An SNP MSP faced abuse on social media after he challenged claims from fringe Nationalists that Scotland is a colony.
Tom Arthur was branded a “Quisling”, a “careerist” and an “arrogant trougher” after he objected to plans for a demonstration outside the UK Government’s new office building in Edinburgh.
But the MSP for Renfrewshire South told the Record he would not be stopped from speaking his mind.
All Under One Banner – a non-party movement known for organising pro-independence marches – announced last week it would hold a protest outside the Scotland Office in the Capital, which it branded “colonial”.
Responding to the group on Twitter, Arthur said: “This is what happens when folk get high on their own supply of historically illiterate nonsense. Scotland is not a colony. Offices for civil servants do not betoken imperial overlordship.
“At any time, though particularly in the middle of a pandemic, this just looks unhinged.”
His comments sparked a storm of debate, with one Nationalist telling the MSP: “Wow. I held you in such high esteem Mr Arthur. This is an extremely disappointing tweet. The Yes movement should be supported, not vilified. We are indeed being treated like a colony by Westminster.”
Arthur responded: “I would never suggest that people should not protest peacefully, although perhaps not during a pandemic. What I take issue with is folk falsely stating that Scotland is a colony. That is a harmful misrepresentation of our present circumstances.”
Despite facing online fury, the SNP politician said it would be wrong to step back from challenging inaccurate claims about Scotland’s history.
Speaking to the Record, the MSP said: “I think it was irresponsible. That’s why I raised the point I did about the protest.
“The other aspect was the suggestion that Scotland is a colony. I think there would be general consensus among expert opinion that is simply an inaccurate use of the word.
“Making that assertion, and using it as the grounds to stage protests outside buildings which are there to house civil servants, I thought it was irresponsible.
“We always want to allow peaceful protests but at the height of the pandemic we have to make sacrifices.”
Asked if he thought it was important to challenge people who made the assertion that Scotland was a colony, Arthur said: “It’s important regardless of one’s views on Scotland’s constitutional future should be.
“We have to be honest with ourselves about our own history.
“In light of the Black Lives Matter movement, we have seen increasing discussion and debate around Scotland’s own past as part of a colonial power.
“To suggest is a colony, or was a colony itself, is not only historically inaccurate but it detracts and distracts from developing a greater understanding of Scotland’s own past and coming to terms with it in a way that is honest.
“Many people in Scotland have been making that effort to have these discussions to make sure we develop a greater understanding of our history in a way that is objective and factual.”
He added: “I can understand why some people think: ‘what’s the point, it’s only Twitter’.
“But we know that what can start on Twitter can percolate into real life.
“What would improve debate is people seeking to engage and understand other points of view instead of immediately shouting them down.
“It’s important – not just in politics but in daily life – that we try to understand other people.”