Helen Martin: Let’s be a truly tolerant nation

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WHETHER they become two separate entities or not, there is at least one goal shared by Scottish and UK governments. Both insist they want to create a tolerant society and they try to do that with legislation.

A tolerant society is made up of tolerant people who can think for themselves, not blindly obedient people, or those who only do what is right to avoid a penalty. We are becoming motivated by government and council rules rather than consideration, personal responsibility, recognition of personal freedom and free speech, empathy, sharing and understanding – all the qualities that, together, make up tolerance.

Legislation is often abused by the selfish as a means of getting their own way enshrined in statute promoting antagonism rather than tolerance.

Smoking is deadly, we learned that. Non-smokers should not have had to tolerate it in enclosed public spaces, so the ban was a reasonable response. Now, though, there is a comparatively safe substitute which doesn’t harm others – even ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) says there is no evidence that it does.

But so ideologically intolerant has society become to smokers that moves are already afoot to ban e-cigs and vapourisers (there will be a lost tax issue behind this, mark my words, not to mention the only logical conclusion that people will go back to the fags and die. Still, they’re only ex-smokers, so who cares?).

Drinking to excess is bad for us. Legislation is the answer again.

Middle-class guzzlers can carry on, but if Europe agrees to minimum pricing, the poor will be priced out of the “offie”. I struggle to find sense let alone tolerance and unity in that.

Cycling has seen a resurgence, which is great for pollution levels and fitness, but risky in a car-congested city. Legislation has created cycle lanes and fines for car drivers who encroach on them, even if cyclists don’t use them. In any accident, the driver may soon be automatically held responsible with the onus on them to prove otherwise. The intolerance between drivers and cyclists is predictably soaring.

Anti-sectarian behaviour occurs mostly at football matches. Politicians have no stomach to take on Rangers and Celtic so legislation for the whole country is the result. As a Catholic (nominally at least) I’m quite happy if someone says they don’t like Catholicism or the Papacy. It’s a free country and they are entitled to their opinion – there are aspects of other religions I don’t like. But if they choose to stone people coming out of mass, they’ll be arrested for assault anyway as they should for inciting or committing violence at a match or anywhere else. Bigots on either side are ignorant and unpleasant. Additional and unnecessary legislation won’t change their minds, their behaviour in private or make them more tolerant.

Pet dogs, like people, have to poo. Owners have to pick up or be fined. Employing fine-issuing beach wardens is the answer for ­Portobello, not proposing a ban on dogs which is, undeniably, playing into the hands of the intolerant who simply don’t like dogs and want the beach to themselves.

Sadly, the legislation that should get through doesn’t. Margo MacDonald’s bill to enable the terminally ill to end their own suffering got knocked back. The worried well couldn’t tolerate the wishes or freedoms of those facing a long and painful death.

Legislation cannot make us all sing from the same hymn sheet, not least because we know politicians often rush in and get it wrong. Fill up your tank with diesel anyone? Use “deadly” buses? How about a state-appointed guardian for your children?

My dream of Scotland, independent or not, is somewhere governed by leaders who pull people together celebrating each other’s differences, creating a wealthy, welcoming, innovative and genuinely tolerant country where folk are free to live their lives with as little interference as possible. And where politicians don’t rely on quick-fix micro-legislation for political headlines.

All about timing in Adams case

AS conspiracy theories go, I might be out on a shaky limb here but I can’t help wondering about the timing of Gerry Adams’ arrest for the murder of a woman 42 years ago at the height of The Troubles.

As an alleged IRA commander, it would be reasonable to assume he had directly or indirectly been responsible for some deaths during the 1970s whether or not those included Jean McConville, above, and that with the settlement and his move to mainstream politics any such deeds would be consigned to history.

Following his arrest, hard-line Republicans are said to be poised for action and there is an obvious risk of peace being shattered in the Province once again.

Given Scotland’s religious make-up and Irish links, especially in the west, there could hardly be a better – or worse – time to stir up Unionist feelings in the run-up to the referendum.

Low blow

Just when we thought we’d got rid of him, Donald Trump is back having bought Turnberry. Go on Alex, announce a new wind farm off the Ayrshire coast – I dare you!

Grannum left to be scapegoat

FORMER Mortonhall employee Anne Grannum was promoted from admin worker to superintendent, apparently with little or no supervision and inadequate training for the job.

Other city crematoria did retrieve babies’ ashes. She’s beginning to look like an inadequate scapegoat for higher-ups.