Scottish election 2021: We must beware 'populist' liars who would corrupt our democracy – Scotsman comment

Election day is the most important time in the life-cycle of a democracy.

For the most part, our elected representatives are in charge and make the laws the rest of us must obey. But today that power is vested in the four million people registered to vote in Scotland. We decide.

The way in which we make our decisions is fundamentally important to the democratic process. We need access to information we can trust, to know what is really happening in the country and the wider world; freedom of speech in order to properly debate what it all means; freedom of assembly in order to peacefully protest; and politicians who either adhere to basic standards of honesty or pay a high price if they do not.

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The Scotsman, readers may be glad to hear, is not going to attempt to tell people who to vote for or even offer a suggestion. Instead, we have endeavoured to play our part by giving you trustworthy news reports and by publishing opinion articles written by people from across the political spectrum. Our aim is to be a forum for national debate in Scotland.

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In recent years around the world, democratic debate has become polluted by an alarming growth in conspiracy theories – such as the idiotic fantasies of ‘QAnon’ in the US – deliberate misinformation by hostile dictatorships like Iran, China and Russia, and so-called ‘populist’ politicians eager to exploit the resulting chaos.

All true democrats must take that threat posed seriously. We cannot allow any form of ideology to override reality as it did in the former Soviet Union, where scientists would be ordered to change their findings if they conflicted with Communist dogma, or in modern-day China, where a doctor who reported concern over a new disease – later named Covid-19 – was harassed by police for doing so.

Thankfully in Scotland, the leaders of our main political parties may disagree, but none has sought to embrace the mendacious strategies of Donald Trump and his ilk, and all are signed up to the fundamentals of liberal democracy. By and large, the election campaign has been a model of civility.

Clockwise from left: Douglas Ross, Patrick Harvie, BBC presenter Glenn Campbell, Nicola Sturgeon, Anas Sarwar and Willie Rennie during the final leaders' TV debate (Picture: Getty)

Now it is the people’s turn to play their starring role and remind any politicians who would be queens or kings just who is in charge.

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