Am I Allowed to Say That?

“Am I allowed to say that?”


I don’t know about you, but this is a question I’m asking myself more and more each day. As an elected representative, I need to be careful about what I say but I’m finding that this is becoming the case in my private life as well.

I feel as though it is becoming convention that we shouldn’t say anything that could offend others. Over the past few weeks the headlines from our news outlets seem to predominantly feature high-profile people who have caused a stir by making. what have been characterised as, “offensive remarks”.

Although it’s not an easy conversation to have, I believe this is something we need to talk about. What does liberty of speech look like in Scotland in 2018? How far is too far when it comes to saying things that are controversial, and what does that mean for us in daily lives?

My concern is that preventing people to express opinions is inherently banning us from holding certain views. Anyone who knows me will vouch for me when I say I like to speak my mind. If I’ve given thought to something and think that it contributes to a worth-while conversation, then I would like to talk about it freely.

Of course there are two sides to this. Just as we teach our children not to hurl abuse at one another, I see little to be gained by condoning hateful speech towards anyone. There is some language that exists solely to insult, aggravate and belittle people rather than to move forward a coherent set of values or ideas.

How should all this fit into our politics, and how should governments legislate to reflect how people feel about this?

We need to carefully consider what we want from politics. Do we want a society that legislates what we are allowed to think?

In a column in The Scotsman, Brian Monteith made a case that Scotland was moving towards becoming a “McNanny State”- that we are moving towards greater invasions of our physical privacy. He argued that “politicians are disconnected from the public” and have a desire to dictate lifestyle choices.

My real question is, are we? If so, what limits, if any, should be placed on our ability to speak our minds?

Personally, I think we should stop confusing political correctness with basic human decency. There is a distinct difference between saying something with the intention to offend someone, and saying something in the context of a wider point that happens to offend.

This trend to take offense at “micro-aggressions” such as calling writing platforms “chalkboards” rather than “blackboards” seems impractical to me.

Growing up, I was always taught to call a spade a spade. Now I fear we’re being told that the spade might be offended by this.

Moving forward, it’s important we have a consensus on this issue. Whether you think I’m right or wrong, you should let me know.

I promise not to get offended!