Celtic AGM: Fans critical over Lord Livingston and Living Wage

By Alasdair LamontBBC Scotland at Celtic Park
Lord Livingston
Board member Ian Livingston is a Conservative peer

Celtic's board had to withstand strong criticism from shareholders over the proposed reappointment of Lord Livingston at their annual meeting.

Chairman Ian Bankier staged a passionate defence of Ian Livingston - a Conservative peer who recently voted in favour of cuts to tax credits.

He claimed Livingston had been "subject to a torrent of utterly base personal abuse conducted over social media".

"The messages posted, in quite a few cases, are criminally racist," he said.

The decision by Livingston, a former minister for trade and investment, to vote in favour of the UK Government's tax credit cuts policy in the House of Lords prompted a section of the Celtic support to start an online petition calling for his removal.

Almost 10,000 have signed it, but the proposal to re-elect him to Celtic's board is likely to be carried when the votes are counted.

One shareholder was given a rousing round of applause when he claimed Livingston's "role in society is contrary to the ethos of the club".

BBC Scotland's Chris McLaughlin
"Football AGM's are rarely about football and more often than not, they can be feisty affairs. It's little wonder, as they provide a rare platform for fans to have their say to a club's board of directors. A board of directors who are always well prepared to for what is likely to lie ahead. Celtic chairman Ian Bankier provided an impassioned plea to fans, asking them not to use the club as a conduit for political campaigning but the passion from those asking for the removal of the Lord Livingston was no less heartfelt. With football a key thread in the social fabric of Scottish life, it is perhaps ambitious to expect it not to cross over with other key factors such as politics. Celtic and Lord Livingston will ride out this particular storm and football will once again take centre stage - until next year."

"Ian Livingston is a consummately able business executive," said Bankier in response.

"We are grateful that he is prepared to devote his time and considerable talents to the affairs of this club.

"The fact that he also happens to be a member of the House of Lords creates no conflict of interest with the business of Celtic."

Footballing matters caused minimal controversy at the annual meeting, but Bankier was also forced to respond to criticism of Celtic's refusal to sign up as official Living Wage employers.

Director Brian Wilson, manager Ronny Deila, chief executive Peter Lawwell and chairman Ian Bankier at Celtic's annual meeting
Manager Ronny Deila, chief executive Peter Lawwell, and Ian Bankier answered questions

He said it was "not in the interests of the business or the club", but it was the campaign against Livingston that appeared to particularly anger the chairman.

"I condemn this activity and appeal to you to see it for what it is because intolerance soon leads to hatred and hatred leads to a lot worse as we well know," he said.

"Our fans come from every quarter of society and share the common bond of supporting the team.

"We are not a conduit for political statements and campaigns. No fan or section of fans has the right to set up a stall that proclaims political intolerance in the name of what they invariably cite as their club."

The gathering at Celtic Park came after another eventful year for the Glasgow club.

They retained their league title once again last season and lead the Scottish Premiership in this campaign.

However, they failed to progress to the Champions League group stages under Norwegian Deila.

Club captain Scott Brown on Thursday urged fans to "keep faith" with the club, promising they will return to the Champions League group stage.