Thursday 25 June 2015


When I became First Minister I said I wanted to lead one of the most accessible governments in the world. My personal use of twitter is an important part of that accessibility.

Since I joined Twitter, I have sent over 10,500 tweets and I have received thousands more.  Some of those responses are enthusiastic, engaging positively with my views on politics, books, tennis, the X Factor and a whole range of other issues besides.

Others disagree with me. Sometimes that disagreement is measured, polite and thoughtful. On other occasions it is abusive, and sometimes it is simply vile.

Frankly, the level of abuse directed at me on-line on any given day would make people’s hair stand on end were they to see it. I choose to simply ignore it, but that doesn't mean that on-line comments which cross the line of decency are acceptable.

Where political disagreement is passionate and robust, open, honest and conducted with respect it is welcome.  Even where views are expressed using language that I wouldn't use, I accept that - after all, that's in the nature of free speech.

But where people use twitter to threaten violence, or hurl vile abuse, or seek to silence the voice of others through intimidation, that is not acceptable - and we must all say so loudly and clearly.

Just like every other politician, I volunteered to be in public life and with that comes an acceptance of public criticism.  I don’t expect everyone to agree with me - it would be a dull world if they did.  Robust political debate is part of our public life and we must cherish it, even when it takes place in terms or in language we might not personally use.

But what simply cannot be tolerated is the lowering of our political debate to threats of violence, or to insults and abuse based on misogyny, homophobia, sexism, racism or disability.  No one should be subject to threats or abuse of that nature as a result of sharing their views - whether they do so in a parliament, a pub or on the internet.

A few months ago appalling homophobic and misogynistic comments were made about Tory leader Ruth Davidson.  They were unacceptable. I said so publicly and my party acted against the person responsible.  And we will not shirk from those decisions in future.

Obviously, I can't police Twitter single-handedly. I follow 3,500 people and am followed by almost 230,000 - I can't personally keep track of everything that is said, but when tweets or postings from SNP members that cross the line are brought to our attention, we will act - as we have done before.

That is why I am making clear today that the SNP will take steps to warn those whose behaviour falls short of the standards we expect - we will tell them to raise their standard of debate, to stick to issues not personalities, and to ensure robust and passionate debate takes precedence over abuse and intemperate language. And I am also making clear that, where appropriate, we will take disciplinary action.

In the SNP we have a code of conduct and on-line guidance for our members - where that code is broken, members should have no doubt that we will use our disciplinary processes.

Of course, anyone who suggests that Twitter abuse is one way traffic is wrong. It spans the political spectrum. That is why, across all parties, we must send out a clear message that politics in Scotland will not be sullied by this behaviour. 

We must ensure that as politicians we set a good example and debate the issues not the insults. Raising the standard of debate is a responsibility across the board and I urge all parties to do as we have done - to say clearly that crossing the line will not be tolerated.

And then we should all stop feeding the trolls. The fact is that internet and social media is a huge positive for our political culture - and a tiny minority should not be allowed to destroy that.

Amid the stories of cyber-bullying and abuse, the lurid headlines and the partisan outrage we must remember that the opportunity the internet provides for a broader range of opinions to be heard is something precious.  Just as the first print press in the 15th century opened up opportunities for learning, debate and democracy so the internet has brought fresh opportunities for the 21st century.

From pro-democracy movements in the middle east to campaigns like "everyday sexism" here at home, the internet provides a platform to share experiences that otherwise wouldn’t be heard. It has the power to change our society for the better.  Let us all aim for that.


  1. Tris

    The problem I have with NS having to do this article is the sheer hypocrisy of both the media, and other unionist politicians and certain ex (lol) Labour MPs . I have always took the view that I would never be abusive on Twitter and while I have been borderline rude and cheeky on occasion I have never been abusive, I can't say the same about some of the tweets I saw and received during the referendum. Some of it was unreal and one in particular threatening, all from unionists who associated with a variety of unionist parties, even the party I am a member of.

    I appreciate that NS can't win either way but I don't know if I would have allowed anything written by myself to appear in the Daily Mail, which does more to sow the seeds of hate and anti Scottishness than any other 'alleged' newspaper. I also wonder though if these attacks on Scotland, Scottish people and the SNP are acts of desperation. Scotland, as we all agree, has changed and the mainstream, the elite and many unionists, just don't like it. I actually do suspect that they are afraid as they see it all slipping through their fingers. I was at a political meeting last night and pointed out that I fully expect to see another referendum in under 10 years and that the answer will be YES if the UK does not drastically change and it shows no appetite to do that. The unionists are hoping that the YES side go away and are hoping that their on going, never ending campaign of hate against certain parts of Scotland will turn people away from the debate. I suspect that it will do the opposite, I imagine that many reading the attacks, the nonsense in the Courier today by the so called academic Jill Stephenson about Dundee which is equally as vile as anything from the YES side only reinforces the argument for a YES vote. I bet other than the Courier no other so called paper will pick it up , if they do it will just be to drag the City through the mud and they wonder why so many are getting angry and involved passionately in the YES movement. They really are fools on the unionist side in some areas.

    It really is tiring and boring in many ways, but hey keep it up because all they are doing is making the YES argument for them.


    1. I think sometimes I'm relatively rude about or to people on Twitter, but never do I threaten anything illegal and I never call people things that they clearly are not. I don;t call people like Cameron Nazis because they are not. They are altogether something else, but not Nazis.

      The nearest I have come to that is showing a picture of the odious IDS under the sign "Work makes you free", which was a Nazi slogan, but it also one of his.

      How did your comment at the meeting go? Were people in agreement or scoffing?

  2. I hope other "leaders" in Scotland, follow Nicola's lead and, release a similar statement. Also the MSM should agree to be fair and impartial, which is what they should be, and reel in their own "professional" hacks.
    I not be holding my breath.

    1. You have ti realise that eve if they did, it would be meaningless because as they see it, there is no comparable abuse being perpetrated by anyone on the unionist side. The media will never highlight it, and if Nicola or anyone else points to specific examples then it's "goodness me, I was unaware of this, let me look into it."

      And that's only if they can't get away with saying it was a joke. Some of these tweets don't look very jokey to me. But at the same time, the thing about "I'm a violent man, just leave me in a locked room with Jim Murphy" doesn't sound any more serious than some of the stuff on the other side that gets passed off as a joke, and look what happened.

    2. I hope so too Jim.

      The mainstream media... huh. Fat chance. Once again yesterday they ran stories about the Scottish government withholding money from the queen (the poor soul is down to her last billions), which was released by Buckingham Palace...dpoutless to deflect for the big pay rise being given to the royals and the £150 million to be spent on their property.

      The press didn't do any checking, most certainly not with the SNP or the Engish government ...and ran stories, including I hear, an editorial in the Times, criticising Nicola for being a republican and not swearing allegiance and all sorts of stuff.

      Needless to say, Nicola tweeted that the story was rubbish. The London Treasury pointed out it was rubbish... I imagine that all the newspapers will print massive banner headlines apologising and owning up to piss poor journalism where no one bothers to check anything at all, but just has a go at Scotland.

      Jill Stephenson, who seems to be as needy for publicity as J K Rowling, David Starkey and that ghastly old troll Hopkins, has had another go today at the Scots and Yes voters in particular.

      How she ever had an academic job is well beyond me!

      Rolf taking about things like the "Give me 10 minutes in a locked room with Spud"... wasn't it Maggie Curran who said that "If a bus ran over Alex Salmond, I wouldn't ask tore the driver's name"?

      You can't get the MPs nowadays!

      Oh I forgot. She's on the dole.

    3. Rolf, kinda my point, cheers.

  3. I'd have liked to seen Salmond come out with a similar statement two years ago. The image portrayed by the media was a cybernat army following their belligerent general (although the image of Alex in woad is not good for the digestion!).

    Maybe they could remake Braveheart. Have two opposing armies charging to each other glued to their tablets...........

    1. Alex did condemn people being abusive at various times, but he didn't as I remember write an article about it.

      Maybe he should have done... but I note that there is much criticisim of Nicola over on Twitter for writing this article.

      Some say she sounds too dictatorial... Others have said that she should never have written for the Daily Mail. I say, that the Daily Mail has made much of the stories about Vile Cybernats. They are the readers who need to know the truth. If you are targeting the average Daily Mail reader, there's not much point in wiring for the National. They won't read it.

  4. tris and the others

    Well you have been telt.....serves you jolly well right remember the nat
    who said he would like to kick the shite outa me.horrid man and not one
    of you asked him to desist did you ????

    from now on behave yerselves
    I hear the snp have a new algorithm which can recognise someone by
    there use of grammar etc so watch it..............Conan they can identify
    by his ape like grunts

    1. I told you Niko, I'd never let anyone harm you. I promised Spook I'd look after you, and I shall.

      They'll never get me by grammar.. Mines is two perfect!

      I'd be careful about being rude about Conan though. They tell me Kez is on the warpath after Ian Smart mistakenly called her a Nazi too, being so pissed he couldnt tell her from Nicola. She'll have any of yous that are rude about any of wes!

    2. I think you're misremembering there Nico, Tris and I both defended you; as the pet unionist. Not much of a defence, I'm aware but, there you go.
      How's that "NO vote" working out for you? Doubtless, your feeling fine but, a pang must be felt deep in you're heart (I know you have one, I read you're blog), a realisation; perhaps.
      A realisation, that tells you, Labour ain't Labour, the peoples party anymore. Some would say, including me, they haven't been for a very long time.
      Anyhoo, when are you going to Greece? I do hope the Tories don't drag us out of Europe; may make the move a tad difficult.

      See how easy it is, to be a complete arse, without being threatening or completely inhuman. Again, some would say that, you are well versed in this. I won't, I shall rise above, and wish you well; but there will always be a part of me, that wishes you wouldn't.....

    3. I can assure you my ape-like grunts are always grammatical Niko.

      Unlike your own dear simian squeals.

      Mind you, I don't fling faeces in peoples faces either...

    4. Ah the educated one amongst us!! :) And loads of savoir faire too.... not a single mention of shit there!

  5. I read in Private Eye that there is a thing called Godwin's Law which states that:

    "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches"

    Wikipedia states that the Law promulgated by a US lawyer in 1990 has now come to mean that if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism.

    1. Interesting. I wonder who Goodwin is or was...?


    3. LOL Thanks Jim. I probably should have thought about that myself!!!!

    4. Mike Godwin a US Attorney and author.

      Oh and by the way the law says that the first person to mention the Nazi's or Hitler has lost the argument or Mr Smart usually starts off by losing the argument.

      And it doesn't apply when discussing Hitler or Nazism or any of the topics attendant thereto, as a mention of these things would be appropriate and also if you are discussing other totalitarian regimes as a comparison would also be appropriate.

    5. Thanks you Anon...

      Smart by name mentions Nazis in an introductory tweet of 180 I reckon he's a bit of a loser!!!