EDINBURGH Western Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton has vowed he will not be scared into silence by cybernats after revealing he and his staff have been issued with attack alarms as a result of online abuse.
The extra security - which also involves a video-door entry system at his constituency office and special precautions for staff working alone - came after police said Twitter attacks over the fact he was born in England were serious enough to count as hate crime.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “The police were worried the abuse I was receiving was getting increasingly dark and aggressive.
“They agreed with parliament they would beef up security, so my staff and I have been given personal attack alarms. They are more than just noise-makers - they connect directly to a control room and if I activate it, it immediately starts transmitting audio to the control room so they can hear what’s going on and if needs be they will summon the police. It also detects a sudden drop, like if you’re knocked down, and they ring to check everything’s okay and if you don’t pick up they will send the police.”
He said he did not make complaints to the police about the abuse he received. “I think the police have far better things to be doing with their time.
“But I think there is a responsibility on Twitter to police more effectively the abusive political stuff that comes through.”
The increased security followed the abuse Mr Cole-Hamilton received after responding to a tweet by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in December 17. She had compared the “open, inclusive, internationalist Scottish independence movement” with “insular, inward-looking blue passport-obsessed nonsense”.
He replied: “This is the same civic, inclusive independence movement which repeatedly castigates my English origins, flips out about flags on strawberry boxes, and smashes up tea cakes with a hammer, yes?”
He was sent messages calling him a “c***” and “Judas rat”, threatening his parents, and accusing him of bending “both legs to the English Crown”.
He said anti-English abuse directed at him was “relatively rare”.
But he said abusive posts often followed criticism he made of the Scottish Government.
“If I land a blow metaphorically particularly against the case for independence, that usually brings several days of abuse. I don’t really see very much of it any more because I’ve muted all these people. but my staff will say ‘You got a real torrent’.”
But he insisted: “They are not going to frighten me. I’m not going to stop saying the things I’m saying I’m an opposition MSP - it’s my role to challenge government, to scrutinise government policy and point out its flaws and inadequacies, including independence.
“And when I get that kind of abuse it actually makes me all the more determined. I’m not going to surrender my country to people who are hiding behind a keyboard, throwing out invective and making no positive contribution to our society.”