Leader comment: We should follow Sturgeon's lead on democratic respect

It is a concern that Liberal Democrat campaigners felt the need to contact police about Ian Blackford during his 2015 election campaign against Charles Kennedy.

It is important that those who value democracy abide by its guiding principles – chief among them the need for debates to be held in a peaceful manner without even the hint of a threat of violence. Any fellow democrat should be worthy of a basic level of respect, regardless of how severe the political differences.

The rise of the far-right and far-left in recent years in the UK and abroad had made this all the more important. At home, highly contentious issues such as Scottish independence and Brexit have inflamed passions.

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Politicians from across the spectrum have spoken of a rise in death and rape threats, some have been given extra police security, while Batley and Spen Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered by a right-wing extremist.

Nicola Sturgeon may strongly disagree with Ruth Davidson about most things but they still formed an unlikely comedy duo, showing a level of basic respect

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson have led on this issue by example.

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They have very different views and their exchanges at Holyrood can get heated, but they were still able to form an unlikely comedy duo in a sketch for a special edition of Channel 4’s The Last Leg show, which marked the anniversary of Cox’s death.

So it is a concern that a dossier about SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford’s allegedly “angry, aggressive and unpleasant” behaviour towards Charles Kennedy’s team in the 2015 election was passed to the police.

Kennedy’s campaign manager Conn O’Neill stressed that they did not make a formal complaint, but felt the need to make contact with officers in case of “further incidents”, which subsequently did not take place.

Blackford has given a different account, claiming that he was the victim of a “nasty” campaign and had gone to ask Kennedy to “lay off” the personal attacks. He added that, “with the benefit of hindsight, which is a wonderful thing, perhaps it would have been better not to do that”.

Regardless of the facts of this particular incident, every politician in Scotland would do well to follow the commendable lead of the First Minister and others who adhere to basic standards of decorum.

Because the tone set by political figures filters down and influences their followers, some of whom may lack the self-control or common sense to avoid a descent into hatred, vitriol and, ultimately, violence.

And that is a genuine threat to the democracy we all value so much.