By Marcus Spiske
Equality & Inclusion Human Rights Left Politics LGBTQIAP+

Is Scotland as progressive or inclusive as we like to believe?

Photo by: Marcus Spiske

14th of this month Robin McAlpine wrote an article in which he seems to wade into the quagmire of a perceived conspiracy plot against Alex Salmond – the same quagmire which the regressive faction of Scottish Political Twitter wade into daily –  he then proceeded to go a rant about how Nicola Sturgeon needs to resign because of this perceived conspiracy and that Me Too and the GRA are not relevant here – to which I wrote my own rebuttal on my blog.

A day later a woman came forward on Twitter with her own experience of Robin McAlpine and not long after a couple of other women did the same.

Yesterday, the 20th, Common Weal put out a statement telling us that Robin McAlpine had stepped down from his role as Director of Common Weal citing “fallout” from the article he wrote as the reason for this.

The statement goes on to say that Common Weal will “restructure their organisation” …reflecting the diversity and experience within the organisation…will be publicly represented by a range of spokes people reflecting new phase of development for the think tank

I think we are all interested in how this new phase representing diversity and various people will play out and how it is going to work when at least one of their own board members not so long ago wrote an article to a newspaper in which they conflated trans people with child abusers.

We are all aware of the problems with transphobia, homophobia, biphobia, panphobia and general wider anti LGBTQIA+ sentiment within the regressive faction of Scottish left/YES, and this exists within Common Weal just the same.

If a group says they will be starting a new phase, which reflects diversity, surely this specific issue has to be discussed? Or are we to assume that trans and non-binary people will still be unrepresented by this new phase?

The news that Robin McAlpine was stepping down after publication of the article and these women came forward was a welcome one, and I wish it were as easy as ‘one man steps down from his position’ but these problems are systemic and I find it hard to believe they will be solved by one man stepping down.

I think we have to also take into account here the fact that the statement failed to respond to these women, it failed to apologise to them or even acknowledge them. I found this worrying because not only is it denying those women’s voices it doesn’t seem a good start to a new phase and speaks as to representation for women.


Some within Scottish left/YES that have decided his being called out was solely because they believe that what he wrote challenges or questions Nicola Sturgeon. On Twitter after the statement came out, some of the regressive faction of Scottish left/YES began using #ChillingEffect – because a man had to take some responsibility for something he chose to write and which came across as highly misogynistic and fuelled by paranoia.

That a man must take responsibility for something he did or said, is actually a positive thing for women. This is not about ‘free speech’ or the ‘chilling effect’ of censorship, it’s about respecting women as equals, as human beings, as people who deserve better than the way Robin McAlpine had been speaking about, and apparently, to them.


People were not simply ired that Robin doesn’t like Nicola Sturgeon, but are exasperated by the fact he chose misogynistic conspiracy as the way to express it; that women then came forward with experiences which suggest this is actually a common behaviour for him only amplified this.

I’m sure many of us are not Nicola Sturgeons biggest fans at this moment, considering how long this transphobic misogynistic bunch of regressive have been allowed to affect our lives whether by verbally harassing and abusing people online or by ensuring GRA reform is shelved, LGBTQIA bullying and sex education are being pushed out of schools.

I’m extremely disappointed in her for allowing this to go on as far and as long as it has. But I’m not going to sit by silently as a woman is torn down by misogynists because they don’t seem to like women having power of any kind.

However, no woman deserves the way she is being attacked and I am ashamed that we as a country – the country that many of us believes deserves to govern itself outwith regressive UK control – can’t even accept a woman in charge of it.

This leads me back to my title question, is Scotland as progressive or inclusive as we like to believe? My answer, as a bi woman, is no.  And one man stepping down from one organisation is not going to change that. We need a lot more, we need work, effort and people to be willing to challenge their own biases and beliefs before we can even remotely begin to say Scotland is progressive and inclusive.

By Jo Edwards









Read more from Jo;
On this subject (and others) on her latest blog.
Links on her Ungagged writing page.

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