Hustings by Email in Scotland


As a responsible democrat I thought, when this election was called, that I would write to the candidates to ask them a few questions before deciding how to vote. We had no hustings this time, even in Campbeltown, and our MSP has not visited the town for ages. So election time seems to be the only opportunity to enter into dialogue with those who want to represent us.

Last year I published a book about the uncertain future for the rule of law in Scotland. The irreducible basis of a rule-of-law society is reciprocity between those who make the laws and those who have to obey them. Without dialogue, that is impossible.

Only two parties sent me a leaflet in enough time to allow an exchange of emails: first, the SNP and then the LibDems. I started by asking the SNP candidate, Jenni Minto, for a CV. That was initially refused, then a redacted one sent. Next, I asked about the Hate Crime Act. I got a long answer ending with a quotation from the English philosopher, Karl Popper: “In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant to intolerance.”

I wondered privately if woman-only shortlists for SNP election candidates, from which Ms Minto has apparently benefited, really assist “tolerance”. But I wrote back quoting Bertrand Russell, who said that enforced morality is not morality at all; it is pure obedience. Likewise enforced tolerance is not tolerance, just obedience. I asked what she thought of the criminalisation of dinner-time conversations and other aspects of the Act, about which I have made a YouTube film. It was at that point that the dialogue broke down.

Ms Minto accused me of misrepresenting her on the Act and did not answer my questions. I changed the subject to independence, sending an email on 11 March. By 14 April I had heard nothing, so I sent a reminder. This time I did get a reply, but it was evasive.

For example, I had asked what the most important features of the UK were that made her want Scotland to leave it. Ms Minto replied that an independent country would get the government it votes for. That implied that if Scotland and England voted for the same party, there would be no need for independence. So, by extension, what if Argyll wanted a different government from that in Holyrood? Should it declare independence from Scotland, as Orkney and Shetland have said they will if the UK breaks up? I wrote for clarification, but Ms Minto did not reply.

I also wrote to Alan Reid of the LibDems. He sent a CV, but when I replied to that with questions about LibDem policy, I heard nothing more.

That, in Scotland, appears to be the limit of dialogue between the rulers and the ruled. Perhaps that explains something about the parliament itself.

If you want to know the roots of the parliament’s weakness, see this book: “The Justice Factory: Can the Rule of Law Survive in 21st Century Scotland?” (Ian Mitchell, 2020) The Foreword was written by Lord Hope of Craighead, ex-Deputy President of the UK Supreme Court and the Professor of Public Law who is author “Constitutional Law of Scotland” wrote the Introduction to Part II. It is not a party political argument, and has been endorsed by both Ian (“Stone of Destiny”) Hamilton QC and Adam Tomkins, the Tory MSP who is also Professor of Constitutional law in the University of Glasgow. You can help drain the Holyrood swamp by circulating the book as widely as you can. Details are here:…/dp/1981993401

Ian Mitchell is the author of the best-selling “Isles of the West: a Hebridean Voyage” and the critically acclaimed study of the greatest libel trial in British legal history, “The Cost of a Reputation: Aldington versus Tolstoy”. Robert Harris said, “It reads like Bleak House rewritten by Alexander Solzhenitsyn”, and the Independent on Sunday wrote, “As legal thrillers go, it beats John Grisham.” Ian Mitchell lived for twelve years in Moscow, where he researched his forthcoming book, “Russia and the Rule of Law”. He lives in Campbeltown where he also makes films about books he has read in the course of his research. See his YouTube channel: “Ian Mitchell’s Book Recommendations”