The Scottish Gestapo 91

On 28 July a gender critical woman demonstrator, Julie Marshall, was “punched in the face” by a political opponent in Aberdeen. The man who struck her was questioned and issued with a police caution not to punch people.

He was neither arrested nor charged.

A month later, Scottish Government minister Patrick Harvie was giving a TV interview at the scene of the forthcoming Rutherglen byelection when a man heckled him, calling him a “deviant”. Harvie responded that the man was a “bigot”.

The heckler has now been arrested and charged, though when Stuart Campbell spoke with Police Scotland, they refused to confirm with what offence he had been charged.

Now we might conclude from this that Police Scotland believe it is not a serious criminal matter to punch a woman in the face in the street, but it is a serious matter to call someone a deviant in the street.

Or we might conclude that Police Scotland is very heavily politicised. That it is at the beck and call of ministers. That it has taken sides in the “culture wars” debate that poisons Scottish politics.

The latter explanation is obviously true. This is not an isolated incident;

  • The prosecution of Mark Hirst for saying that those who plotted to fit up Alex Salmond would “reap the whirlwind”.
  • The prosecution of David Llewellyn for a Facebook joke saying Angus Robertson should be dumped in the Water of Leith.
  • The prosecution of Marion Millar for gender critical tweets so inoffensive the Crown Office had to drop it after the case had started
  • My own jailing for “jigsaw identification clues” on the perjurers against Salmond, no greater than – and mostly identical to – many “clues” published by pro-Sturgeon journalists on much bigger platforms
  • The arrival of two senior detectives at my home just three hours after I stated that I have Stewart MacDonald MP’s leaked emails – which, as they acknowledged, is no crime
  • The three weeks warning given to SNP Ministers by Chief Constable Iain Livingstone of the progress of Operation Branchform, leading to Sturgeon’s resignation and giving ample time to dispose of evidence before the theatre of search tents

I could go on. Police Scotland, like the Crown Office, is thoroughly politicised. It is used as a personal tool against the perceived enemies of Scottish ministers. It has taken sides in the culture wars.

If you are on the “wrong” side, you will get prosecuted for an innocuous tweet or a remark in the street. If you are on the “right” side, you can punch women in the face or parade a sign calling for the decapitation of those who disagree with you, and face no legal jeopardy.

But, you say, surely it is wrong to call people “deviant”?

Well, I do not approve of yelling “deviant” at people in the street. It has unpleasant connotations. But I am absolutely opposed to the ever increasing encroachment of the power of the state into the lives of ordinary people.

The coercive power of the state is an awesome thing to set in motion, and terrifying to those it is used against. It is entirely disproportionate in a case like this.

Patrick Harvie is a government minister. He is used to the give and take. His robust reply of “Bigot” was an appropriate and sufficient response. That should have been an end to it.

Harvie is hardly a virgin in the rough and tumble of politics. Harvie was himself rebuked by Age Scotland only a week ago for dismissing the views of individuals on the grounds that they are old. Is ageism somehow a more acceptable prejudice than (alleged) homophobia?

Politicians should beware of ageism. Older people have a much higher propensity to vote.

With Scotland’s notorious Hate Crime Act due to come into force shortly and make this kind of prosecution much more common, I wish to reinforce the argument against over-use of the power of the state.

Modern discourse has lost sight of the fact that behaviour can be unpleasant and even morally wrong, without being illegal. It is thankfully impossible to involve the state in every social transgression, but its sphere is ever-widening.

Social sanction not involving the state is important. If a person is a routine adulterer, making the life of their partner a misery, they are likely to lose a number of friends and be socially shunned. We do not have them arrested for the bad behaviour.

Similarly if I come to a dinner party and make fun all evening of your big ears and bad cooking, you will presumably never invite me again and the other people present will be likely to follow suit. That is social sanction.

There is also the question of what is criminal and what is civil.

The defamation courts are open to Mr Harvie if he feels he was unfairly called a deviant. Interestingly, “vulgar abuse” has always been excluded from defamation. Just hurling silly abuse has not been taken as a legal matter, and I suspect that is how both sides of the “Deviant!”, “Bigot!” exchange would be viewed by a court.

I always turn to John Stuart Mill in these questions as a source of great wisdom, and to those who would scoff, I would add that there is no doubt that were it not for the profound influence of the philosophy of Mill on British political society, homosexuality would never have been legalised in the first place, or at least not for many more years.

In On Liberty, Mill cautions heavily against over involvement of the state in correcting actions even when they are harmful to others:

“The acts of an individual may be hurtful to others, or wanting in due consideration for their welfare, without going to the length of violating any of their constituted rights. The offender may be justly punished by opinion, though not by law. As soon as any part of a person’s conduct affects the interests of others society has jurisdiction over it, and the question of whether the general welfare will or will not be promoted by interfering with it, becomes open to discussion…

…But disinterested benevolence can find other instruments to persuade people to their good, than whips and scourges, either of the literal or the metaphorical sort.”


Mill also argues that the effect of speech should be viewed in context. He gives the famous example that to argue that corn merchants are thieves who starve the poor is a perfectly legitimate expression of opinion. But to yell the same thing to a howling mob armed with torches outside a corn merchant’s house at midnight might be a different thing.

This I think is useful guidance in the Harvie case. As I said, I don’t really approve of calling people deviants, but to use it to a powerful politician in his pomp, surrounded by aides and police and giving a TV interview, is one thing.

If a gang of big blokes were following a gay person at night down a dark street yelling “deviant” at them, the situation and the perceived threat would be entirely different.

Mill is absolutely right to say that context is important. The word deviant in itself has very different nuances in different contexts, not all insulting.

What should be plain to any person with any instinct for freedom and democracy is that the greatest danger to society in this particular situation is the abuse of power, by or on behalf of a powerful minister, against a member of the public attempting to make his peaceful protest known, albeit not as perfectly as we might wish.

To leave the particular for the general, this is part of the Scottish Government’s reliance on culture wars as the wedge issue which firstly, removed the fundamentalist Independence supporters from the SNP, and secondly, they hope will keep them in power on a specifically generational political platform.

The claim of various minority personal identities by Scottish government politicians has become an intrinsic part of their political culture. There has in particular been a remarkable foregrounding of sexual identity as part of political life.

Now I am entirely tolerant and non-judgmental on different sexual identities, as long as neither children nor coercion are involved.

But to me politics is about the governance of society in a way that improves the lot of those masses living in poverty, with few economic or social opportunities for advancement, condemned to lives of insecurity and struggle.

Politics is not about how middle class people choose to sexually pleasure themselves or their fashion choices.

It is now generally understood that identity politics has been used to neuter class politics on the left. That instead of focusing on the need to redistribute wealth, political power and personal agency to the working class, energy has been diverted into ending discrimination for minority groups, to the extent that putting very wealthy women in power becomes a “victory” even when, once there, the very wealthy woman does nothing to eliminate child poverty.

Humza Yousaf writes in the Guardian, not about Scottish Independence or even wealth inequality, but about “toxic masculinity“.

I am not sure I understand this subject. Would, for example, having sex with a female assistant working directly to you, then accepting large cash donations from her father to pave her way to a lucrative job, be an example of “toxic masculinity”?

In the SNP this obsession with identity politics has become institutionalised, part of the very fabric of the organisation itself.

On the ruling body, the SNP National Executive, members elected by the entire membership are substantially outnumbered by members appointed by affiliated minority groups, sometimes with only a couple of hundred members.

Any notion of selection on merit through the party’s democratic processes has been dispensed with entirely. All women shortlists, which were initiated on a firm promise they would be for one election only, have become permanent. Most pernicious of all, the effects of preference for disabled candidates – self-declared as such – gave some truly bizarre results.

In possibly the worst of these, Emma Roddick received just 3% of the vote to be selected as the MSP candidate, but was promoted top of the list due to mental illness. There are many similar examples.

Now as a lifelong sufferer from bipolar myself, I don’t think anyone should be unfairly disadvantaged from mental illness, but to be made an MSP because of poor mental health is just strange.

When I was in the FCO I never thought I should be made Ambassador to the United Nations because I was bipolar.

It would have been most amusing if, when I came second to Mike Russell in election for President of the SNP, I had been declared the winner because I am bipolar!

The result of all this is that Scotland is governed by politicians whose primary political identity is their personal victimhood, be it through gender, race, sexual orientation or disability.

They continually wave the bloodied bandages of their personal victimhood at us – and they have their own Police Scotland Gestapo ready to arrest anyone who dares to impugn it.


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91 thoughts on “The Scottish Gestapo

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  • Colin Alexander

    It was Alex Salmond’s SNP Scottish Government that introduced “inclusion and equality” or woke (depending on your point of view) social reforms, such as the introduction of same sex marriage and the Scottish Prison Service adopting a policy where male prisoners could self-identify as women. It was also Alex Salmond’s SNP Scottish Government who radically reformed the regional police forces of Scotland into the single entity: Police Scotland.

      • Colin Alexander

        @Craig Murray In my comment I never expressed any opposition to Alex Salmond’s reform of marriage law, prison policy or the police. I merely highlighted the fact it was his government who made those reforms.

        If you want my opinion about marriage law, my opinion is that there should not be such a thing as marriage law. Marriage should not be defined and controlled by politicians and the courts. As far as I’m concerned people should be free to consider themselves to be “married” to whoever, if that’s what makes them happy but, it should not be a legal status defined by politicians and the courts.

        But, I do support the right of people to form their own opinions, and the qualified right to express those opinions, even if those opinions are not popular.

  • Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh

    [ MOD: Caught in spam-filter ]

    Roddy Dunlop KC’s spiel with which the Wings (‘How Scotland Hates Women’) item begins is very enlightening. To quote a bit more than folk have done in previous comments:

     “[…]Accordingly, neither an assault on a woman for being a woman, or for being a gender critical woman, is an aggravated crime. A report of such could be dealt with by police warning, or not prosecuted by the Procurator Fiscal, under the discretions mentioned above. On the other hand, an s.38 (breach of the peace) which involves no assault but which does involve alleged hate crime (ie race, religion, sexual orientation etc – but not misogyny) is aggravated and, in general, must be prosecuted and is not subject to those discretions. What this means is a breach of the peace involving verbal abuse of certain minorities must be prosecuted; but the assault of a woman does not have to be.” […] (As posted on Wings Over Scotland).

    The question of course is where is such arbitrary incoherence coming from. For a lot of us Nicola Sturgeon has long seemed chief culprit. However, more recently my thoughts have been consolidating around the view that, for all her culpability she is ultimately no more than a colluding dupe. One evidence is the obvious fact that similar selective laws are at work far beyond Sturgeon’s remit. They have global manifestations, if mainly in English-speaking countries.

    A friend a while back got me looking at the analysis of the contemporary Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben. A central focus of Agamben’s political thought is on what he calls the “state of exception”. We had an example of such with government restrictions during Covid. A more stark example would of course be full-on martial law. Agamben’s insightful observation is that the person (ie Head of State) who suspends normal law is in a sense putting themselves above the law (indeed he/she is thereby “outside” the law). Someone who breaks curfew rules, for example,  and gets shot by the military is also “outside the law” in the sense that there is no appeal to normal court procedures. Nasrullah Mambrol (founder of and contributor to an online literary criticism magazine) summarises this aspect of Agamben’s thinking very well: 

    In…’State of Exception’ (2005), Agamben says that the one is sovereign who can determine the state of exception. The paradox of sovereignty is that the sovereign is both ‘outside and inside the juridical order’. […] The sovereign must, first of all, decide when a state of exception exists and, second, decide upon strategies – including the suspension of normal legal processes – to deal with it. These include, above all, calling a state of emergency.

    “The issue arising for contemporary societies with their juridical systems, and in particular, for Western style liberal democracies, concerns the extent to which the empty space beyond (and within) the law is taken up by violence. For, with the law (legally) suspended, the will of the sovereign becomes supreme. This ‘will’ can be imposed on a situation with any means chosen by the sovereign, and these might well include violence. 

    “Here then is the worry behind the paradox of sovereignty: the risk that a sovereign might resort to violence in an irresponsible way. Agamben points, for example, to the suspension of law (including the suspension of the Geneva conventions on the conduct of war) in the ‘war on terrorism’ with respect to those interned by America at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. There, prisoners have no legal identity and recall the plight of stateless people between the wars referred to by Hannah Arendt (who was a key influence on Agamben).

    “Agamben also cites the arbitrary policies involving the suspension of the law being employed to deal with asylum seekers. Increasingly, asylum seekers are purposely processed and their claims assessed outside the boundaries of any state, in international territory. They thus have no legal status and thus cannot appeal to any authority if their human rights are violated. They are non-persons. 

    “Agamben’s further point is that the condition of the asylum seeker seems to be the general condition on the horizon, as ever larger numbers of people find that conditions have become impossible within the state of origin. Increasingly, too, therefore, the political entity of the nation-state is unequal to meeting the challenge of this new political reality. It is unable, for example, to guarantee human rights by virtue of a person’s humanity, founded as the state is on essentially legal principles. Law can be in force without significance, as illustrated by Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ (1968).

    […] As Hannah Arendt said, human rights are connected to the fate of the nation-state, and that when the latter declines, so does the defence of human rights. The implication is that globalisation impacts negatively on human rights.”

    • Squeeth

      Giorgio Agamben

      I haven’t heard of him but I’ve seen comments by historians for decades that States of Emergency have crept into ordinary law piecemeal and that it isn’t an accident. We don’t have compulsory ID cards but we have compulsion in producing ID and photo IDs masquerading as driving licences. The PTA was temporary then permanent then superseded by the Terrorism Act. Himmler would be proud.

  • Chris

    Without suggesting that the behavior is excusable, I offer this description of the incident from a different news source. I’m not seeing many articles that do more than copy and paste the same description. This one has different details, but is also critical of the police response.
    “…A male (apparently) – half Julie’s age – tried to snatch the Women Won’t Wheesht banner, and while attempting to wrest it back, Julie says she was punched in the arm and shoulder and the banner hit her face, leaving her bruised and with a black eye…”
    A little different than “punched in the face”, though one needn’t steal a banner in the first place. I have cheered the theft of fascist flags and banners at protests, even though it often provoked violent outbursts. I offer this confession as an admission of my imperfect and inconsistent pacifist beliefs.

    [ MOD : URL abbreviated to preserve referring anonymity ]

    • Bayard

      I suspect that, unless we were there at the time and saw the incident, we won’t know what actually happened, such is the unreliability of the “news” media these days. A colleague of mine witnessed the mortar attack on Downing Street. His account differed quite markedly from the official one that was in the media.

        • will moon

          Or was it M15 firing the mortar? Don’t keep us in suspense. If you can’t comment on what happened maybe you could comment on what didn’t happen? Or even, a vague discussion on a general level regarding “this sort of thing” (apologies to Father Ted/Linehan for the borrowing)

          • Bayard

            It was to do with the length of time the operation took. As he witnessed it, the whole thing was over in under two minutes. The official version was that the van was parked for more than ten minutes before the mortaring started. Questions were asked in the Parliament as to why the van was there for ten minutes and nobody did anything about it. The Banqueting House across the street was being scaffolded at the time so there were plenty of other witnesses. Tellingly, none were asked to give an account by the police.

          • will moon

            Any thoughts on this time discrepancy?
            My only experience of central London comes from a spell watching video blogger/drone pilot Focus Pocus. I noticed he had several jolly encounters with heavily armed uniformed police patrols. I don’t see these type of patrols in my provincial location, though it is not my wont to court encounters with the police, as Focus Pocus does.
            I was picked up about 18 months ago by a patrol and held for an hour in the back of a police car for “looking suspicious”,. while the officers rummaged through the files. The dashboard of the car was packed with advanced electronic gizmos, including fold-out screens etc. It looked more like sci-fi than the traditional police car dashboards of my memory. Hilariously, I was accused of not looking like myself when they brought up a large photograph of me on a computer screen , taken 4 years previously when I had been subjected to an assault. They kept saying “that’s not you”. What can one say to such a statement? Eventually after asking me some amazingly detailed personal questions, drawn from the dossier they were thumbing through on one of the screens, I was released. I have no criminal record and have had hardly any contact with the police in my life.
            If questions were asked in the parliament concerning a mythical ten minutes, one wonders why – if witnesses were not interviewed, one wonders why?

          • Bayard

            “If questions were asked in the parliament concerning a mythical ten minutes, one wonders why – if witnesses were not interviewed, one wonders why?”
            My guess is that some politician, SPAD or civil servant was asked for information before they were in possession of it and guessed. From then on no-one was interested in the truth.

          • will moon

            Thanks for your parsimonious response. It is good to see not everyone on the internet is a crazed conspiracy theorist
            Are you aware of “Stakeknife”? This entity was a long term asset of the British state sitting near the top of IRA. After reading the story, broadly. I found it difficult to believe in the mainstream narratives offered regarding “the Troubles”. That is not to say, I believed, any of the counter-narratives either.

            “now, we see through a glass darkly”

  • Dug

    Good article text, covering a difficult point which needs to be made. I say this as someone who despises both the terf/jenkie mob, and their fellow travellers who argue that the left has lost its way purely because it refuses to throw non-heteronormative minorities to the wolves in exchange for the support of simpletons against the owner class.

    Unfortunately, you bias your audience with the choice of photo. It’s an article that depends on bipartisanality for its credibility. No photo, or a split photo showing “robust public opinion” from both extremes of the culture war divide, would be much preferable.

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