Readers' Letters: Twitter takeover is not a win for free speech

Can anyone, no matter his or her degree of influence or wealth, be “a free speech absolutist”? In the wake of his agreement to buy Twitter for $44 billion, Elon Musk makes a number of claims about enhancing its potential as a platform for all sorts of opinions (your report, 26 April).

The truth is, of course, that the notion of free speech always has to be qualified. This is not simply because of existing laws that limit what broadcasters, newspapers and the various social media can say or print; it is because of all sorts of social norms, like a desire not to cause embarrassment or offence to friends and neighbours. In organisations, people may worry about their promotion prospects if they speak out or even worry that certain views may offend existing and potential clients. To this we can add the development of “cancel culture” in entertainment and university forums, with a sometimes misplaced desire not to offend on grounds of religion or sexual orientation.

The current debate about misogyny among MPs does highlight a point. Are we really being asked to believe that behaviour of this kind is one-sided, that men are always at fault? There must be a number of social occasions when the behaviour of women – verbal or otherwise – can cause offence not just to men, but to other women present. In the interests of free expression it should be right to call it out.

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But an atmosphere is slowly being created in which people, for a variety of reasons, are becoming frightened to call it out. People are inhibited from commenting on it either through humour or analysis.

New Twitter owner Elon Musk reckons the platform currently inhibits free speech (Picture: Britta Pedersen - Pool/Getty Images)New Twitter owner Elon Musk reckons the platform currently inhibits free speech (Picture: Britta Pedersen - Pool/Getty Images)
New Twitter owner Elon Musk reckons the platform currently inhibits free speech (Picture: Britta Pedersen - Pool/Getty Images)

This means a slow but sure erosion of free speech. The Prime Minister, the First Minister and the Leader of the Opposition may feel it right to defend deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner for the attacks on her reputation. But they should not blind themselves to the wider question of how far our liberties can be eroded.

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

Speak up

On the Angela Rayner case (your report, 26 April), Nicola Sturgeon was right in there, on national media, not missing a trick, although this is what politicians do. However, we are in the middle of local council elections, where she has been rather silent, although given the poor SNP record on local government, this is not surprising – she needs to deflect attention away from this.

William Ballantine, Bo'ness, West Lothian

Costly revolution

Ian Moir is correct in highlighting the horrendous costs of Net Zero and The Green Revolution for the man and woman in the street (Letters, 26 April). Politicians earning – sorry make that “getting” – huge salaries, gold-plated pensions and expenses all paid for by taxpayers have no idea of real life. In their mad rush for Net Zero they want EVs but only the rich can afford them.

They want to ban gas for heating and cooking and saying we should install heat pumps. Ground source pumps are priced at £11-20,000 depending on the loop, and air source pumps are £5-12,000. Bigger radiators might be needed and the running costs are higher. I recently had a replacement gas boiler fitted for £3,000.

Politicians, the Green zealots and others aboard the climate gravy train should lead by example and have heat pumps fitted, at their own expense, and see how they fare.

Incidentally, the EU is reclassifying natural gas and nuclear as green investments, so could someone please tell Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon?

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Fare point?

After 15 years of driver-less government in Scotland, it was only a matter of time before buses followed suit, according to your 25 April front page article. If it proves to be as successful as the SNP's management of the country, heaven help the passengers.

Will it prove to be another ferry story ?

Fraser MacGregor, Edinburgh

School daze

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The Conservatives want schooldays to be extended so that pupils can study parts of the curriculum which they were unable to do because of school closures due to Covid.

This is unlikely to succeed – there are limits to how much children (and others) can learn in any specific period, be it an hour, morning or day, due to changes in energy levels and ability to concentrate. Generally learning is slowest in afternoons so extending these will rarely have much effect.

The notion that there is a set and correct amount which all pupils should and can learn during their school years is flawed. Even where this happens it may cause more harm than good. Poor mental health among children is now widespread.

Also, schools closing later would mean more car traffic during the evening peak period.

John Munro, Glasgow

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Elon Musk has bought Twitter for reported $44 billion

In the dark

Scotsman reporters have been at the forefront in exposing the culture of secrecy at the heart of this SNP government and it is not before time that an opposition MSP is seeking to call it to account (“Sarwar calls for review into ‘culture of secrecy’,” 26 April). The “missing” documentation relating to the catastrophic decision to waive a refund guarantee clause in the ferry procurement fiasco is only the most recent in a litany of cases of a failure of transparency.

How many public bodies are shackled by “communications frameworks” which “risk manage” communications which “could be interpreted as a critique of Scottish government policy”? Is this what causes Freedom of Information requests to be routinely delayed, rejected or redacted beyond comprehension? Pressure is regularly exerted – in some cases successfully – upon what should be independent bodies such as Public Health Scotland, the National Records of Scotland and the OECD, as well as the Auditor General, to alter and/or delay reports. The current and previous Auditor General have frequently been critical of the SNP’s failure of transparency in relation to public spending. The Scottish public is simply denied access to vital information about health, education and the economy by the SNP's covert operations.

There are attempts to catch the SNP in the act. Misleading and erroneous statements in reports have been called to account by the Office for Statistics Regulation. The Scottish Information Officer has at his disposal rarely used measures to investigate cases of suppressed information. Currently he is pursuing four separate cases in a bid to elicit information from the SNP to determine if the SNP has broken the law in withholding it. We can only hope that Mr Sarwar will keep up the pressure and perhaps join Jack McConnell’s call for a police investigation into the most flagrant case of SNP disinformation as well as the ingrained culture of secrecy.

Colin Hamilton, Edinburgh

Strange notion

In trying to dismiss the mandate that pro-independence parties have for holding another referendum, James McLeod has a strange notion of democracy (Letters, 25 April). To dismiss any election result as invalid because it was not endorsed by the majority of the total electorate is clearly a nonsense. By that criterion very few parties, if any, would be able to put their policies into action.

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To suggest that people who cannot be bothered to vote should have any influence on the outcome of an election or the subsequent right of winning parties to put their stated policies into action is perverse. Or does it only apply to parties he does not support?

Throughout recent history the SNP have played by Unionist rules. Firstly, in the 1950s, they were told to show support by gathering signatures to a petition requesting “home rule”. They did that but then were told that winning elections was the way to secure independence. Clearly, they have done that continuously over recent years at local, Scottish and Westminster elections.

What does he suggest that they should now do to test public opinion on the question of Scottish independence? A referendum perhaps?

Brian Kelly, Currie, Edinburgh

Frigate me not

Peter D Cheyne (Letters, 25 April) talks about people having short memories. He appears to be suffering shortsightedness when talking about the demise of shipbuilding skills on the Clyde.

Perhaps he needs to take a wee wander from the Ferguson Yard and head over to Govan and Scotstoun to the BAE Systems Marine shipbuilding yards which are not having the problems that Fergusons are with their project.

Both on the Clyde, but 25 minutes and less than 20 miles can make a whole lot of difference.

BAE are building Type 26 frigates and looking to employ an additional 400 skilled tradespeople this year, having secured more than 3,400 jobs in Scotland. The nationalised shipbuilder employs just 400 people yet has cost the taxpayer millions, with the price of the two ferries rising from £97 million to about £240m, but the sky is the limit. It could cost us even more.

The difference between the two organisations is not in the ability to build ships but in the process of design, placing contracts – not risking millions of taxpayers’ funds and having a commercial mindset. These BAE contracts bring not only jobs to those working there but to their suppliers and many support businesses too, enhancing many local skills.

Jane Lax, Aberlour

History lesson

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I am sure Miriam Margolyes (TV preview, 25 April) will be delighted – think of the royalties – but a bit puzzled that she “stole the show as Nursie in Blackadder” considering that this part in the sitcom was played by Patsy Byrne – who sadly died in 2014.

I remember Miriam appearing in the show, but as the Spanish Infanta!

John Pole, Kirriemuir, Angus

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