I guess a fairly large section of the Scottish political and media world would like to stand up and take a bow today. After years of whipping up hysteria and hate around the issue of trans rights, one of Scotland’s most prominent LGBT campaigners and a member of the Scottish Government, Patrick Harvie, has been abused in the street during a BBC TV interview and called a “deviant”.

Shouldn’t they take a bow? Isn’t that what they wanted? Wasn’t this the inevitable consequence?

You might not have heard about the incident. To say it’s under-reported would, ironically, be an understatement. You don’t need to be a statistician to know that there’s been an avalanche of attack stories in the media, ramped up by politicians and high-profile public figures, against trans people, a minority comprising 0.5% of the population. Politicians – particularly in Scotland – have incited fear, hate and division mercilessly.

Harvie is closely identified with the campaign to extend equal rights for trans people. There is, though, an almost deafening silence from the usual suspects when it comes to the abuse he suffered.

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There was rightly outrage when a BBC reporter was verbally abused by nationalists in public; there was rightly outrage when SNP politicians appeared at a rally where a sign reading ‘decapitate terfs’ [trans exclusionary radical feminists] was displayed.

Where is the outrage over Harvie?

Words like ‘groomer’ – a direct import from America’s culture wars – are now casually thrown around. It’s a word deployed by Graham Linehan. When the actor David Tennant wore a T-shirt reading ‘leave trans kids alone you absolute freaks’, Linehan called him an “abusive groomer”. Linehan has said “almost every central trans figure is a nonce”. He’s claimed the trans flag includes “paedophile colours”.

There’s been comments in the media referring to “grooming” by the Scottish Government relating to sex education in schools.

SNP MSP Kate Forbes recently said Linehan had a “difficult time” at the Edinburgh Festival. Harvie responded saying that Forbes should “reflect” on her comments.

The SNP, as we know, is riven over the issue of trans rights. Its feud has only fuelled the disgraceful culture war around trans people. The SNP’s John Nicolson recently referred to the party group at Westminster as “very LGBT”, but added in reference to fellow nationalist MP Joanna Cherry, or “in Joanna’s case LGB without the T”.

Politicians and the media have a duty to discuss human rights – be that trans, migrant or anyone – with intelligence and dignity. Often, politicians simply inflame. Most probably for fear of irrelevance. In the case of the media, it appears to be cynical clicks which matter.

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Yes, journalism requires that comment by public figures be reported. But if journalists don’t contextualise – if reporters don’t explain legislation and political debate – the media simply chucks petrol on fires it helped light.

We’ve trodden a sorry path. After Harvie was abused, he spoke of “toxic forces” unleashing “homophobia and transphobia”, adding: “Hatred against LGBTQ+ people has been growing. Today it was verbal abuse, while others have suffered physical violence. Those in politics and the media who have manufactured a toxic ‘culture war’ are responsible for the consequences of their actions”.

Earlier this month, two men were stabbed in a homophobic attack outside a London nightclub. A drag performer at the club, Mary Mac, said: “It’s shocking and disgusting that in 2023 this is becoming frighteningly more frequent.”

Home Office figures for the year ending March 2022 show hate crimes relating to sexual orientation in England and Wales increasing by 41%. Hate crime against transgender people rose by 56%.

A Crown Office report showed that in 2021-22 hate crimes against transgender people in Scotland rose 87%. Hate crime aggravated by sexual orientation increased by 10%.

LGBT people are clearly afraid. That isn’t an exaggeration. The BBC reporter, who was interviewing Harvie when he was abused, said online that it was an “unpleasant situation handled in a dignified manner”. The Green Glasgow councillor Blair Anderson responded: “Hatred is sadly now part-and-parcel of being an out queer person in public life. I expect to be called a paedophile any time I tweet. I don’t leave the house without my panic alarm. Abuse isn’t ‘if’, it’s ‘when’. Transphobic politicians have put all LGBTQ+ lives on the line.”

Is this the society we want? If debate is to be had about the rights of a tiny portion of the population, can we not have it with some dignity, some decency? A human being is a human being. Do we need reminded of that in the 21st century?

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Perhaps we do. Perhaps, Britain – with Scotland in the lead – is heading towards the kind of culture wars we now see in America: where hate has moved offline and now lives in the streets. Matters of identity have been so weaponised by the Republican Party since Donald Trump rose to power that his supporters – quite literally – say “kill 'em all” on TV when asked about their political opponents, or openly talk of civil war.

Words matter. Once something is said it cannot be unsaid. People listen. Some turn away in disgust. Others soak it up. Some even act on the words they hear from politicians. Clearly, the bigot who abused Harvie in the street doesn’t exist in a political or social vacuum.

We’re now inching towards the British, and then Scottish, election cycles. The Conservatives have made clear that they will fight on culture war grounds – putting immigrants, and trans people right in the firing line for votes. Without question, some Scottish politicians – notably in the nationalist camp, and also among unionist ranks – will follow the same playbook.

If anyone is deluding themselves that politics and discourse will improve, then think again. This is the battleground that a cheapened political system and a cheapened media have created. One where hate is nothing but a vehicle to power, money and attention.

The bitter irony is that this is not what the people want. Voters want some leadership and decency. But as the public strains for better, the media and politicians go further into the gutter.