Mute force and ignorance: incivility and gender in Scotland

Michael Higgins, Angela Smith

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This article considers the complex relationship between civility and gender in Scottish politics. It addresses two themes that have dominated discussion of Scotland's political tone. The first has been the seeming rise in intemperate political discourse, amplified by social media and the divisiveness of Scottish independence. The second has been those developments in the representation of gender in Scottish politics, both in the composition of the Scottish Parliament and in discourses around First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. We also focus in on discourses surrounding a recent breach of civility by male Liberal Democrat MSP, Alex Cole-Hamilton, in which Cole-Hamilton is recorded mouthing an expletive towards a female Scottish government minister during a Zoom meeting of the Scottish Parliament's Equalities and Human Rights Committee on 11 February 2021. Analysis of this includes political responses to the ‘outburst’ and its subsequent media coverage, and examines, in particular, associations with masculinity and the relevance of the mitigating pleas of exasperated spontaneity. The article makes broader associations between the representation of this example of political incivility and those asymmetrical gender power relations given prominence by the #MeToo movement. Drawing on literature about angry populism, the article draws lessons about how mainstream politicians weaponise the language of incivility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-53
Number of pages8
JournalPolitical Quarterly
Issue number1
Early online date3 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2022


  • emotions
  • conflict
  • Zoom
  • media and politics
  • affective politics
  • Scotland
  • gender politics


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