On seeing a beautiful picture of the Northern Lights taken from the Highlands, Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, appears to have decided he had enough evidence to state as a fact that the photographer, Ollie Taylor, lived in the south of England and had travelled to Scotland despite the lockdown restrictions. "As you live in the south of England and travel to Scotland is only for permitted reasons I am sure there will be a valid reason as to why you are posting a photo from the north of Scotland last night?" Blackford tweeted.
However, Taylor told the Press and Journal newspaper the image had been taken about five minutes away from his house in Caithness and accused Blackford of “trying to stir up public hatred” against him. He suggested the MP could have messaged him before going public with his accusatory question. To his credit, Blackford recognised he was in the wrong, deleted the post and apologised.
But, as Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie pointed out, Blackford had “picked on and bullied” a private citizen who had done nothing wrong and such behaviour “could only add to the problems of anti-English sentiment in Scotland”.
Most of us can probably think of times in which we have been sure we knew the truth of the matter, only to belatedly discover we were mistaken. We would all do well to avoid a rush to judgement even when, perhaps especially when, the facts seem certain. For example, we all should be wearing face masks in shops and other confined areas, but there are some people with a genuine reason not to wear one.
The rise of social media has given everyone access to a mass audience. If we are over-quick to try, convict and condemn, mob justice will cause serious damage to our society.
The “theory of knowledge” of leading politicians is extremely important as Donald Trump’s numerous idiocies have demonstrated. Blackford has been found wanting in this case and has, hopefully, been taught a lesson he will not forget.