Substantive offence

No trespassing:

HOLYROOD is changing its legal status to make it easier for the police to remove protesters.

Scottish Parliament bosses have asked the Home Office to designate the building and its grounds as a “protected site” in the interests of national security.

Of course protests and protesters aren’t a threat to national security. Insurrectionists are, as we’ve recently seen all too vividly, but protesters, no.

Legislation has now been laid in Westminster under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 which is due to come into force on October 1.

At present, the police have limited powers to intervene if there is no substantive offence taking place, such as protesters making a prolonged noise outside the entrances.

Yes well that’s freedom of speech and assembly, isn’t it. Arguably the police shouldn’t have powers to intervene in non-violent protests.

But from next month it will be a criminal offence to remain on the parliamentary estate “without lawful authority” punishable by a £5000 fine or a year in jail after a conviction. 

I wonder what “remain” means. Are people allowed to walk through at a fast clip to admire the grounds? Are they allowed to loiter for a minute or two to take some snaps? Are they allowed to linger for 10-15 minutes to drink in the atmosphere?

Public gatherings are are an almost daily part of Holyrood life, with groups gathering to protest against Government policy, demand change or support a particular cause.

In the last week alone, hundreds of people have held demos in support of women’s rights and against vaccine passports.

It’s the women’s rights wot done it. We can’t have demos in support of women’s rights – the monstrous regiment of women needs to stay home and out of sight.

On the other hand, the powers say this move is just to deal with protests that get too disruptive and that in practice it doesn’t eliminate protesting.

“The SPCB [the MSP-led Scottish Parliamentary Management Body] does not foresee invoking this power frequently, and only in cases where visitors are in breach of the terms and conditions for use of the parliamentary estate.

“At present, the police have limited ability to intervene if there is no substantive criminal offence taking place, and disruptive protests can become especially prolonged.” 

“Both the UK Parliament and Welsh Senedd are already designated as protected sites. 

“We were reassured to learn from their experience that having the designation as a protected site has not limited protest – far from – but has encouraged those engaging with the institutions to keep activities in line with their policies.”

One to keep an eye on.

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