EU, we have a problem : Holyrood’s e-petitions website offline over sectarian debate fears A FORMER Scottish Parliament employee had admitted his colleagues were secretly ordered to delay the re-launch of Holyrood’s E-Petitions website amid fears Celtic & Rangers football supporters and others opposed to the Scottish Government’s Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill would use the e-petitions system to launch counter petitions against each other and the Scottish Government’s anti-sectarian laws, thus “weighing down” the Scottish Parliament’s website with discussions about sectarianism legislation & crimes in Scotland, something Holyrood’s bosses were and still are keen to avoid in an effort to curtail any feeling Scotland has a significant sectarian crime problem.
The information has come to light after a now former member of staff at Holyrood who has registered a grievance against his employers came forward to offer information on the long running absence of the e-petitions system, which allowed members of the public to post their petitions to the Scottish Parliament's website in order to attract discussion on their petition’s topic, and gather signatures to support a petition’s progress through the Petitions Committee.
Scottish Parliament officials had promised a re-launch of the e-petitions system “sometime in December 2011” however the planned date of re-launch was considered too close to the vote on the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill which was passed at the Scottish Parliament on December 14 2011, in a 64 to 57 vote, covered by Scottish Law Reporter HERE.
The Holyrood insider, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has revealed he has in his possession, a series of emails between Scottish Parliament officials who discussed their concerns about “unwanted elements using the e-petitions system to discuss or oppose the anti sectarian bill currently going through the Justice Committee”.
The insider goes on to allege a senior member of the Scottish Parliament branded members of one particular online forum as “******** *******”, a claim already passed to a national newspaper by the insider. The exact words used by the msp which are highly inflammatory, cannot be printed for legal reasons due to the law as it now stands.
Members of the particular forum named in the discussions, which is also not being identified by SLR for legal reasons, apparently stood accused of inciting hatred and making death threats against personalities from the football world & other walks of public life in Scotland. In another instance mentioned in the discussions between Holyrood officials, Celtic supporters also came in for criticism, for their websites organising protests against the Scottish Government's anti-sectarian bill which has now received Royal Assent.
The e-petitions website currently remains offline with an official explanation there have been “design changes & problems encountered along the way of its re-launch” however it has now been confirmed msps and staff at Holyrood are still concerned that opposing sides in the sectarian debate will utilise the e-petitions system to raise petitions & amendments against the Scottish Government’s much criticised anti-sectarian legislation. It can be revealed today a contingency plan has been put in place by officials to withhold any e-petition which touches on sectarian issues. A member of staff has also confirmed in off the record comments that any discussions on sectarianism “will be deleted” from the Scottish Parliament’s website.
The Scottish Parliament’s move to censor any debate on sectarianism follows a pattern of other public bodies in Scotland who have either censored, denied, or destroyed information relating to sectarian incidents.
Scottish Law Reporter featured an account of how Crown Office officials were ordered to prevent data on sectarian crimes falling into public hands, here : ‘Hate Data’ destroyed as Salmond’s SNP fear Independent Scotland viewed as ‘Too Sectarian’ to join predominantly Catholic European Union
A campaigner speaking to Scottish Law Reporter earlier today branded Holyrood’s decision to hold the e-petitions system offline over fears of discussions about sectarianism as an attempt at censorship. He went further, saying he felt the Scottish Parliament was continuing what appears to be an “anti-catholic” policy on the debate about sectarianism in Scotland.
He said : “Censoring debate is not the way to combat sectarianism in Scotland. If as many feel the Scottish Government's law is unjust it is surely our right as citizens to file a petition on the Scottish Parliament’s website and be able to discuss the issue just like everyone else.”
A Scottish Parliament spokesperson was not available to answer any questions on the allegations relating to the e-petitions website, which has now been held offline by Holyrood officials for nearly TEN MONTHS.