MSPs pledge to tone down rhetoric during political debates

The Scottish Parliament during a debate. Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

The Scottish Parliament during a debate. Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

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A cross-party group of Nationalist and unionist MSPs have today signed up to a formal pledge aimed at ending “unhelpful polarisation” in the political debate in Scotland and across the globe.

The group of Lothians MSPs, including Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, have even pledged to tone down their exchanges at Holyrood to adopt a more respectful 
approach.

But the move came as Nicola Sturgeon yesterday branded Tory leader Ruth Davidson “beneath contempt” over her support for the “rape clause”.

Recent weeks have seen the political debate in Scotland turn nasty on both sides as campaigning intensifies ahead of next month’s town hall elections and a second referendum on independence looms. The five main parties at Holyrood are represented in the statement which has been issued in conjunction with the launch of the Amidst campaign today.

“In our politics we all run the risk at times entrenching unhelpful polarisation,” today’s statement says.

“We want to do better. We must be robust where we clearly disagree. But in light of recent global and national events, we pause to reaffirm our commitment to representing diverse constituents, and to building on what we have in common, across party lines.

“One way we can do this in the debating chamber is to acknowledge and build on shared values more often.”

As well as Ms Dugdale the pledge has also been signed by Andy Wightman of the Greens, the SNP’s Ben Macpherson, Miles Briggs of the Tories and Alex Cole-Hamilton of the Liberal Democrats.

Amidst spokesman Simon Bateson said: My hope now is that these MSPs, and others, will work together to create a new culture in Holyrood.”

Conservative Western Isles candidate for next month’s town hall elections Ken MacBrayne was last week suspended for “extremely offensive” online comments about Ms Sturgeon.

Another Conservative candidate was caught up in a similar storm last month and was also suspended from the party. George Mcintyre, who was standing for the Scottish Conservatives in Midlothian, was found to have shared anti-Muslim comments on his Facebook in reaction to a story about immunology.

The SNP’s frontrunner to become the next leader of Edinburgh, Frank Ross, came under fire over a newspaper column which appeared to question the “Scottish” identity of pro-union parties.

Mr Ross wrote: “Despite constantly talking Scotland down, they [rival parties] see some value in identifying themselves as Scottish even if it is just to get them elected – what does their view of ‘Scottish’ really stand for?”

Amidst will aim to create a civic space in Edinburgh to enable Scots to “step out of our bubbles and foster better conversations to bring about long-lasting change.”

Writing in The Scotsman today, Mr Bateson calls on MSPs, and others, to create “a national amnesty on the posturing we too kindly call debate”.

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