Sunday , 26 January 2020

Sturgeon: Scotland must combat on and offline hate speech

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

The First Minister called for a more ethical political discussion in Scotland and for all parties to combat hate speech and cyber-bullying.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat Party has welcomed her statement and called for a concrete plan of action to tackle online cyber-bullying and hate speech.

Sturgeon stated that difference of opinions and passionate disagreement is to be welcomed, as long as it is open, honest, conduct with respect and free from hate speech.

She said that threats of violence, or to insults and abuse based on misogyny, homophobia, sexism, racism or disability should not be tolerated anywhere and must be tackled.

The First Minister said: “Where political disagreement is passionate and robust, open, honest and conducted with respect it is welcome.

“Even where views are expressed using language that I wouldn’t use, I accept that – after all, that’s in the nature of free speech.”

“But where people use twitter to threaten violence, or hurl vile abuse, or seek to silence the voice of others through intimidation, that is not acceptable – and we must all say so loudly and clearly.

“But what simply cannot be tolerated is the lowering of our political debate to threats of violence, or to insults and abuse based on misogyny, homophobia, sexism, racism or disability.

“No one should be subject to threats or abuse of that nature as a result of sharing their views – whether they do so in a parliament, a pub or on the internet.”

Sturgeon again criticised the “appalling homophobic and misogynistic” abuse that was tweeted against Tory leader Ruth Davidson a few months ago.

“They were unacceptable,” stressed the First Minister.

“I said so publicly and my party acted against the person responsible.  And we will not shirk from those decisions in future.”

She said that the “SNP will take steps to warn those whose behaviour falls short of the standards … and where appropriate, we will take disciplinary action.”

She called for all Scottish political parties to “send out a clear message that politics in Scotland will not be sullied by this behaviour.

“We must ensure that as politicians we set a good example and debate the issues not the insults. Raising the standard of debate is a responsibility across the board and I urge all parties to do as we have done – to say clearly that crossing the line will not be tolerated.

“And then we should all stop feeding the trolls. The fact is that internet and social media is a huge positive for our political culture – and a tiny minority should not be allowed to destroy that.”

She said while the internet can be used by a minority for “of cyber-bullying and abuse” it has brought “fresh opportunities for the 21st … a platform to share experiences that otherwise wouldn’t be heard. It has the power to change our society for the better. Let us all aim for that.”

Willie Rennie
Willie Rennie

Willie Rennie MSP, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, told KaleidoScot that he welcomed Sturgeon’s statement and called for a plan of action to deal with online hate speech.

He said: “This statement of intent is welcome but we need a plan of action from the First Minister. If she is serious about tackling homophobia, misogyny, sexism prejudice against people with disabilities, or racism on the internet much more must be done to raise awareness about the dangers of cyber bullying.”

About Dan Littauer

Dan Littauer is a journalist who specializes in LGBTI current affairs, travel writing, feature writing and investigative journalism. He is a correspondent for LGBTQ Nation, ManAboutWorld, and previously worked for Gay Star News, PinkNews, San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, Gay Middle East, Lonely Planet as well as contributing occasionally to the BBC, Al-Jazeera, CNN and The Guardian. He also had an extensive career outside journalism, which included teaching psychoanalysis and social science, and consultancy work for the travel market. When he is not busy writing, he can be spotted rambling around the stunning Scottish landscape, where he lives, spending time at home with his cat.

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