Free Speech UK


How quickly they gave up on the chief right upon which all others rest.

Rangers fans have been had up for loyalist chanting, and SNP officials have warned that even singing ‘Rule, Britannia!’ can potentially be a crime, ‘depending on the circumstances’. In what circumstances could singing a patriotic song beloved of the British Navy land you in court? When you’re a lowlife football fan who’s singing it, in that alleged hotbed of hatred and volatility that is a football stadium.

This is why we fight for the right to say things others find uncomfortable, for free speech laws are not there to protect statements with which we agree, but for speech we find difficult.

Je Suis Billy Boy: free speech for football fans!

In Britain in 2015 you can be jailed for singing a song. Where’s the anger?

magine living in a nation so authoritarian you could be locked up simply for singing a song that the authorities disapproved of. Well, if you’re one of spiked’s many UK-based readers, you don’t have to imagine it – you already live there. Last week in Glasgow, a man was sentenced to four months in jail for the crime of singing a state-decreed ‘offensive song’. Yes, that thing us Brits love to be sniffy about when it’s done by the Saudis or Putin – the cruel or unusual punishment of people just for saying something or singing something – is now being done right here in the UK, in the twenty-first century.

The man in question is Scott Lamont, a 24-year-old fan of Rangers FC, which draws most of its support from Scotland’s Protestant communities. It has an infamous rivalry with Glasgow’s other globally recognisable football team, Celtic FC, most of whose fans come from Scotland’s Catholic, Irish-tinged communities. On 1 February, when Rangers were playing Celtic at Hampden Park, Lamont sang one of the fanbase’s favourite songs as he walked along a street to the game. The song was ‘The Billy Boys’, an old sectarian loyalist ditty first sung by Glasgow’s razor gangs in the early twentieth century and later adopted by Rangers fans as a way of riling their Celtic rivals. The song starts ‘Hello, hello, we are the Billy Boys’, and contains the line ‘We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood’.

Simply for singing this lewd tune which for decades has formed part of the stadium-based, mostly harmless wind-ups between Rangers and Celtic fans, Lamont was jailed for four months. The sheriff who jailed him said he did so because ‘a message has to be sent to those people who would choose to ruin football’: ‘This sort of behaviour will not be tolerated.’ So not only was Lamont deprived of his liberty for committing songcrimes — he was also turned into a sacrificial national advert of what will become of anyone who mis-sings or utters something the authorities consider offensive. This was a showtrial, designed not merely to resolve a ‘crime’ (some crime!) but to ‘send a message’ to all Brits, especially that throng of uncouth Scottish football fans, about what it is acceptable to think, say and sing. And then the sheriff had the nerve to say Lamont ‘let Glasgow down’. It wasn’t Lamont who temporarily turned Glasgow into a Taliban-style statelet banging people up for singing.

More here. H/T: Vlad

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