CALL me Voltaire (for it’s not really his quote either). I disapprove of what the republican protesters said during solemn moments of mourning; but for democracy’s sake, I defend to the death their right to say it. But ironically, those opposed to our monarchical constitution might have been better off focusing their efforts on the unchecked executive power being pushed by our democratically elected leaders.

A 22-year-old was arrested for holding an anti-monarchy sign. The same thing happened to a voice in the crowd who labelled Prince Andrew a “sick old man.”

It’s of very poor moral judgement to heckle a hearse. But is it of sound judgement for a police officer to throw a heckler to the ground and arrest him for simply voicing dissent?

The incident is telling. It’s not that our government is aggressively pushing a pro-monarchy agenda. The mechanics of State have simply become instinctively opposed to any potentially offensive opinions.

Holyrood has undoubtedly set the tone of this censorial climate. First we had the Hate Crime Act, which would censor open conversation about sensitive topics around the family dinner table. And now, the government have announced support for criminalising speech that “influences” near abortion facilities. It’s a measure billed to target harassment – a worthy cause. But harassment is already illegal. In practice, the new legislation would go much further, banning legitimate offers of help and even silent prayer.

Criticism even of this policy proposal has been silenced. A “summit” was held on the matter, but only stakeholders who support the initiative were invited to join. Then the SNP spokesperson at Westminster called to have me deplatformed after I raised concerns about the idea on the BBC. Furthermore, MSP John Mason was disciplined by the party for “verbalising” his beliefs that offers of help made to women outside abortion facilities should not be banned.

Over-zealous opinion-policing isn’t unique to Scotland. Across the UK, street preachers have been amongst those facing arrest for voicing their beliefs. If not jailed, the arrest has a chilling impact, dissuading others from the bother of speaking up.

If it’s a UK censorship competition, England is holding their own. Westminster recently passed anti-protest legislation that could disproportionately criminalise a grandmother flyering to “save the whales” in the same breath as ambulance-blockers. Being a “serious annoyance” now carries a penalty. And it doesn’t end there. Yet another anti-protest bill is pending. This one would allow restrictions against those even “associated” with a protest – perhaps a charity worker sitting behind a desk, miles away from a demonstration.

A nation unable to take offence is a weak one. A policy unable to withstand criticism is an inadequate one. And a police force unable to protect fundamental freedoms in public debate is a failing one.

We don’t need to compete with England about who can more vigorously suppress protest. Our authorities could learn from the example of our late Queen, who knew her reign was legitimated by free and open public discourse.

Lois McLatchie is a writer for ADF UK, an international Christian think-tank and pressure group