Freedom of speech is a nuanced right - your views

" Hate speech can end with the President of America being charged with incitement to riot”

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 7:00 am
Freedom of speech also carries responsibilities

Freedom of speech is a nuanced right

The right to express opinions is one of the basic human rights, included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention of Human Rights and enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Freedom of expression (or free speech) is regarded as part of the democratic process. It implies freedom of religion and freedom from it, freedom of the press and free participation in politics.

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But even in democratic societies, free speech is not an absolute right. It can and must be curtailed for a host of reasons, such as national security and incitement to racial hatred.

With a worrying rise in right-wing populism, hate speech under the guise of free speech is common in modern democracies, hence the Scottish government's worthy attempt to address the issue with the recent Hate Crime Bill in Parliament, which deserved more balanced input from opposition parties than it received.

Hate speech is a scourge. It can start with a casual joke and end with the President of America being charged with incitement to riot.

Although right-wing populism has been mostly shunned in Scotland, discussion into hate speech is still important.

Worldwide governments must start to clamp down on social media and pundits who, under the guise of free speech, promote conspiracy theories about vaccines.

If they have enough followers, these pundits can earn fortunes targeting vulnerable members of society who could endanger others by refusing the vaccine. Are these spreaders of lies and information entitled to free speech?

The right must come with responsibility and is more nuanced that some would care to admit, particularly when it leads to hate speech.

Jack Fraser, Clayknowes Drive, Musselburgh.

Little France best place for eye hospital

I hope the Scottish government reverses its decision to withdraw the funding it promised in 2018 for a new eye hospital in Edinburgh to replace the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion.

This wouId mean the dispersal of the world class team of expert clinicians there. While this may save the immediate capital cost, I cannot believe it will save money in the long term and would lead to a significantly worse service for patients.

The plan to site it at Little France is by far the best for access and would have the advantage of being next to the Royal Infirmary and the new Childrens' Hospital.

I have been able to continue to read, and indeed write this letter, as a result of the treatment I have received for 30 years from ophthalmic surgeons at the Eye Pavilion, including Dr Hector Chawla.

Surely the money must be found to perpetuate this service for eye patients.

Andrew M Bell, York Road, Edinburgh.

Not so friendly Chinese pandas

A FoI request reveals that Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham contacted China over the cost of the giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo and the lack of income caused by the coronavirus lockdown. The annual fee for these pandas is about £600,000.

Ms Cunningham said the pandas were "a great symbol of the friendship between Scotland and China". Friendship? So her government condones violence in Hong Kong and the detention of millions of Uighurs in "re-education centres" in Xinjiang region?

China recently warned Taiwan that any attempt to seek independence "means war". What would she say if the UK government told the Scottish government any attempt to seek independence "means war"?

Clark Cross, Springfield Road, Linlithgow.