Martin Hannan: Just steer clear of this bad law

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AS THE Scottish Government is finding out with its footballing anti-sectarian legislation, a law that cannot be enforced is soon seen as a bad law.

I welcomed that legislation, because for too long the bigots have held sway in this country and education alone was not working. But when sheriffs cannot decide what is or isn’t sectarian, and when there is no clear definition of sectarianism within the law, and when football fans are not told exactly which songs will get them prosecuted, then the law clearly isn’t working.

The Scottish Government promised that it will review the law after a time, and that time is now. If it needs to be tightened up then so be it – it must not be repealed, because in places it definitely is working and the prosecution success rate has been in excess of 80 per cent, which indicates that Scotland does indeed have a 
sectarian problem.

The law is far from perfect, largely because it was rushed through, and I say that as an SNP member. Now I fear that the Holyrood parliament is about to make the same mistake with the proposal to ban smoking in cars which are carrying children.

As a Liberal Democrat MSP, Jim Hume is one of an endangered species, and I suspect he has done himself no favours with the electorate by bringing forward this proposal.

Let me say this at the outset – I would ban all forms of tobacco and smoking because it kills people. I know, I have lost several relatives to cancer caused by the evil weed. We banned handguns because people are killed by them, so why not cigarettes that have killed many times more 
people than guns?

On the few occasions that I tried smoking cigars as a young man, fortunately I was pretty sick afterwards and soon gave up the practice. Yet for years I had to suffer passive smoking as people lit up without thinking of other people’s right not to smoke.

Jack McConnell’s and his Scottish Executive, as it then was, did something morally correct when they banned smoking in public places – the improvement in the nation’s health has been marked, and I know I can go into a pub or restaurant and not have my time spoiled by tobacco smoke.

Why have successive governments not done the moral thing and banned smoking completely? Simple – they know there would be a voter backlash.

So if we accept that people have the right to smoke in open spaces, surely we should welcome the new law as it specifically targets the problem of 
children being forced to inhale tobacco smoke in cars.

Someone should ask the police about this law. I’ve spoken to a couple of cops and they were adamant – this is one hugely unenforceable law which will cause mayhem on the streets. For how could a traffic police officer instantly decide that a person in the car is under 16? And do they risk accidents by chasing a fug-filled car only to find out that the occupants are all smokers? And how could a police officer tell the difference between the vapour emitted by an electronic cigarette and real fag smoke?

I don’t ever defend smoking, but on this occasion, I have to say this is a law too far.

Fair’s fair, so tax second homes

The UK government goes on and on about making the benefit system fairer, but with the bedroom tax they target the poor who can least defend themselves, and it’s all about saving money anyway.

So here’s my idea – make every person who has a second home pay a special tax on that home. If they can’t afford the tax, then they will have to sell their second house.

Unfair? Well how much more unfair is it to force poor people out of the homes they may have lived in all their lives because they can’t afford this disgusting, evil tax.

Bridge closure is a real hurdle

There was traffic mayhem at Musselburgh races on Saturday because the bridge over the Esk between New Street and James Street was closed. It only ever opens on race days and really helps the traffic situation.

The estimable racecourse manager, Bill Farnsworth, was just about at his wits’ end when I asked him why it was closed.

It seems that the bridge is the property of ScottishPower and some bozo within the utility company – profits last year £1.2 BILLION – decided that as it had closed down Cockenzie power station the bridge must stay shut.

ScottishPower’s excellent public relations people should track down the bozo and reverse the decision before the next Musselburgh meeting. Or else.

Patronising RBS ad is a turn-off

No doubt about the worst advert on radio at the moment – the one for the Royal Bank of Scotland that features women arguing about the bill for their dinner.

Twee, patronising, insulting to women and Scots alike, it is simply appalling and proof yet again that advertising folk inhabit the planet la-di-dah. Scrap it or I’ll take my overdraft elsewhere.