In a free state, every man may think what he likes and say what he thinks – Spinoza
JUST when you think things cannot get much worse in Scotland, they do. With the backing of their perpetual supplicants, the ‘Greens’, the SNP government pushed their Hate Crime Bill through the Scottish parliament last night.
This is a dark event for the country of the Enlightenment among whose thinkers we count Adam Smith, David Hume, and Thomas Reid, founder of the Scottish School of Common Sense (!) All of them, to use the vernacular, will be birling in their graves.
Scotland, of course, is also the place where George Orwell chose to complete his masterpiece 1984, in which he foresaw the tyranny of the ‘Thought Police’, dark forces who monitor every citizen for wrong thought, speech, or action.
Arguably, even Orwell might be shocked to see just how far along the road to oppression we have been led. Scotland will, because of this legislation, become a country where the government is the sole arbiter of the acceptable viewpoint at any given time. We will live under some of the most draconian laws in the world, where almost anything a person says or does could be judged a ‘hate crime’.
The Scots as a nation have previously demonstrated a strong tradition of valuing independent thought, discovery, experimentation, sound discourse. They have questioned everything from the world they lived in to the ideas that shaped their lives. Above all, they have valued the freedom to think and to speak.
In 1859, John Stuart Mill, an Englishman educated in the Scottish tradition by his Scots father, published his classic On Liberty, arguing among other things for freedom of speech not only for ‘respectable’ opinions, but for those deemed extreme or ‘eccentric’. Mill wrote that ‘because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric . . . That so few now dare [publicly] to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.’
The intention behind the Hate Crime Bill is to do away with eccentricity, non-conformity and heresy. The aim is to change behaviour and to ‘re-educate’ normal people into compliant silence about almost any subject, as an automatic habit. The idea is well trailed, from Communist China to our own woke mainstream media. The Bill hints that even in your own home you may not think ‘impure thoughts’ or be safe from denunciation. This is a grievous breach of human rights. To quote Orwell again: ‘Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.’
No self-appointed moralist has the right to curtail our freedom of expression in public or private and no government has the right to seek to suppress speech on the grounds that they dislike or fear what might be said. The Scottish people should reject this false dogma and reclaim their history and heritage as a tolerant and open-minded society quite capable of defending its values.