ED2014 Columns ED2014 Comedy

Alfie Moore: Scottish law

By | Published on Thursday 21 August 2014

Former police sergeant and star of Radio 4’s ‘It’s A Fair Cop’, Alfie Moore, always likes to give some time, while at the Fringe, to explore the whims and ways of Scottish law and law enforcement.

Alfie Moore

And after a few more weeks entertaining the local law enforcers (amongst others) he now shares some thoughts on how legal matters differ North and South of the border.

It’s a well known fact that Scotland only has two criminal offences: a) breach of the peace and b) behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace. There was also murder but this crime has plummeted in recent years, the general consensus being that these were only actually occurring to give Taggart something to do.

Scottish forces have now amalgamated into one force known as ‘Police Scotland’. Whenever I hear the term ‘Police Scotland’, I’m tempted to say, “I wish somebody would! Have you seen the parking in Edinburgh?”

I’m in the unique position of being both a cop and a comedian. During the Festival many local police attend my shows, since buying them a ticket is much cheaper than a training course. The massive differences in our two legal systems (England’s and Scotland’s that is) are soon highlighted: corroboration for example – meaning unless two Scottish police officers laugh at one of my jokes at exactly the same time, then it never actually happened.

We sometimes go for a beer afterwards and it’s always very entertaining to see whether it’s the Scot or the Yorkshireman that gets to the bar last. With the pride of my county at stake I’ll usually feign some mobility injury and come out on top. It’s then that we really get into the glaring differences between English and Scottish laws and policing.

For example, the English police’s ‘caution’ is quite wordy – ‘You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention…’ Which is in contrast to the Scottish formal police caution, ‘You looking at me, pal?’

Scotland also has some little known quirky laws which I adore:-

• “Any Scotsman found to be wearing underwear beneath his kilt can be fined two cans of beer”. One reason why glass dance floors have never caught on north of the border.

• ‘It is illegal to hunt haggis between 1st April and 30th July’. (It would be inappropriate for me to joke about this one as there has been deep concern from environmentalists about the depletion of wild haggis stocks in recent years).

• ‘In Scotland, if someone knocks on your door and requires the use of your toilet, you must let them enter’. Could be worse – in Russia you have to smile and give them your house!

It’s probably fairly obvious that I am a big fan of the Scottish legal system and I think English law should adopt it – and for that reason I don’t like to hear all this talk of independence.

My other concern with independence is that, just as Vladimir Putin is bullying his neighbours and threatening to cut off the gas supply to the dissenters, I worry that Alex Salmond will also become a tyrannical dictator and cut off the Irn-Bru supply to the South.

Scotland is so politically charged at the moment that comedians have been advised to be very careful not to use any discriminatory material. I have been very meticulously and sensitively editing my jokes to be absolutely certain that they do not offend. For example, “An Englishman, Irishman and an alcoholic walk into a bar…”

I know it’s not my place to say, but please don’t give us the elbow, and get all pally with Europe instead, Scotland.
Europe have even sillier laws that they will impose on you. Please keep your history and tradition, William Wallace was hanged, drawn and quartered – far more dramatic than being hanged, drawn and 0.25’d.

‘Alfie Moore: The Naked Stun’ was performed at Assembly George Square Studios at Edinburgh Festival 2014.

Photo: Idil Sukan