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Salmond supporters accused of ‘torrent of homophobic and transphobic abuse’

Severin Carrell Scotland editor
·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA</span>
Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Greens leader, has blamed supporters of Alex Salmond’s nationalist Alba party for a “torrent” of homophobic and transphobic abuse during the election campaign.

Harvie said the abuse has included smears about paedophilia, abusive attacks on his sexuality and transphobic attacks on the gender identity of other Scottish Green party candidates, including the party’s co-leader, Lorna Slater.

“I have honestly never seen anything like the torrent of homophobic and transphobic abuse, not just at me but directed at other less high-profile members of my party as well, and of other political parties too,” Harvie said. “In the last year or so it has increased markedly and in the last few weeks it has been turned up to maximum volume, and it’s deeply disturbing.”

Scottish Green party officials said some tweets had been taken down after complaints to Twitter, but others, including homophobic slurs directed at Harvie, were still live on the platform.

Related: Scottish election 2021: a visual guide on what to expect

Harvie said Salmond, the former first minister who founded Alba earlier this year, had also tolerated “some really dangerous conspiracy theories” from Alba candidates and supporters alleging, wrongly, that the Greens and leading gay rights groups endorsed cutting the age of consent to 10. “This is reminiscent of nothing more than the QAnon conspiracies in the US. It is genuinely dangerous for that kind of thing to enter Scottish politics,” Harvie said.

Similar homophobic and transphobic comments had been posted by supporters of George Galloway’s anti-nationalist party All for Unity, which is also putting up list candidates in Thursday’s elections, Harvie said. Galloway is standing on the South of Scotland list.

“A lot of it on social media has Alex Salmond’s party logo,” Harvie said. “And those in George Galloway’s other ego-trip party who are spouting the same stuff. I’m someone who has been in elected politics for some time, but if you’re a young activist in your late teens or early 20s it’s genuinely traumatic and dangerous.”

Salmond said he did not accept that Alba activists and candidates were guilty of trans- or homophobia, but said intemperate language was widespread in contemporary politics.

“Candidates, activists, members, supporters go over the score on social media,” he said. “I don’t think they should do that. I deprecate that, and I think social media tends to engender an atmosphere where otherwise sensible people step out of line, and they shouldn’t do it.”

Those included a Scottish Green party candidate in the north-east who had allegedly threatened violence against Alba supporters in a clash online about transphobia, Salmond said.

Related: Scotland at the crossroads: the vote that will decide the fate of the union

In a statement, Alba denied its supporters, many of whom are openly critical of gender recognition legislation, were transphobes. “It is not reasonable to call people standing up for women’s rights transphobic,” the party said. “No amount of abusive slurs or physical intimidation will prevent Alba from continuing to stand up for the rights of women and girls as we have done in this election.”

Galloway said he, too, had been subject to threatening abuse online, including one alleged threat against his life by a Scottish National party supporter which Galloway reported to the police and said led him to suspend campaigning on Monday.

“No member of A4U has given him or anyone homophobic abuse – if they had, they’d be an ex-member,” Galloway said. “I was standing up for gay rights before he was born and have a 30-year-old Stonewall commendation to prove it.”

The Scottish Greens, Alba and All for Unity are competing for 56 regional list seat at Holyrood, which use a form of proportional representation that is influenced by votes cast for parties standing in constituencies.

Recent opinion polls suggest the pro-independence Greens could double their seat count at Holyrood to 10, with Alba not polling enough to guarantee any wins. Galloway’s polling numbers are too low to register. The polling evidence also suggests Salmond’s drive to get SNP voters to back Alba in regional votes has backfired; they are much more likely now to vote Green on the regional list.