The Scottish Enlightenment will die on April 1st 2024, exactly 327 years, eight months and 24 days after the incident that provoked it. For on April 1st the Hate Crime and Public Order Act (Scotland) 2021 comes into force, an Act which will criminalise speech and opinion deemed ‘hateful’ even if spoken in the privacy of your own home.

On January 8th 1697, Thomas Aikenhead, a 20 year-old student, was marched the two miles from the Old Tolbooth Prison on the High Street to a windswept sandy hillock just to the west of the causeway that crossed the marshes between Edinburgh and the port town of Leith, known as Gallow Lee. Surrounded by the pious prayers of the clergymen of the Kirk (the Church of Scotland), Thomas was hanged by the neck until he was dead.

As a Scot who grew up in the 1970s in the drawing rooms of Edinburgh’s New Town, the architectural manifestation of the Scottish Enlightenment, I am truly appalled that the legacy of Aikenhead and the Scottish Enlightenment – a historical event far more relevant to the modern world than the War of Independence of the early 14th century that so enthrals the SNP and its activists, an event which put Scotland on the map of the world and one of which the nation can be rightly proud – has been trashed by the Scottish Parliament and the Yousaf Government. From April 1st 2024, saying the wrong thing at your own dinner table, let alone in a drunken pub rant like young Thomas did, will once again land you in significant trouble with the law, 327 years, eight months and 24 days after Thomas died.

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