MacAskill to introduce Bill to end Poll Tax on Scots watching national football games

ALBA Party Deputy Leader Kenny MacAskill MP will today (Tuesday) introduce a bill to expand the availability of Scotland men’s and women’s national football team matches on free-to-air television channels. The Bill has cross party support from a number of co-signatories including:

Neale Hanvey MP (Alba), Angus Brendan MacNeil MP (Independent), Douglas Chapman MP (SNP), Martyn Day MP (SNP), Carol Monaghan MP (SNP) and Jamie Stone (Lib Dem).

The proposed Bill seeks to ensure that all qualifying matches played by the Scotland men’s and women’s national football teams in the World Cup and the UEFA European Football Championship qualifiers are made available for broadcast on free-to-air television channels.

Currently, Scotland fans are denied access to crucial qualifying matches, with broadcasts exclusively available through Swedish subscription-based broadcaster Viaplay. This has posed a significant financial barrier for many, particularly during challenging economic times.

In England, qualifying games have been free to air on ITV or Channel 4 since 2018. In Wales where rights to the national team's qualifying fixtures were also sold to Viaplay in 2022, access was available free to air on S4C.

Mr MacAskill’s bill aims to rectify this disparity by mandating that Scotland's qualifying matches be included in the list of sporting events required to be broadcast on free-to-air channels. It seeks to ensure that Scots can share in the highs and lows of their team's journey, from nail-biting qualifiers to the exhilaration of major tournaments.

A recent survey carried out by the Scottish Football Supporters Association (SFSA), showed that 85% of respondents say they watch Scotland matches less as a result of Pay-Per-View. Mr MacAskill believes that his bill addresses concerns that Scottish fans are being marginalized by broadcasters.

Commenting in advance Kenny MacAskill MP said:

“UK broadcasters are showing themselves not as UK television outlets but as Team England only.

It is unacceptable that Scotland fans are priced out of watching their National team whereas fans south of the border are able to watch their National team for free on so-called-public broadcasters.

This is not the norm in Europe where only seven countries including Scotland and Northern Ireland are in this situation.

A yearly Viaplay subscription currently costs £180 per annum. For many in these tough financial times, that’s a cost they cannot afford, no matter how much they’d like to watch the games. It’s a poll tax on Scots watching their national team.

Whether state-funded like the BBC, state-owned like Channel 4 or commercial stations such as ITV/STV, broadcasters have rights, but they also have duties. If they won't show Scotland games by choice, then they need to be made to do so by law. Scottish viewers are entitled to no less.”

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