Column: Scottish common sense hits the mute button on the tinfoil hat brigade

Leaflets, chalked messages and noise, but no audience

On any Saturday, you’ll find someone with a microphone somewhere on Princes Street in Edinburgh.

You hear them before you come across the obligatory pasting table covered in pamphlets.

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It’s Auld Reekie’s equivalent of Hyde Park corner where you can champion your cause and spread the word to the weekend shoppers who are, to be fair, usually more interested in getting into Primark or McDonald’s. There was a time that’d have been Jenners or RW Forsyth’s, but Edinburgh’s most famous street lost its stardust the day it ushered in tartan tat shops and bargain traders.

Former Scottish Socialist MSP Colin Fox was a weekend regular for ages as his party collected names for a petition that seemed to have no end.I always feared for the postie who had to deliver it, or the hapless official who opened the door to accept it.

For years there was a ‘No To ID’ stall outside Register House, while, just up the road at Waterloo Place, the independence campaign had its focal point in the shape of a painted portable hut.

It stood symbolically outside the old Royal High School which would have been home to a Scottish Assembly had the yes vote triumphed in the ‘79 devolution.

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Street politics is where passion and conviction pour out in their rawest form. I’m all for it – the energy and enthusiasm are a welcome antidote to the permanently on message blandness of the backbenchers just down the road at Holyrood.

But I wonder what they all made of last weekend’s debutants.

A stroll along the street brought us face to face with the ‘Covid-19 Truth tour.’

Their literature showed pictures of mass gatherings in London and Berlin.

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Any hopes they had of adding Edinburgh to the tour t-shirt rather backfired, as the turn out was so pitiful, the conspiracy theorists actually weren’t far off adhering to the rule of six on public gatherings. That has to be the very definition of irony.

Faced with the anti-vaccine, anti-social distancing, anti-lockdown, anti-track and trace, anti-mask, anti-common sense brigade, Edinburgh did what Edinburgh does best - it offered a genteel, but stern tut under its breath and went off for a nice cup of tea.

There were leaflets and chalked slogans on the pavement which seemed to stem from a random word generator – mumbo jumbo about trans-humanism, medical fascism and the fourth industrial revolution, which could well be the title of a dreadful sci-fi novel, or possibly a concept album from 1972 - but there were no souvenir tinfoil hats. Got to say, they missed a merchandising opportunity there …

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Social media has given the crackpot brigade a platform to spout their reckless, evidence-free theories, to a global and, at times, worryingly gullible audience.

It’s alarming and distressing to see so many intelligent adults sucked into the nonsense and the fake news which they send spinning round in never-ending circles.

Thankfully, the fury generated online was re-assuringly mute on the streets of Scotland. Long may that continue.

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