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What a tangled web we weave


Trigger warning: the following text contains sardonic ribaldry, bon mots et badinage, and a dash of playful persiflage; all concerning the topic of freedom of expression, as protected by Article 10 of the ECHR (remember fellow Scots, we love Europe up here! Only the big bad Tories like to hate European law!). And none of it is intended to stir up hatred or hate on anyone. But if you are of a sensitive nature, please look away now… There, that’s the housekeeping done.

Be that by a male, female, or anyone who doesn’t fall into binary categories – I don’t want to stereotype. Time to get on with the show. And it falls most definitely into the category of farce; assuming tragicomedy, pathos and murder mystery. Don’t take offence at being excluded of course. The farce being the bourach that is the Scottish Government’s latest attempt to socially engineer a utopia.

I hinted at this last month; the idea of imposing cultural norms through legislation being doomed to failure. Even if the intentions are – allowing the benefit of the doubt – to spread harmony across our benighted land. BTW, it’s still not illegal in Scotland to criticise a law. Say for… not properly accounting for the additional law of unintended consequences that accompanies it. Which may or may not come to pass.

That’s subjective of course. Others would argue that it is a necessary piece of legislation to address a rise in hatred in Scotland. Funny thing is, the champions of this move, are also likely to be the same folks that routinely insist in print, in social media, and to anyone who would listen to them from a bar stool, that Scotland, our Scotland is… different from them. ‘Them’ being the country immediately to the south of us.

The anointed narrative in such circles is that – again, do pay attention at the back of the class – up here, by virtue of where the border sits, our culture is innately egalitarian, benevolent, outward-looking and inclusive. Unlike the rotters daaan sarrf. Yet in our same superior country, hatred is out of control apparently. We’re all at each other’s throats. Thus, we find ourselves in need of an extra layer of protection from baddies.

What a tangled web we weave, as Wally Scott had it. Trouble is, the ones we’re really deceiving here are ourselves. For to imagine that a political poultice will rid Scotland of poison, or rough edges, or the messy business of ‘opinions’ that we find disagreeable, well that is a crime against logic. Which is to say: we’re to be trusted to use the law wisely and not turn it into a clypes’ charter. But simultaneously, not to be trusted to self-police hatred.

There. I’ve said it. And I don’t expect the Leith Police to dismisseth or do anything else to me. Because other opinions are available. Probably strongly disagreeing with every word of the above. And hey, so be it. That’s the nature of a grown-up country. For now, while debates, and incidents, and nonsense will rage on – especially online (recusing myself from Twitter was the best thing I’ve ever done) – I shall try and lighten the mood a little.

See, in our new Scotland, under this law, the police will perhaps be required to take a… ahem… different approach to their duties. For example, it may be that errant scribes such as I could be in the firing line. And this could give rise to many a new cop drama north of the border. Would it be legal for me to speculate as to what these new shows would be? Why, yes, I think it would be safe to do so without stirring up too much ill-feeling.

The Bill
This one doesn’t need a new title. Basically, just two coppers stuck in a room trying to figure out how to make the new legislation work when faced with real-world problems. Also refers to the cost side of things, as their precious time is taken up with nonsense.

Nixon of Dock Green
I AM NOT A CROOK. So sayeth, old Richard Milhouse Nixon. But as Watergate proved, he was sticking tape-recorders and listening devices into his opponents’ offices. Hopefully, such an over-zealous approach to surveillance won’t come to Scotland.

The Proscribers
Think The Professionals. But the thin red line as opposed to the thin blue line. As in a red pen through anything deemed to be a bit ‘insulting’, ‘offensive’ or generally ‘verboten’ according to… er… well, according to anyone who wishes to report anonymously.

Pronounced ‘haggard’. What the overworked Scottish police force could become over time if folks start to misuse this legislation. Not to mention ordinary punters who publish articles or opinion pieces. I sincerely hope not. Now that would be exhausting…

Which is a shame. A bloody shame. For while we should never tire of fighting hatred in our society – whatever flag we fly or whatever country we live in – it’s also not endorsing hatred to say this is a clunky, difficult, and hugely problematic way to go about it.

End of. ■

Illustration by Ellie Foreman Peck at


To imagine that a political poultice will rid Scotland of poison, well, that is a crime against logic


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