It having become clear that there was no chance of Tommy Sheridan being re-elected leader of the Scottish Socialist Party (see No 587 for his previous aspirations in this regard), the great man decided to set up a new party instead, to be known as Solidarity: Scotland’s Socialist Movement. He was joined by SSP MSP Rosemary Byrne, the only one of the SSP Parliamentary group to give evidence on his side during the great court case against the News of the World. The new party was launched in Glasgow on 3 September 2006, the highlight of the day being Tommy’s mum aptly serenading her boy with the song “Impossible Dream” (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5buYLOanF8; note especially the smiles from Mr and Mrs Sheridan).
According to the New Statesman for 25 September 2006, Mr Sheridan commented of the maternal performance: “Embarrassment just doesn't cover it.”
Also worth noting, after Mr Sheridan’s comparison of his court victory with Gretna FC beating Real Madrid at the Bernabeau stadium, that in the qualifying round of the UEFA Cup, Gretna lost 5-1 at home to Northern Ireland football superpower Derry City and went out of the competition (despite an honourable 2-2 draw in the away leg).
LIVING WITH CRIME IN THE NEW SCOTLAND
The August 2006 silly season came to a suitable end with news that the Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc had been cautioned by police for behaviour (including crossing himself) likely to incite crowd trouble at a match against Rangers in February 2006. The Catholic Church and Ruth Kelly MP, leading member of Opus Dei and also Communities Minister for England and Wales, expressed concern that expressing your religious beliefs might now be a crime in Scotland, compelling the Crown Office to issue a statement on 28 August that individual acts of religious observance were not to be treated as crimes in now multi-cultural, but also anti-sectarian Scotland (see http://www.crownoffice.gov.uk/News/Releases/2006/08/28140026). On the same day Glasgow City Council also decided not to pursue a complaint against Rolling Stone Keith Richards for smoking on stage during a gig at Hampden Park, the national stadium on 25 August. It appeared that the ban on smoking in enclosed places did not apply to a stage set under the open skies in the middle of the stadium. No escape from the wrath of the law in Edinburgh, however, for actor Mel Smith, who was not allowed to smoke a real cigar on stage during an Edinburgh Festival Fringe performance as Winston Churchill, but got some good publicity out of it for his show. The law also applies to taxi, bus and van drivers in their cabs, at least in Renfrewshire, where it was revealed that the local authority had fined some 50 such persons for committing the offence. Meantime, in a report published on 23 August, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association claimed that alcohol sales in its members’ pubs had fallen by 10% since the ban came in at the end of March.
The row between solicitors and the Scottish Executive over criminal legal aid remuneration rates came to an end – at least for the time being – after an emergency meeting of the Council of the Law Society on 7 August 2006. The meeting decided to accept the Executive’s offer of an 8% increase for court work and a 12% increase for other work in serious cases. A new scale of fees for less serious cases is to be negotiated. While large numbers of the profession remain unhappy with these numbers, the proposed ‘industrial action’ – refusal to represent sex offenders – will not now take place (see previously Nos 561, 564, 567, 581).