Scotland's political leaders must tackle their own 'toxic' supporters – Scotsman comment

The 2016 murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a far-right extremist was a chilling wake-up call about the dangers of allowing peaceful, democratic debate to be invaded by a culture of hate.

Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross visit the Bluevale Community Club in Haghill, Glasgow, together (Picture: Wattie Cheung/pool/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross visit the Bluevale Community Club in Haghill, Glasgow, together (Picture: Wattie Cheung/pool/Getty Images)

A year after her death, Nicola Sturgeon and then Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson put aside their differences to appear together in a comedy sketch on a special edition of Channel 4 programme The Last Leg. They were, surprisingly, quite funny.

More importantly, it showed they were prepared to have a laugh together and treat each other as people rather than, as more extreme voices would have us believe, the devil incarnate.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

But some members of the public appear to have short memories or be so full of bile that they simply do not care. Politics is still becoming increasingly “toxic” with female politicians bearing the brunt of threats, abuse and intimidation.

Now Sturgeon has reiterated warnings that women in particular are being put off politics, which she said felt “less safe” than when she first became involved.

Read More

Read More
Tim Rideout: Nicola Sturgeon promises to "root out and condemn toxic, racist pol...

“Social media has a big part to play. It has allowed people who always existed... on the margins but never had a platform before to have that platform to hurl abuse directly at people. Sometimes that spills out into the real world,” she told The Cultural Coven podcast.

While this is a global phenomenon, Scotland has its own particular issues. Having identified the problem, it is surely up to the First Minister and the leaders of the other mainstream political parties to do something about it.

They need to set an example by treating each other in a respectful way and, on occasion, demonstrating they can joke with each other as Sturgeon and Davidson so well did in 2017.

But they also need to be more active in condemning those on their own side, even if not actually in their own party, who cross the line.

If a nationalist abuses a Tory, condemnation by fellow Conservatives will have little effect, while criticism from pro-independence parties would have a much greater chance of changing behaviour. Similarly, unionist parties should make sure they tackle those abusing SNP politicians.

Violence poses a serious threat to democracy. If we are to see it off, leaders need to show leadership and keep their own houses in order.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.