Kezia Dugdale: ‘This case was never about the definition of homophobia’

Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale
Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale
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For two long years, this legal case has been hanging over me. It has caused me, my family and my friends, deep distress and anxiety - and there have been some very difficult days along the way. Yesterday was a moment of immense relief.

I don’t have space in this article to mention all those who supported me, but to every single person who wrote to me or sent me a supportive Tweet: thank you.

I read them all. They came from supporters of all political parties and none. They lifted me up during the dark days.

But yesterday’s victory wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Daily Record newspaper, which stood by me at every step of the journey.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for the UK leadership of my own party, but I am grateful for the support of so many people within the Labour movement, including many fellow MSPs.

Yesterday’s result was an important judgement for the right to free speech and a healthy Press. The ruling clearly demonstrates that every citizen is entitled to make comments, provided they are fair and reflect honestly held views.

This case was never about the definition of homophobia. It was about whether a citizen can make a fair comment and not end up in court.

The result is good news for people the length and breadth of Scotland, and it’s particularly good news for columnists writing in this newspaper and other newspapers.

I am a fierce protector of a free Press. High quality, trusted and professional journalism is needed more than ever.

It is essential to our democracy, which is why I believe that growing the sector instead of making further cuts should be a priority.

In recent months, while this case has been rumbling on, much has been made of the intemperate language in our politics today. In court, there was discussion about “poison arrows” being fired.

Separately, politicians at Westminster have been branded “traitors” in recent weeks and forced to take security measures to protect themselves and their families. In Scotland, MSPs have found themselves subjected to vile threats via social media.

It’s time to clean up our politics. When our communities are so deeply divided, there is a duty on all of us to work harder to promote respect and understanding, the good that politics and the political process does all in pursuit of a more tolerant and just society.