SCOTLAND men's football games being behind a TV paywall is a "Poll Tax on Scots", East Lothian's MP has told the Commons.

Kenny MacAskill MP (Alba Party) also said today that broadcasters were failing in their obligation to Scottish viewers.

Streaming service Viaplay has exclusive rights to show Scotland men's qualifying matches until 2028, and requires a paid subscription.

Mr MacAskill's Broadcasting (Listed Sporting Events) (Scotland) Bill would expand the list of sporting events that must be free-to-air to include all qualifying matches played by the Scotland men's and women's national teams in the World Cup and the Euros.

He told the Commons today:  “The Euro finals [which are held in Germany in June and Scotland have qualified for], as with the World Cup finals, are available on free to view channels, that’s specified by law.

“But Scotland qualifying matches are not protected - they have only been available through Viaplay and at a cost of £180 per annum. For many in these tough financial times, that’s a cost they cannot afford.

“It’s a Poll Tax on Scots watching their national team.

“Hence the qualifying games, many of which were enthralling with wins at home against Spain and away against Norway, were not available to view for many other than those fortunate enough to go to the match itself or able to pay for Viaplay.

“That is as unfair and unjust as a referring error or VAR review which punishes your team. It has meant that Scots fans have missed out on the well-earned success of their team.

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

In 1990, riots broke out after then-Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher attempted to reform council financing via the Community Charge - dubbed the Poll Tax - a policy which was introduced first in Scotland.

Mr MacAskill also said: "The licence fee paid by Scots and rights given in Scotland to UK broadcasters aren't being matched by coverage. That's why this Bill is necessary, it must be mandatory that those games should be available and broadcasters must live up to their obligations.

"Scots fans have a right to see their team and to expect no less from their broadcasters."

Mr MacAskill also said the Scotland games not being free to watch presented a regional inequality when compared to England and Wales.


East Lothian Courier: Kenny MacAskill MPKenny MacAskill MP

"Nor is it the situation in England, where qualifying games have been free-to-air on ITV or Channel 4 since 2018," he added.

" Even in Wales, (when) the rights to the national team's qualifying fixtures were also sold to Viaplay in 2022, access was available free-to-air."

Mr MacAskill stressed that he did not hold the Scottish Football Association responsible for the paywall as a result of their decision to sell the rights of the games to Viaplay.

"Culpability rests with broadcasters who have not just rights but duties and in which they are failing Scotland," he said.

Mr MacAskill said the SFA has a responsibility to support Scottish football that "comes at a cost".

He said: "Money is tight for associations as for individuals, broadcasting money that flies at other nations such as Ireland when games south of the border in the Premier League are shown, are denied Scotland.

"The reason being that the UK is classed as one broadcasting entity and international football divergence is of no relevance. Hence a cash-strapped SFA needs to maximise income and the rights to show the national teams' fixtures are their major asset."

His Bill has been scheduled for a second reading on June 21 although it is unlikely to become law in its current form due to a lack of parliamentary time.