Alex Massie Alex Massie

Scotland’s War on Clothes: Be Careful What You Wear

Welcome to Scotland, a land where freedoms of expression and other liberties are treated so seriously that the police and prosecuting authorities would never dream of monitoring and judging the clothes you wear.

If that sounds like fantasy it’s because, alas, it is. Yes, this is now a country in which wearing the “wrong” kind of t-shirt will land you in court and, as likely as not, result in you being convicted of a breach of the peace. For real.

I draw your attention toa recent case at the High Court of Justiciary and the opinion delivered by Lord Carloway (a man who, it might be noted in passing, thinks the need for corroboration is a quaint and medieval relic that has no place in a modern justice system).

Last August Kevin Maguire was convicted of a breach of the peace. His crime? Attending a match between Celtic and Rangers while wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogans INLA and FUCK YOUR POPPY REMEMBER DERRY. Not the most elegant garment, you may think, and a sentiment that you may find depressingly tedious. But so what? A liberal polity would not consider this anything that should require police intervention. Alas we inhabit no such polity.

The police officers testified that, in the volatile atmosphere of a Rangers and Celtic match and its aftermath, it was likely that the insignia of this organisation would be regarded as offensive and inflammatory by Rangers fans, and that there was the potential for this to provoke disorder and disturbance. The Celtic fans, although cordoned off from the opposing support in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, would merge with the Rangers fans a few hundred yards down Edmiston Drive. The officers also considered that there was a potential for the reference to the INLA to provoke Celtic supporters too.

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