Police suspension of pedestrian access after a football match

Anyone who knows me will, I hope, attest to the fact I am not much of a trouble-maker. This is particularly true at the moment as I continue my recovery from chemotherapy and surgery, but happily I am now able to (gingerly) get out and about without much hindrance. Making use of my rediscovered freedom, my dad and I attended Hearts v Aberdeen on 2 April at Tynecastle. The game finished at approximately 21.30 and we departed the ground promptly to get to the car and away.

A knowledge of fitba geography may help here, but for those not au fait with the Roseburn Stand at Tynecastle away fans exit that stand onto McLeod Street. The quickest way to the main Gorgie Road thoroughfare is to turn right (south). The problem with such a right-turn is the volume of home fans that would meet you at such a turn, so not unsurprisingly the police closed that route to Aberdeen fans until Hearts fans clear. Those not wanting to stand around waiting turned left (north) on McLeod St. and looped round to Muireston Crescent. To be met by another – and, as far as I am aware, unadvertised – police closure, the effect of which being to deny access to Gorgie Road. (Russell Road remained open, but was not exactly handy for those seeking access to Haymarket railway station or cars parked in completely the opposite direction.) A Google Map showing the two pinch points (and the route between them) can be found here.

photo of Police Scotland

Cue much girning from Aberdeen fans, who had already faced a detour of a couple of hundred yards to be met by two vans, various officers on foot and eventually two mounted officers. Aforementioned fans had not exactly been boisterous until the second group of police officers were encountered, making me wonder about the utility of the block. Further, and although I do not have the mindset of a football casual, my guess is the first closure of McLeod St. at the ground would have thinned out any potential dramas, but there we go. Guilty until proven innocent would be the pejorative analysis of the treatment of the fans.

As is an academic lawyer’s wont, this got me thinking. On what basis had the road been closed? That is to say, on what legal basis had Police Scotland suspended pedestrian access? I struggle to see how Muireston Crescent could be neither a common law right of way nor accessible in terms of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. The latter rights only apply when being used responsibly and are subject to temporary suspension, but neither of those seems appropriate to me.

So that sums up the access to land position, but what about policing powers? Clearly there are situations when no-one would dispute the need to block access. No reasonable person would object to, for example, a fire-crew closing a road to deal with an incident. Looking to statute, s 20 of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 seems to be in point, giving police a fairly wide power to maintain order. The argument will be that is exactly what the police were doing in this instance. Anyone breenging through the barricade would therefore be obstructing that duty and liable to arrest. Perhaps a s. 38 would have been deemed appropriate too.

I am not a criminal lawyer, so I am outwith my comfort zone. I decided to seek clarification on the law whilst I was loitering without intent awaiting the route re-opening. I had a quick word with one police officer, who was very polite and I have no qualms at all with him or indeed anyone else who was doing their job in good faith. The conversation went roughly like this.

Me: “Excuse me… Without meaning to cause trouble, and I respect the road closure here [grovel, über-civil citizen mode adopted...] Can you explain to my why this route has been closed?”

Officer: “There was some trouble at a previous Hearts v Aberdeen match, so Police Scotland have deemed this fixture to be in a higher category of policing.”

Me: “Okay, understood, but I wonder if you can explain on what legal basis the road has been closed to pedestrians? I thought we all had a right of responsible access under land reform legislation?”

Officer: “Well…Oh, this van is about to move.”

[The police van really was about to move, so I stepped back and the officer ensured the safe manoeuvring of said van.]

Officer [and other officers, loudly]: “Okay, if you could please make your way slowly through.”

Me: “Goodnight.”

Officer: “Goodnight, and safe home.”

So, the officer avoided further unwanted interrogation from me, and my dad and I got to our car thirty minutes or so later than we might have, and that was that. Barely worth writing a blog about, was it?

Well, maybe not. Scotland’s liberal access laws – which are often looked at enviously from abroad – are causing a bit of head-scratching in relation to other events. Andy Wightman has captured this in a blog about the Ryder Cup. With the greatest of respect to Heart of Midlothian and Aberdeen football clubs, that will be a bigger event than a midweek fitba match, and will need to be policed carefully. The world will be watching, as will some access advocates.

A quick word on the legalities of other events at the game. The fans were not impeccably behaved. For example, a flare was set off: I have never seen the point of this act of “support” and if anyone can explain it to me please do. (Police Scotland would have my full support in policing that.) I may have heard a chant about the solvency or otherwise of Hearts: not quite a breach of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, I would submit, but that legislation is not the most predictable of beasts.

And the match itself? There have been many times – particularly when I lived in Edinburgh (from 2006 – 2011) – when this Aberdeen fan would have happily snatched at a score draw at Tynecastle. Bizarrely, a score draw now seems like two points dropped, but I suppose that’s fitba and that is what keeps us fans interested. Proper policing of sporting events ensures fans’ continued enjoyment of spectator sports, and I have no problem at all with that, but there are times when the dividing line between proper and over-policing is not at all clear. Hence this blog, which might just make people think about it.

One personal note: I have no idea whether there was any trouble the last time Aberdeen visited Tynecastle. I was otherwise engaged. In fact, I blogged about that fixture, in very different circumstances. It is good to be back on form.

Posted in Law, Property | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Salvesen v Riddell – Remedial Order

In a legal system that draws on precedent, legal commentators can be sucked into writing about a particular case again and again all too easily. In my case, this has happened with the Salvesen v Riddell saga, which I have blogged about here, here, here, here, here and here, with further contributions available in two editions of the Scots Law Times.

Today (as reported by Scottish Legal News), the Scottish Parliament hopes to put a full stop to the passage that began in the run-up to the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003 and came to a head in the UK Supreme Court just under one year ago. It does this by providing a mechanism to end the preferential treatment of “upgraded” agricultural tenants, by which I mean the general partners of limited partnership tenancies that the 2003 Act tried to benefit.

To (very quickly) explain, it used to be common to set up limited partnerships as farm businesses in rural Scotland. The general partner would be the active farmer, the limited (financially insulated) partner would be the landowner or a connected party, and the landowner would grant that limited partnership a tenancy of the land. In the uncertainty leading up to the 2003 Act, some landowners decided to bring an end to their limited partnership arrangements. As finally enacted, the 2003 Act gave affected general partners, namely those who were served notices of dissolution (or equivalent) in a defined time period, the chance upgrade to full “1991 Act” tenants. This was an important upgrade, because a 1991 Act tenancy provides the all important concept of security of tenure – i.e. the ability to stick around even after the expiry of lease, provided the tenant had been diligent enough to pay rent when due and look after the land properly. It was also an important upgrade because the whole limited partnership thing was in fact designed to avoid the whole security of tenure thing, hence the imposition of the whole security of tenure thing was a bit of a surprise to some landlords.

This upgrade was held to be a breach of the landlord’s rights under A1P1 of the ECHR – or the property provision of the European Convention on Human Rights, for those who don’t speak in acronyms. This breach was all the more apparent when the position of an affected landlord was compared to landowners affected by the regime relating to tenants after the defined time period, which landlords were not lumped with potentially perpetual tenants. The Supreme Court gave Holyrood a year to fix matters, hence today’s Scottish Government announcement, as follows:

The Remedial Order is estimated to apply to fewer than 25 cases and comes into force tomorrow (Thursday April 3, 2014).

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment Richard Lochhead said:

“This has been an extremely complex legal case that has led to a great deal of uncertainty hanging over part of the tenant farming sector – although, thankfully, the number of cases involved is much smaller than originally thought.

“I am fully aware of the stress this has caused and hope that the passing of this Order provides clarity to those who have been waiting for answers and whose lives have been put on hold whilst this has been pending…

“In order to help reach fair and balanced outcomes, the Scottish Government is funding independent mediation for the small number of landlords and tenants affected and I urge all affected parties to take up this offer.”

Notes to editors

The new legislation means:
• Full 1991 agricultural tenancies created under the defective legislation are no longer guaranteed to be available for those who had their limited partnership dissolved during the period September 16, 2002 – June 30, 2003.
• In cases where full 1991 agricultural tenancies were so created, affected landlords will have the option of converting to a tenancy held under section 73 of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003. This type of tenancy allows landlords, if they wish, to recover vacant possession following a three year notice period.
• The introduction of a cooling off period, lasting until November 28, 2014, during which time affected full 1991 agricultural tenancies cannot be converted.
• Any affected landlord wishing to convert to a section 73 tenancy must serve notice of this by November 28, 2015. If no action is taken, the tenancy will remain a full 1991 agricultural tenancy.
• The Rural Affairs Secretary has already stated his intention to exclude this group of tenancies from absolute right to buy should such a measure be brought in for 1991 agricultural tenancies in future – an issue which is currently being considered by the Ministerial-led review of Agricultural Holdings Legislation.
• Plain English guidance explaining the changes is being prepared and will be available shortly.

All understood? Good. And good luck to the civil servants drafting the plain English guidance. If I was to have a go myself, I would probably opt for, “general partners who thought they were getting an upgrade because a landowner tried to end a farming limited partnership between 16 September 2002 and 30 June 2003 are now treated roughly the same as any tenants with a landowner that acted after 30 June 2003.”

One final point. In the comments to a post on this topic last year, I supposed this might affect a hundred or so cases. The Scottish Government today suggests the figure is as low as 25. Whilst that may be a low number, and this may seem like an awfully complicated way to deal with things, if human rights mean anything the numbers and the complexity matter not a jot. A society that cares about human rights ought to do all it can to ensure those rights are respected in all circumstances.

Posted in ECHR, Land Reform, Law | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Scottish Affairs Committee – Land Reform in Scotland: Interim Report

Last week, the Scottish Affairs Committee published its Interim Report (PDF) on land reform in Scotland. This (Westminster) report – which is not to be confused with the (Holyrood) Land Reform Review Group‘s interim report – builds on the input of a commissioned research paper by “four Scottish commentators” – Michael Foxley, James Hunter, Peter Peacock, and Andy Wightman – together with a number of written submissions and oral testimony recorded at a number of meetings. I submitted evidence in written form (but unfortunately missed the evidence session in Inverness that I was invited to on 2 December, as I had a more important appointment with the chemotherapy drug bleomycin at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary – yes, land reform is important, but other things are important too).

My own evidence to the committee focussed on the two things that I thought were better addressed at Westminster in the current constitutional set-up – namely fiscal measures and corporate entities (and the role such entities can play in terms of land-holding).

The role of corporate entities is touched on in relation to transparency – citing the example of Linwood, a town I know well from my formative years as a piper in Linwood Caledonia Pipe Band and a part-time cashier at a cinema built over the remains of an old car factory. Linwood is a rather sorry place, and I take no pleasure from writing that, but it will soon have a shiny, new Tesco (as documented in a blog by Andy Wightman). Corporate entities are also mentioned in relation to the proper place of charitable companies in estate ownership, on which the Committee has invited further evidence.

The report is perhaps most interesting when it addresses fiscal matters. The terminology of “cosy tax deals” has certainly caught the eye – hence the prompt, defensive response from Scottish Land and Estates – but there are some conclusions in relation to fiscal measures that are very difficult to argue with. Can anyone explain why Heritage Tax Relief applies to estate owners who (for example) provide the public access to their estates, when they are obliged to give the public access anyway under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003? It seems akin to giving someone relief from road tax for driving within the speed limit.

If that is a cheap and easy shot, other things are more nuanced. For example, inheritance tax relief is highlighted. That relief contributes to estates remaining as large/viable [delete according to political preference] entities. And then there is the matter of public subsidies for land use, or perhaps even non-use, aka “slipper farming.” The prevailing regime for subsidies for land is rather opaque and the exact impact of that opaque regime is very difficult to quantify, but for present purposes all that I would note is it seems proper such impacts (for example to the land market and to productivity/food security) are looked at and justified.

For completeness, it should be acknowledged that other issues like state aid and tenant farming are touched on in the Report. Much has been written on these topics, so I have no plans to add more writing here, other than to note the whole spectrum of topics shows just how interconnected the reform of [land] laws can be.

Where next for land reform? As Calum MacLeod has written, there are a number of land reform buses in circulation at present, seeking both passengers and directions. The frustrating “let’s wait and see what happens” conclusion is therefore appropriate, for now at least, but there will be a time when politicians will have to stop driving around the issues and arrive at legislation. That assumes, of course, that at least one bus will arrive at a legislative terminus. Land reform is inherently political, and the decision to legislate or not is one that is properly for our elected politicians, in whichever legislature they may sit. Landowners and stakeholders are watching their political journeys with more than a keen interest.

Posted in Land Reform, Property | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Local Government, Competence and Scottish Independence

Aberdeen City Council recently sent out correspondence to council tax payers in the city, which included the usual information about rates and what the council spends council tax receipts on. The Council also sent out letters in the same envelope (thus incurring no extra postage costs), setting out a position on the Scottish independence referendum. Here is the letter I received.

Although I cannot know what went through the mind of each voter as they voted for their council, when a staggering 20.5% of the residents of my George Street/Harbour ward voted in the most recent council elections (the lowest turnout in Scotland: and yes, I voted) I suspect the UK constitution would not have been a high priority.* (Decent local recycling was, and remains, my primary moan, but I digress.) That has not stopped the council wading in to the constitutional debate.

Should they have done so? By which I mean, was it intra vires: i.e. did the council have the power to act in such a way? I refer you to other sources as to the newsworthiness (and indeed the political sense) of doing so, such as the BBC, the Evening Express and STV: I will (briefly) look at the law.

Local authorities take their powers from statute. As one example, if there is no specific power to enter into a contract, such an action is ultra vires (outwith the competence) of the local authority, hence why there was a need the Local Government (Contracts) Act 1997. I offer that legislation only by way of an example: this letter was not a contract. The key statute for Scottish local authorities is the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. Unsurprisingly, there is no specific “sending letters about the constitution section” in that act. There is a section empowering a council to do:

“any thing…which is calculated to facilitate, or is conducive or incidental to, the discharge of any of their functions.”

That might be able to hook on to something, but again I see nothing of immediate relevance in the legislation.

Then there is the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003, one section of which states:

“A local authority has power to do anything which it considers is likely to promote or improve the well-being of—

(a) its area and persons within that area; or

(b) either of those.”

Answers on postcard as to whether or not advising Aberdeen residents to vote a certain way in the independence referendum fails within that section.

I am not a local government lawyer, so there may well be other angles here that I am missing. There is also a potential representation of the people/using council resources to campaign in a political manner type issue, or at least it strikes me that there might be. If you have any thoughts, do let me know. Or perhaps you could let the council know what you think at the next local elections.

For what it is worth, I plan to recycle the letter I received, in the on-street paper/cardboard recycling bins that have recently been introduced to my area. I have no complaints whatsoever about Aberdeen City Council making that service available to me.

*For fairness, it might be noted people may not have voted at the Holyrood elections with the UK constitution in mind either. Forgive me for not opening that Pandora’s box in this blog, but at least the Edinburgh Agreement provides a bit of an out-ball for that discussion.

A discussion on Twitter ensued after this post. I have put together a Storify. A further thought (relating to the Local Government Act 1986) was added by Mark McDonald MSP.

One final update – the redoubtable Lallands Peat Worrier has now blogged on Aberdeen’s unhinged local government.

And one more final, final update (on 16 April 2014). The BBC has today reported that Audit Scotland is satisfied Aberdeen City Council has not broken any rules.

Posted in Aberdeen, Scottish Independence | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Reflections on the success of Aberdeen Law Project

Aberdeen Law Project is a cause that has featured on my blog before. Tonight, the student volunteers at the Project, with a bit of help from some supporters (notably the law firm Pinsent Masons), hosted a lecture by Lord Hope of Craighead at the University of Aberdeen’s Elphinstone Hall. The event was a great success and many students, staff and figures of the local community were able to come along to see it. As is often the case with these student advocates of pro bono publico legal advice, I was able to hang on to their coat-tails and simply turn up to marvel at what they had managed to pull together.

Having such a lecture is all very well, but what about the actual successes of the Project? Once again, I can bask in the reflected glory of the students and direct you to the report of a recent test case at Aberdeen Sheriff Court where a client of the Project was able to successfully argue that an administration fee charged by a letting agent was actually an illegal premium. What a fantastic result. Rather than bore you with my analysis, I will let the (relatively short) decision speak for itself, but suffice it to say this is an important point of law and may have implications for the rented sector across the whole of Scotland.

The students at Aberdeen Law Project, and others at similar institutions across the country, are making a real difference to their local communities, whether in terms of their various outreach projects, in involvement in real-life cases where they assist someone unable to find legal advice elsewhere, or by showcase events like tonight’s lecture. Perhaps they can act as an inspiration for others.

One final word or two on inspiration, which I will leave to Lord Hope. He gave seven tips for aspiring, up and coming lawyers to conclude his lecture, as follows:

  1. Know your law, or know where to find it;
  2. Know your facts;
  3. Don’t assume what the law is said to be is always right;
  4. Preparation, preparation, preparation;
  5. Respect and adapt to your audience (i.e. be clear, simple and accessible in your language when necessary);
  6. Try not to let nerves get the better of you; and
  7. Don’t pass up opportunities.

Those seven points form a lesson for all lawyers, but the lesson is all the better when it is learnt early. The successful recent case at Aberdeen Sheriff Court shows it is a lesson that the students of the Project are already taking on board.

Posted in Aberdeen, Access to Justice, Law Clinics, Property | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Putting the fans in control

On 23 January the Scottish Green Party put forward plans to give football fans a right to acquire their clubs in certain circumstances. Alison Johnstone (a list MSP for the Lothians) has produced a document entitled “Putting the fans in control” that sets out how this might work, the proposal taking the form of an amendment to the Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.

With Scotland’s love of fitba, this appealed to the press and was duly reported. With my twin loves of fitba and law (documented in a prior blog), this appealed to me. Here are a few of my eclectic thoughts on this move towards greater fan ownership.

Aren’t there more important things in life than sport?

Of course there are. In fact, you might get a bit philosophical here and point out that freedom of speech won’t feed your children (to paraphrase a human rights song by the Manic Street Preachers), or that you can’t eat empowerment. You would of course be right. But that does not mean that you cannot make small improvements just because you are unable to make mega improvements. Now that this proposal has been made, the elected legislature’s role is to decide if this is indeed an improvement to be taken forward.

Why fitba? There are other sports too you know.

Of course there are. But fitba was the only sport stigmatised by the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. If you can stigmatise fitba fans for the special role their chosen sport plays in society, why can’t you empower them?

But it’s my ba. I don’t want to play!

In many circumstances, this would be an understandable exclamation from the owner of the football in the school playground. “It’s mine, you can’t have it,” is a perfectly acceptable and in fact expected reaction from a person who does not want something they own interfered with. But the European Convention of Human Rights is framed in such a way that it can be interefered with in certain circumstances (when it is in the public interest).

Is this proposal in the public interest?

I can’t answer that, but you might get some interesting views from fans of Rangers, Dunfermline, Gretna, Hearts and indeed Third Lanark (if you can find any); not to mention fans from England or even further afield.

So how will it work?

This is where it gets interesting. There is a pun there, as will be tortuously revealed in due course. In the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, “communities of place” are given a right to buy land. This proposal is moving towards empowering “communities of interest.” Owners of football clubs (and indeed anything else) can quite legitmately expect due process and some certainty before expropriation happens. With a community of place, it is normally easy to know whom you are dealing with. That might not be as clear with a community of interest. So there may be a role for Scottish Ministers or another body to approve the fan groups that are to be bestowed with this power before they can take a fan-buyout forward. Without such a process, it would be very difficult for an owner to know which body represents the fans’ interests.

But won’t fans just make a mess of it?

To quote a parody of Kenny Dalgleish, maybes aye, maybes naw. But maybe they should have a chance.

So what now?

Beyond that, there is much speculation as to how or whether it would work. Which seems like a logical place to end this rather speculative blog. Further developments will be watched by this fitba fan, and others like him, with interest.

Posted in ECHR, Fitba, Land Reform, Property | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Know Your Rights: Human rights for music fans

This blog is about human rights and music. A curious topic for a blog, you may legitimately muse. How might human rights and music collide? One way they might is where songs have been banned or censored, and as such issues such as freedom of speech and expression are engaged, but that is not what this blog is concerned with. In fact, this post is about using songs as a means of teaching people about human rights, in part inspired by a recent blog about human rights books for kids. It is about making human rights accessible to non-lawyers. It does that by proposing three pieces of music that (to my mind, at least) are worth listening to and have a message about rights that might be used in an educational context.

Before the main act, I set out some background thoughts, which comprise a warm-up for the hard-line pedagogues amongst you. (Feel free to skim read the next three paragraphs if you are only here for the headliners, an action that would be the literary equivalent of staying at the bar when the support act is on.)

Education, communication and music

As explained in a previous post and a brief bio on this blog, my own career has migrated from a (traditional) lawyer role to an academic lawyer teaching in a higher education establishment. If that makes me part-lawyer and part-educator, those parts should not be difficult to reconcile. Fundamental aspects of both jobs are about communication. An effective lawyer/teacher must be able to explain unfamiliar concepts to people in a comprehensible manner. In my teaching role, there are times when my means of communication are dictated to an extent – for example, the centrality of the lecture is evident in most undergraduate LLB programmes – but a certain measure of autonomy remains. Although this post is not a critique of the lecture medium, to the extent there are flaws in the traditional didactic lecture – perhaps relating to capturing and retaining the attention of listeners – quirky tricks can be deployed to break the monotony, such as video clips or question and answer sessions (using “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” style handsets). My favourite quirky trick, of completely unquantifiable effect, is to allocate a lecture a theme tune, normally to be played at the beginning of a lecture. Thus, my students have been introduced to the Scots property law doctrine of accession by Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) – the irony of the refrain “We don’t need no education” is not lost on me. The necessity of the law of succession (inheritance) has been illustrated by Bruce Springsteen’s Atlantic City and The Flaming Lips’ Do You Realize? I have never been called on to teach family law, but if I was I would be sure to deploy Ben Folds Five in any lectures covering financial provision on divorce/separation (Song for the DUMPED) and abortion (Brick).

As I alluded to above, it is not exactly easy to gauge whether or not incorporating music is a useful exercise in anything other than self-indulgence, but I have three indications that my musical preludes might have been useful. The first is one of my lectures was peer-observed by a university colleague outwith the School of Law and I know she has taken to deploying songs in her (medical school*) classes. A second indicator is a small amount of feedback on student course evaluation forms that are handed in by students at the end of term. Needless to say, not all students felt moved to mention my musical selections in their evaluation of my teaching (no doubt they found the tunes horribly retro and quaint – sorry), but of those who did: a) not one made a comment that was negative; and b) several commented that it was a good way to engage the brain before a class (or similar). A third indicator is one specific student telling me she had become a Frank Turner fan after I played Long Live the Queen in a lecture. Actually, that last indicator tells me nothing other than I contributed to her musical knowledge, but in the interests of holistic education I suppose that is a good thing.

Two final comments are offered on the effect a musical interlude may have on listeners, both wildly speculative. 1) Maybe the music manages to tap into something primeval in the way a simple oration cannot. 2) Maybe the musicians have just a little more street-cred than a foosty lecturer ever will. Could that improve information retention, like some kind of musical mnemonic? As with much of this blog, that is not something I am able to quantify, but it is something to ponder.

Human rights songs

The Clash, Know Your Rights

Anyone compiling a list of song about rights who fails to include The Clash’s public service announcement with guitars is doing a disservice to the public. As Joe Strummer drawls, you have: 1) the right not to be killed; 2) the right to food money; and 3) the right to free speech. These rights are, of course, subject to caveats and (sure enough) when you look at the ECHR even the right to life is subject to qualifications. Fortunately freedom of expression is not as qualified as this song imagines, where it suggests you only have a right to free speech “as long as you are not dumb enough to actually try it.”

Soul Asylum, The Judge

Are you in favour of a fair trial? As both Dave Pirner (the Soul Asylum singer) and Ronald Dworkin (the jurist) pondered, “Who’s gonna judge the judge?”

The Levellers, The Battle of the Beanfield

In the opening track of the album “Levelling the Land” the Levellers bemoan the fact that the noise they thought would never stop died a death when the punks grew up. The Levellers have undoubtedly grown up, but the noise of “Levelling the Land” contains so many tracks that reflect the mood of parts of British society in the early nineties and (arguably) remain relevant today. Of the songs on the album, Liberty might capture a fundamental right in its title, and that sentimental quest for freedom continues in The Boatman, but it is the lyrics of The Battle of the Beanfield (based on a police action in 1985) that can provoke resentment and thought in equal measure. Looking at just one line from the song – “it seems they were committing treason, for trying to live on the road” – that might prompt discussions about the right to family life, privacy and even about land use.

Or maybe I am reading too much into all these songs, but there are three for starters. I can also think of songs by Tracy Chapman, Bob Dylan, Manic Street Preachers, Sepultura, PJ Harvey, Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine that might be worthy of inclusion, not to mention a fair few folk songs.

To conclude, I would ask two questions:

  1. Do you think the deployment of music could be a worthwhile learning aid?
  2. Assuming so, what songs would you choose?

*Finally, to any medical students who have been subjected to lyrics like, “take another little piece of my heart now, baby…” on the back of me sharing teaching practices with a colleague, I offer my heartfelt apologies.

Posted in Academia, ECHR, Education, Music | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment