A former First Minister has said the ‘coarsening’ of public discourse which has seen Boris Johnson promote online conspiracy theories can trace its roots back to the Scottish independence referendum.
Jack McConnell said the Prime Minister’s false claim that labour leader Sir Keir Starmer protected paedophile broadcaster Jimmy Savile when he was director of public prosecutions is part of a pattern of political division that has been going on since the SNP made its bid for independence in the past decade.
The Times reports that the Labour peer told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme that political discourse in the UK “is horrific and it has been horrific for a while”.
READ MORE: Boris Johnson doubles down on Keir Starmer Jimmy Savile slur
He said: “This is not new and not all confined to one side.
“We have seen two terribly divisive referenda in 2014 and 2016 which saw politicians afterwards, rather than heal the wounds and bring people together, keep the divisions going to feed their own base and keep their own support.
“For a decade or more I think there has been a general lack of senior politicians at different levels, not just in London but elsewhere as well, who seem to be willing to unite people, talk to people who have a difference of opinion and drop the personal slanging.”
Sir Keir Starmer
Mr McConnell said every political party has lessons to learn from an incident on Monday night, where Starmer was branded a “traitor” by a gang of protesters, who repeated the unfounded allegation that he protected Savile.
He said: “That is a real pity and I really hope that some lessons are learnt from [the Starmer incident] both at No 10, which has obviously been a car crash over the last few weeks, but also elsewhere in the country as well. Everybody needs to up their game.”
READ MORE: Former First Minister Jack McConnell to take the reins at think tank
Mr McConnell was announced as the new chairman of the Edinburgh-based think tank Reform Scotland on Tuesday, taking over from Alan McFarlane, who steps down after seven years.
Chris Deerin, the Reform Scotland director, described McConnell as “a hugely respected former first minister with unparalleled understanding and experience of government and policy”.