Plans to crack down on ticket touts could hand trading standards officers “broad and invasive” powers during next year’s European Championships in Glasgow, MSPs were warned yesterday.
Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said that government plans to tackle touts and as well as unauthorised street trading and advertising at the tournament, could lead to the erosion of people’s civil liberties.
The move to give “enforcement officers” temporary powers during the football tournament has also been criticised by the Scottish Police Federation, which has said it would give greater policing powers to council officers than those currently held by police officers but without the equivalent accountability.
Speaking at the first stage of the Uefa Bill legislation which needs to be passed by Holyrood, Mr Greer said the introduction of such broad powers was “excessive and unjustified” and would prioritise the protection of large corporations.
“This is a concerning move. The police have clear lines of accountability and oversight mechanisms,” he said. “And while those mechanisms do not function perfectly, giving police-like powers to non-police officers who do not have equivalent oversight mechanisms leaves open scope for abuse.
“These powers include the power to seize and destroy property, to enter and search premises, which can be undertaken on the low threshold of an enforcement officer acting on their own judgment if they think the action is appropriate.
“This would allow local authority officers to search premises or a vehicle or a container without a police officer present, or even without a warrant, acting only on suspicion a corporate brand is being ripped off. These are broad and invasive powers.” He added: “For these broad powers to be enacted for the protection of commercial rights is excessive and unjustified, it prioritises the protection of multi-billion-pound corporations over the rights of citizens.”
Mr Greer also said there were “serious concerns” about the rush to progress the legislation through Holyrood and said the Bill had not been properly scrutinised. He added: “This isn’t really an acceptable way to go legislating, it is certainly not good practice.”
Callum Steele, general secretary of the SPF had previously told MSPs there were issues with the Uefa Bill, including the handing over of “pseudo police powers to non-police officers”.
However Europe Minister Ben Macpherson said the Scottish Government would bring in amendments to the Bill seeking to ensure that enforcement officers were employed by Glasgow City Council or another local authority.
“The enforcement provisions are almost identical to those contained in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Act 2008 and are similar to enforcement powers already included in other pieces of Scottish and UK legislation, and they are also supported by Police Scotland,” he said.
“Nevertheless, I recognise that it is possible to make these provisions clearer and that it may be helpful to strengthen protections in some areas.”
Mr McPherson said the Scottish Government would bring forward amendments to the Bill “to respond to a number of the points that have been raised by the committee” which would include limiting enforcement officers to those employed by Glasgow City Council or another council.