Charles Kennedy’s brother-in-law has joined the Scottish Liberal Democrats in calling for all political parties to stamp out abuse within their ranks as the Holyrood campaign enters its final full week.
The former Liberal Democrat leader was bombarded with a deluge of “abhorrent” personal abuse during the 2015 general election campaign where he lost his seat.
The politician died less than a month after the election from a haemorrhage linked to his battle with alcoholism, at the age of 55.
The intervention, dubbed the ‘Kennedy Commitment’, follows incidents during the Scottish Parliament election campaign, including a brick being hurled through the Lib Dems’ Edinburgh office, a man being charged following an alleged incident with SNP candidate Fergus Mutch and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar being racially abused.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said he was “thankful” for the solidarity shown by the other party leaders following the incident and has urged all candidates to unite against “any and all abuse”.
Mr Kennedy’s brother-in-law, James Gurling, said the reaction to a recent BBC Alba documentary on the former Liberal Democrat leader gave a reminder of “how abhorrent people of all political persuasions thought the online abuse was”.
He added: “We must never go back to those old divisions.
“With social media playing an increasingly prominent role in elections, politicians can show they have learned the lessons of the past and send a clear message of the value we hold in open, honest and respectful debate.”
‘No place in Scottish politics for lies and abuse’
The move announced on Monday has received cross-party support and chimes with our own calls for more civility in politics, as part of our Election Manifesto released ahead of the May 6 election.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross he had “no hesitation” in pledging his “full backing” to the ‘Kennedy Commitment’.
He said: There is no place in Scottish politics for lies and abuse and we must always treat others with respect.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who will also support the move, paid tribute to the late Mr Kennedy who he described as a “dedicated public servant who was committed to making Scotland a fairer nation”.
He added: “Our politics should be about what unites us, not what divides us.
“Scottish Labour is leading a positive and respectful campaign, and will continue to do so.”
Kirsten Oswald MP, the SNP’s Deputy Westminster leader, said her party has pledged to “call out abuse, harassment and intimidation every time” but stressed the campaign had been “overwhelmingly respectful” aside from a “few isolated incidents”.
She added: “We will work with any and all parties to challenge hate and abuse wherever it rears its ugly head.”
A spokesman for the the Scottish Greens said the party is “committed to a respectful campaign in the face of torrid abuse and smears, largely from anonymous keyboard warriors”.