Former Health Secretary Shona Robison has urged the next generation of female politicians not to be discouraged by the “frightening” harassment she experienced.
The Dundee East SNP MSP told The Sunday Post about the way she felt when she received threatening emails and social media posts, including one which called for her to be “terminated”.
A man was found guilty in August 2019 of stalking Ms Robison and was detained in a hospital psychiatric ward.
She said: “It was quite a difficult time. You feel very vulnerable when someone has identified you for whatever reason and embarks on a campaign of harassment and quite frightening social media posts.
“My case was taken seriously by the authorities and dealt with to a satisfactory conclusion. But it is a frightening place to be when you feel that someone is out to get you for a reason you can’t work out.”
Ms Robison spoke out against the “abuse and bile” directed at elected female politicians on social media, and also urged politicians to avoid personal attacks on each other.
She said: “I think you can engage in vigorous debate without being abusive. We might fundamentally disagree with each other around big issues like independence or social justice, but you can do that in a passionate way without resorting to hurling abuse.
“We have to make sure that when we are attacking our opponents, we are doing it on the basis of taking on the argument rather than trying to find the vulnerabilities of the person.”
We have to make sure that when we are attacking our opponents, we are doing it on the basis of taking on the argument rather than trying to find the vulnerabilities of the person.”
However, Ms Robison said that women considering a career in politics should not be discouraged by her experience.
She said: “I would say to them don’t let instances like this put you off because there is so much good you can do as a female politician. There’s more to be gained than that has to be a lost, but you need to come in with your eyes open.
“Politicians throughout history have been a target for people who disagree with them, but the difference now is that politicians are more contactable and accessible. That is a good thing but it can also bring this negative aspect as well.
“But I would say to young women don’t let some of these instances put you off.
“Politics needs the next generation of young women to come in and make even more improvements for the lives of women and girls coming after us.”
The Sunday Post also spoke to Lisa Cameron, the SNP MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, who said she feared for her life during months of harassment.
She said: “I was badly shaken and suffered dark fears over what happened to my parliamentary colleague Jo Cox, murdered in the street while doing her job.”