A POLICE chief has been accused of being "irresponsible" by football supporters campaign group after he warned that Scots fans should expect police to act over support for terrorist organisations.

Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins spoke out after the Fans Against Criminalisation campaign group were critical of him warning controversial Celtic fans group the Green Brigade to leave politics at the turnstiles or face being arrested.

The row had emerged as the FAC warned of a "genuine danger to civil liberties" and the continuous criminalising of the young over minor offences if a controversial law aimed at tackling bigotry at football matches is not repealed.

The group had been critical of Assistant Chief Constable Higgins who had warned at the start of this season that controversial Celtic fans group the Green Brigade should leave politics at the turnstiles or face being arrested.

In a hard-hitting blast last month, the officer insisted his officers would not tolerate any offensive displays by the hardline supporters.


But the FAC hit back saying that the policy of the European football ruling body UEFA may prohibit political expression within the context of a football match within their control, Scottish law does not.

The group said Mr Higgins was not simply fulfilling his role as Assistant Chief Constable by advocating that fans abide by the law, but he in fact goes "well beyond that relying on his own personal views and tastes to attempt to restrict the political expression of citizens of a modern European democracy in 2017."

But Mr Higgins stood by his stance saying: “Over the years I have policed many events where political views have been expressed. That is what we do in a democracy. There is a massive difference between expressing a political view or supporting a terrorist organisation.

“If FAC want to sit down with me I will happily explain my position and reasons for it, however I would reiterate that any person showing support for a terrorist organisation should expect my officers to act, and thereafter it will be a matter for the Scottish courts to decide.”

But the FAC has hit back saying: "His attempt to obfuscate this issue by mentioning terrorist organisations is disingenuous at best."


Paul Quigley of FAC said: "We think it would be best if Mr Higgins ceased making unhelpful and irresponsible statements, and focused instead on any number of more pressing matters which you would assume Police Scotland would have to attend to."

The FAC said that they would "politely turn down" his offer to meet saying the organisations previous meetings with Police Scotland representatives wre "not conducted in good faith and resulted in us being told untruths and subsequently having our views misrepresented".

Mr Quigley said: "Assistant Chief Constable Higgins' [comments] highlighted the absurdity of a senior police figure demanding that citizens cease conducting themselves in a manner which is actually legal.

"His initial remarks which urged fans to 'leave the politics at the turnstiles' were based upon his own taste and preference rather than based in legality. As such this was an abuse of his position and fits seamlessly into a timeline of politicians and police alike attempting to curtail the legitimate political expression of football supporters.

"His attempt to obfuscate this issue by mentioning terrorist organisations is disingenuous at best. In recent years football fans have been harassed, filmed, arrested and charged for the expression of legitimate political opinion and this stands as one of the fundamental reasons that the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Scotland (2012) Act needs to be repealed as soon as is possible."

The FAC had previously pointed to the police role in the kettling of Celtic fans including the Green Brigade ultras on Glasgow's Gallowgate in March 2013 over what they described was a "peaceful demonstration" of around 100 to 150 fans.

FAC said the fans were "attacked by a force of hundreds of police officers drafted in from various force areas using dogs, helicopters and horses".

But while 13 were arrested for public order offences not one was convicted of any offence, said the FAC.