TWO of Scotland’s best-known celebrity football supporters have waded into the growing row over offensive behaviour by fans.
Dougray Scott and Irvine Welsh have written of their dismay at the “scary” bigotry in the stands and the “poisonous” atmosphere at Edinburgh derby matches.
Fife-born Scott, star of Mission Impossible II and Enigma, has called for the banning of flags such as the Union flag from grounds like Tynecastle. Welsh, a self-confessed former Hibs casual, claims even “mainstream” supporters of Hibs and Hearts have developed a hatred of each other and says the level of dislike is “so much more” than in previous eras.
The pair have written essays for a new book about what it means to be a Hibs fan, which also features the views of Charlie Reid of The Proclaimers, former Marillion frontman Fish and folk singer Dick Gaughan.
Lothian and Borders Police have launched major crackdowns on crowd behaviour at matches in Edinburgh over the last couple of years following complaints over levels of bigoted chanting and disorder.
Both Scott and Welsh have defended the rights of Hibs fans to celebrate their Irish heritage. But the pair have also made clear their distaste at the kind of scenes that have sparked controversial new legislation going through the Scottish Parliament to tackle offensive behaviour at powderkeg matches.
Writing in We Are Hibernian, Scott says: “The Irish connection is part of Hibs’ identity. That’s what the club was born out of.
“I’m not interested in bigotry and I’ve witnessed so much of it in Scottish football. The whole Celtic and Rangers thing is still quite intense and has hardly changed over the years.
“I don’t like seeing the Union flag in the crowd. There’s nothing wrong with Great Britain, but the connotations of seeing a Union flag at Ibrox or Tynecastle are something different in that context.”
Welsh said: “The atmosphere in general at [Edinburgh] derbies now is so much more poisonous, there was always that aggro and trouble, but amongst the rank and file supporters there is now an atmosphere of poison.”
We Are Hibernian, by Andy MacVannan and published by Luath Press, goes on sale on Saturday.
• Two fans were arrested after trouble broke out in the dying stages of the Celtic-Hibs match on Saturday, just hours after a demonstration against the Scottish Government’s anti-bigotry legislation.
Around 700 Celtic fans had gathered in George Square at lunchtime to demand the scrapping of the controversial bill. A Strathclyde Police spokesman confirmed that two people had been arrested in connection with a disturbance in the ground.