Kezia Dugdale: My defamation case win was a victory for free speech

Political discourse in Scotland needs to be reassessed and politicians from all sides of the debate should stand up to hate and abuse wherever they see it, and in particular online where the tone and temper of debate can escalate to extremes all too quickly.

Tuesday, 23rd April 2019, 7:00 am
Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

After two years of being pursued for defamation over another newspaper column I wrote, the sheriff who handed down the judgement last Wednesday rejected the case, ruling that what I said was fair comment and my honestly held view.

As the trial highlighted, you can’t participate in politics armed with a quiver of poisoned arrows to fire at your opponents and not expect one to be fired back eventually.

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Kezia Dugdale wins defamation case against Wings over Scotland

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I’ve spent the last week personally thanking the many people who were supportive of me throughout the process as well as getting back to those who emailed or got in touch via social media. There has been too many to reply to them all, but thank you.

What saddened me was to see so many folk who got in touch to wish me well face horrendous ­online abuse for doing so.

This was an important judgement for the right to free speech and a healthy press, clearly demonstrating that every citizen is entitled to make comments as long as they are fair and reflect honestly held views.

We now have a chance to reassess political discourse, reset the tone of public debate and the opportunity to reject hatred and abuse in our politics, and it’s one we should take.