“Being in the front line of politics takes its toll”

Monday February 20th 2023

Colin Beattie MSP
Colin Beattie MSP, Midlothian North & Musselburgh, writes his monthly column for Midlothian View

The last week has been a little turbulent in Scottish politics and it has personally been an opportunity to reflect on the current culture of politics my colleagues, both in Holyrood and Westminster, experience in the present day.

Nicola Sturgeon has been a formidable leader in Scottish politics and to the wider independence movement. There is no denying that she has led Scotland through some of its most difficult times such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Although, I respect her decision, it will be sad to see her go.

We are all human beings as well as politicians. Being in the front line of politics takes its toll, not only on the individuals but also on people’s families and friends.

I have been an MSP now for nearly 12 years and served as a Councillor before. The nature and culture of politics has changed dramatically. I found this most notable in the last Holyrood election where social media played a massive part in campaigning and reaching out to the electorate. The barrage of abuse and hatred candidates faced online made many fearful to stand, many change their minds and step down from standing and for myself, shocked at the level of abuse received.

It has become much easier to reach people on social media – it does have it benefits. We saw the power of social media during the pandemic for example, it was a great way to stay in touch with friends, family, and the world. The downside of course, is it is much easier to say hurtful and abusive things without realising the consequence this has on the receiving end.

Anyone in a public role such as a politician is now more easily accessible – many will say this all comes with the job. However, it is not just public figures. Anyone, especially children use and access the internet easier than before. If we do not start drawing lines somewhere, issues such as online bullying and hatred discourse will worsen.

I worry that if we do not crackdown now on these issues, this will become a socially accepted norm in today’s culture.

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