Scottish Election 2021: Henry McLeish's warning against hatred demands action by all true democrats – Scotsman comment

With Scotland in the midst of a highly charged election campaign with much at stake for this country's future, it is perhaps only to be expected that some people will get carried away with the emotion of it all, lose their temper and begin to hate those with whom they disagree.

Henry McLeish warned against the hatred and tribalism that erupted during the Salmond affair (Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS Group)
Henry McLeish warned against the hatred and tribalism that erupted during the Salmond affair (Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS Group)

However, our elected representatives must not be among them and, more than that, have a duty to act as a force of restraint, both by the example they set and by directly challenging their own supporters who cross the line.

Following the bitter debate over whether Nicola Sturgeon had misled the Scottish Parliament over her role in the Salmond Affair, former First Minister Henry McLeish was moved to warn of the “corrosive atmosphere” at Holyrood.

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“You know I had hoped that 22 years on, a bit of that hatred, a bit of the partisanship, a bit of the tribalism, would have disappeared – but it was on full view [on Tuesday],” he said, warning of the danger of allowing personalities to become more important than discussions of policy and principles.

He was speaking after Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross and former MP George Galloway both revealed they had recently been sent death threats.

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One of the main benefits of democracy is that it is a way to peacefully conduct human affairs; violence, threats and hatred all undermine and degrade this system of government which is, despite its flaws, by far the best one anyone has been able to come up with.

Of course, there will be some who are cynical about appeals to politicians for “peace, love and understanding” and robust debate is important to the democratic process.

However, there should be a basic level of respect for fellow democrats that means we are able to disagree agreeably.

And the best way for politicians to ensure that is to set their own houses in order, rather than attempting to point out rival parties’ flaws in the hope of winning votes.

We the voters can also play our part by doing some due diligence on the public statements made by candidates we plan to support in May’s election.

In the end, we will get the MSPs and the quality of debate that we vote for and, therefore, to a degree, deserve.

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