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By Jason Michael
No one is criminalising football fans, but when we see a hostile and intimidating “black bloc” weaponising sport for its own political ends we know there is a need to keep criminal the things that will lead us to violence and bloodshed.
Football terraces in Scotland have long been a breeding ground for bitter sectarian hatred and division. This has nothing, of course, to do with the nature of the game. It is, we can safely assume, a consequence of Scotland’s complex social and religious history and the particular Straßenpolitik that develops from the groupthink and tribal mentality that evolves and is nurtured within some Scottish football supporters’ associations. By no means is this limited to Glasgow Rangers or indeed to the traditional Protestant-Catholic divide, but in the context of post-2014 Scotland it is apparent that this specific dynamic is being fuelled in order to further polarise the independence debate.
In recent years the anti-Catholic sectarianism that has been mobilised around imagined cultural memories of 1690, King Billy, and the Boyne has receded. Most Scots are happy to leave the seventeenth century behind and embrace the twenty-first, but the scars of these old wounds run long and deep. In both Scotland and Ireland Britishness has been built atop the triumphalism of a “Protestant settlement,” a political rather than religious arrangement in which British rule and the union are maintained by rewarding the loyalty of one group with power over another.
More recently – even as recently as the past two years – we have witnessed a powerful resurgence of this old unionist politic. It has been encouraged and emboldened by dog whistles and sometimes open support from unionist politicians, and – thanks to a wider rise in European far right politics and the racist undercurrents of Brexit – it has merged with toxic and violent strains of xenophobia and Islamophobia. What has emerged from the terraces at Ibrox is a hybrid monster; a street infantry in the making that embodies the ugliest aspects of modern Britishness.
Yesterday the independence-supporting city of Glasgow was treated to a vile demonstration of what this born-again sectarianism has become – a quasi-paramilitary and fascist “black bloc” masquerading as a supporters’ movement. Make no mistake about it; this is a sign of where the British state wants to take us. This is happening because Britain is pushing the right buttons in Scotland, and it knows where those buttons are because it installed them.
There is no mistaking the message here: Violence is waiting just behind the veil if democracy does not give these people what they want, and the rest of Scotland heard it loud and clear. We heard the same message when the head of the Loyalist Orange Order in our country said that he would back a civil war to keep Scotland under British rule. There is an element within Scotland that would be more than willing to take us down that dark and bitter road, and – fearing the outcome of another referendum – the British state is all too willing to stoke up the embers into flames.
Rangers supporters on the way to today's Glasgow derby making nazi salutes. We hope that the many, MANY decent Rang… twitter.com/i/web/status/9…—
AAF (@AyrshireAF) March 11, 2018
We have every reason to be proud of what we have all achieved in Scotland. No matter what you think of Scottish independence, it is a sad reality that the usual way such issues are settled is with guns, and tanks, and bombs. In Scotland we went to the polls and the only casualty was Jim Murphy’s shirt. We did democracy and ourselves proud, but – and as we were reminded in Catalunya – this is not how independence is typically won. Catalunya and Ireland also remind us that we have not overcome political violence, and there are certain chains of events that can lead Scotland into violence.
Britain has never baulked at instigating civil violence and conflict in other nations in the protection of its own selfish interests, and Britain will not hesitate to do this in Scotland. What we learn from British history – and not even distant history – is that this is Whitehall’s standard operating procedure, and we have an urgent responsibility to ensure London does not lead Scotland down that road. While we must never allow intimidation and the threat of violence to prevent us from pursuing the democratic and peaceful future we want, we must all make it our personal responsibility to nip this slippery slope into bloodshed in the bud.
(@SoldierAye) March 11, 2018
It was clear yesterday that the majority of Rangers supporters did not heed the call to wear black and join the militant bloc. Most people just want to enjoy the game with their friends and families. No one is criminalising football fans, but the drive to repeal the Offensive Behaviour Act was all about unleashing this vicious dog of anti-independence aggression. It was apparent yesterday that this was precisely what the repeal achieved, and now we have a very serious problem – and it is a problem.
Yes voter or No voter, independentista or unionist, we are One Scotland, and as one nation we must all come together to put these thugs back in their place and protect Scotland from what these idiots and Britain would do to us. We can put water on this by rallying behind Rangers fans and by helping them to protect their club from this small but vocal element. We can take a stand, as individuals and groups, to call out the instigators and their provocative rhetoric. We can demand that democracy is respected by everyone in the discussion, and send a clear and unmistakable message to London to stay the hell out of Scottish politics. Independence will be decided in Scotland, by Scotland, and for Scotland without any unwelcome interference from thugs at football matches, in Holyrood, or Westminster.
“We are the Loyal!