Tory party hustings Perth: Free speech enables foul abuse of Conservatives by 'patriots' to be heard by all – John McLellan

Defending freedom of expression is a tricky business. It not only involves calling out what should now be known as the Unpleasance for the cancellation of the Jerry Sadowitz show last weekend, but also accepting the right of people to gather and scream “scum” at respectable people attending a private event, as they did in Perth on Tuesday.

That the private event was the Conservative leadership hustings means that such abuse is just an accepted facet of “civic and joyous” nationalism, and attendees like me know what to expect.

I arrived too late for most of the “fun”, just having to settle for being told I should get out the country by a someone with a distinctly Estuary English accent, and that I was actually “lying f***ing scum”.

But earlier eggs were thrown, the chair of the Scottish Young Conservatives, Holly Moscrop, allegedly spat at and insulted as a “Tory whore”, and the BBC’s James Cook called a traitor and a “scumbag rat” just for doing his job.

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Ugly scenes outside Tory party leadership hustings in Scotland should concern us...

The First Minister has condemned the abuse of Mr Cook, but when journalists are met with snarling sarcasm when they ask legitimate questions at her press conferences, she should reflect on the tone she sets.

I for one am grateful Police Scotland’s “appropriate policing plan” allows such displays of tolerant, inclusive patriotism in which demonstrators need not worry about arrest for making people fearful for their safety. That way the rest of the country gets to see it too, not just us.

The BBC's James Cook came in for abuse outside a Tory leadership hustings event in Perth