FM says politicians feel less safe as culture becomes 'more toxic'

The First Minister said that the political climate has become much more polarised and toxic.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says politicians feel less safe as culture becomes ‘more toxic’ STV News

Nicola Sturgeon has said that politicians feel less safe, with social media helping create a more polarised and toxic culture.

It comes following the murders of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016 and Conservative MP Sir David Amess last year.

The First Minister indicated that social media has played a key role in creating a more polarised and toxic political climate.

And she explained she fears that it could become more difficult to attract people into politics as a result.

Speaking to the Cultural Coven podcast, the SNP leader also reflected on being confronted by Jayda Fransen during the Scottish Parliament election last year.

“I’m the First Minister so I’ve got a degree of security that other politicians won’t have,” she said when asked how safe she feels as a politician.

“I think for all politicians, and I would feel this too, we are less safe than we would have been when I was first starting out in politics, I don’t think there is any doubt about that at all.

“I think the political climate and culture is much more polarised and toxic and social media’s got a big part to play there.

“Because it allows people who’ve always existed but were on the margins and never had a platform before to have that platform to hurl abuse directly at people.

“And sometimes that then spills over into the real world and people confront politicians and attack, and sadly as we’ve seen twice in recent years in the UK, murder politicians.

“So, it’s definitely, definitely much more of a worry and a thought than it was in previous years.”

The First Minister’s personal address was also posted online as part of a call to protest.

Sturgeon indicated that politicians have not had to worry about such incidents to the same extent previously.

She said: “Just in the run-up to Christmas, someone posted my home address on the internet encouraging people to come and gather outside my house to protest about something.

“Not at Bute House, where that would have been legitimate because it’s a public place, but my personal address in Glasgow.

“So, these are things that you would never have had to worry about in the past that I think all politicians do really worry about now.

“And I fear that we are going to find it much more difficult to attract people into politics, women in particular who get the abuse of social media much, more than men do.”

The First Minister also admitted that her “heart was thumping” when confronted by Fransen last year.

But, she outlined the importance of standing up and calling out racism.

“What happened on election day last year with the far-right candidate, my heart was thumping during that, you get shaken by it, it’s deeply unpleasant,” she said.

“But when someone like me is confronted by a nasty, fascist racist like she is then it’s really important not to run away, to stand your ground and tell her to her face what she is and what you think of her.”

She continued: “I represent one of the most ethnically diverse constituencies in the country.

“And she might have been shouting her hate in my face, but it was my consituents she was attacking and being racist towards.

“And at the end of the day, if you’re a representative of a constituency like mine, if you’re not going to stand up and be counted against racists, then there’s something wrong.”

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