Hounding of BBC's Sarah Smith until she was glad to leave Scotland is a warning sign about state of our democracy – Scotsman comment

After BBC journalist Sarah Smith spoke of her relief at moving to the US and escaping the “bile and hatred” she had been subjected to in Scotland, it should have been a moment for all to pause for thought about civic discourse in this country.

Journalist Sarah Smith was appointed BBC North America editor in November (Picture: Robert Perry)
Journalist Sarah Smith was appointed BBC North America editor in November (Picture: Robert Perry)

However, in multiple remarks that were long on invective and short on wit, social media provided a fresh round of abuse that inadvertently made Smith’s point.

Disgracefully, at least one elected politician, the SNP’s James Dornan, joined in by sarcastically dismissing her complaints – “America would be the go to place to escape all her imaginary woes then" – before later apologising.

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Thankfully, there are Nationalists who recognise the dangers of demonising public figures to the point where they are glad to leave their own country, such as Joanna Cherry MP who tweeted: “I know this won’t make me popular with some but there is undoubtedly a culture of bile, hatred and misogyny in Scottish politics.”

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Smith told how, in one incident, someone in a passing car asked her: “What f****** lies are you going to be telling on TV tonight, you f****** lying bitch?" She said some appeared to assume she was a unionist because of misogynistic ideas that her politics would be the same as those of her father, the late Labour leader John Smith.

Robust debate tempered by a basic level of respect is vital to democracy. Vile abuse designed to intimidate and demonise politicians, journalists and others is profoundly undemocratic.

The SNP needs leadership strong enough to take to task the minority of its own supporters who are either too stupid or too vindictive to understand.

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