism should be dealt with by “reconciliation”. He said: “Of course, some of the songs and words contravene laws on racial hatred, and maybe even on inciting violence. But that’s a debate that needs to be had.
“Why aren’t we having that? Because it would be really f***ing awkward. Sectarianism is a real problem, but it should be addressed by people engaging with each other – reconciliation. If we were really serious about this, the first step is to end religious segregation in schools.
“It’s basically an attack on freedom of speech. It’s the ruling classes telling the working classes what to say and think.
“Will middle-class rugby fans be arrested for singing anti-English songs? The idea is laughable.
“Supporting Rangers, being in an Orange Lodge, that whole life – that’s a valid culture. Supporting Celtic, waving a tricolour because your parents are Irish – that’s a valid culture.
“You can’t come in and say that the opinions those people hold, the songs they sing, the language they use, is inferior and invalid.”
In the interview published in The List magazine, he added: “An anthropologist studying an aboriginal society would be really careful about making those judgments, but here we have a ruling class that has internalised colonial attitudes and says, ‘ban songs, ban words’.”
Dave Scott, campaign Director of Nil By Mouth, said: “Frankie Boyle raises several interesting points and is correct to say that sectarianism is not exclusive to football or the working classes.
“It was swept under the carpet for too long and education is the key to eradicating sectarianism and we have repeatedly called for greater use of shared campuses and school twinning programmes as innovative ways of breaking down barriers.”
A spokesman for community safety minister Roseanna Cunningham said: “The overwhelming majority of people in Scotland – clearly including Frankie Boyle – are totally committed to eradicating sectarianism from Scottish football and society, and we would encourage Mr Boyle to read the reality of the new laws. Positive celebrations and expressions of identity are to be encouraged.”
However, a Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Frankie Boyle’s views may not always be to everyone’s taste but he makes some valid points here about the SNP’s rash and misguided measures to confront sectarianism.
“The SNP has managed to unite all sections of society against this bad legislation and there is little confidence that this approach will do anything to tackle the scourge of sectarianism.”