Opinion: “Sit down, shut up” now acceptable in Scotland’s political arena

scotland_fansI’m no football expert, but the chant “Sit down, Shut up” seems to be popular as a chant to silence a loosing team. In a similar fashion the cry ‘no mandate’ has taken a similar position in Scotland’s political arena. This was most recently seen in the Edinburgh instalment of Question Time, when both Angus McNeil MP and Lesley Riddoch argued that if a party has no elected officials in the country then its members have no right to express their opinions.

Regardless of your stance in the independence debate (though I think it would be heavily weighted to one side in this particular forum) or how you feel about Nigel Farage and George Galloway (I expect this to be just as heavily weighted also), it is impossible to ignore the effect of these tactics, which amount to an attack on free speech.

Freedom of speech is a right protected by the European Convention on Human Rights: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by Public Authority’. I wouldn’t suggest that, as it stands, the Scottish Government is in breach of the ECHR, but to put down a speaker on the grounds they have no elected officials in Scotland undermines this principle which is fundamental in any democratic society. Free speech is of particular importance in the run up to next year’s referendum, where a forum in which all feel free to discuss and contribute is of paramount importance.

The only purpose of such an argument is to shut down and undermine a contributor to a debate. It is an attempt to rule out valid contributions to the debate in hand. That elected representatives are getting away with using such a tactic is totally unacceptable.

As a result, a view that it is socially acceptable to shout down appoint or minority views has developed, where Nigel Farage was forced to take refuge in a pub in Edinburgh and again in Aberdeen where he was treated with hostility. It is more than possible to respect someone’s right to speech and to disagree with that which he says and believes.

A democracy without free speech is no democracy at all; a Scotland in which free speech is shouted down is unacceptable. It is the collective responsibility of everyone, especially those in positions of power and responsibility, to protect Human Rights – to protect free speech in Scotland.

* David Evans is a Lib Dem member in Aberdeenshire East

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6 Comments

  • I don’t think Galloway or Farage should’ve been on Question Time without a LD member, especially when we have nearly as many MSPs than Respect have elected councillors.

  • Al McIntosh 9th Jul '13 - 3:25pm

    What is an attack on free speech is including parties on question time that are irrelevant in Scotland and not including the Greens or Liberal Democrats which have far more claim to be relevant. It is also an attack on free speech to assert that Angus McNeil and Lesley Riddoch do not have the right to make that point.

    This is just another example of pro-UKIP and anti-Scottish bias we have had from the BBC lately.

  • Question Time is hopeless. Needs a reboot to bring it into the 21st century.

  • This is silly. Is my right to free speech impinged because I haven’t been invited on Question Time? The right to free speech does not imply a right to a publicly funded platform. The BBC does have a duty under it’s charter to present a range of political opinion roughly representative of the population. There may well be a debate to be had about whether the time given to Farage and others is proportionate or not but it is not a debate about free speech. No one has suggested that Farage should not be free to speak, publish, and broadcast his views and opinions.

  • David Evans 10th Jul '13 - 1:45am

    My point is not about QT, it’s on people’s right to their opinion and to vocalise it. I don’t disagree that Galoway and Farage’s inclusion was for the publicity either. I disagree with the general acceptance in Scotland of shouting down minority views, QT was an example of something most will have seen that highlights what’s happening in Scotland in general

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