Ugly scenes outside Tory party leadership hustings in Scotland should concern us all

Hats off to the BBC’s Scotland editor James Cook.

Despite being branded “scum”, a traitor and a liar by an aggressive protester outside the Conservative leadership hustings in Perth on Tuesday evening, he remained cool, calm and impeccably professional.

His treatment has now been condemned by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon after footage of the incident was posted online.

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Protesters outside the Tory leadership hustings in Perth. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

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"Hurling abuse at journalists is never acceptable,” she wrote on Twitter. “Their job is vital to our democracy and it is to report and scrutinise, not support any viewpoint.

"[James Cook] is a journalist of the highest quality and a total pro – the behaviour he was subjected to last night was disgraceful.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney called it “totally and utterly disgusting behaviour that only damages the cause of Scottish independence”.

It was a high-profile example of some of the ugly scenes outside Perth Concert Hall.

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Hundreds of protesters jeered and booed Tory Party members as they made their way into the venue to hear Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak make their pitches for the top job.

One prominent banner read “Tory scum out” and carried the symbol of the minor ultra-nationalist group Siol nan Gaidheal, whose members have been banned from the SNP since the early 1980s.

Many of the protesters waved saltires and pro-independence flags.

When I arrived, eggs were being thrown at a small queue of party members, including older men and women and a wheelchair user, as they tried to get inside.

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One sprayed against my leg – a lucky escape from an eggy fate.

Bizarrely, the Alba Party MP Neale Hanvey has amplified claims on social media that no eggs were thrown. It is “lies”, apparently.

Elsewhere, Holly Moscrop, the national chair of the Scottish Young Conservatives, said she was called a “Tory whore” and spat on.

People are entitled to protest against political parties, of course.

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There is nothing wrong with making your voice heard, even robustly, and many of those outside Perth Concert Hall were simply doing just that.

It would also be wrong to present the worst elements as somehow representative of the SNP.

But party members – and journalists – should not have to put up with intimidation and abuse.

Such behaviour should concern us all.

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