I’m struggling to think of the last time I heard anyone in Scottish politics say “I believe in free expression“, without following it with a “but”, or some other pious caveat, justifying illiberal legislation to put peoples’ tongues in the vice, fetter their fingers, or otherwise curtail free speech. This is not a uniquely Scottish phenomenon, of course. The whole rhetoric of balancing rights against one another lends itself to this sort of discourse, where one can simultaneously avow your watery support for a range of competing propositions – free speech, protection of minorities from “hate”, public order – and having recognised a range of entangled interests, and completed the relevant obeisances to all sides, unembarrassedly legislate, untroubled by dissonances as you obliterate the substance of liberty. All of which is done with a greasy air of self-justification and secular homily; a ludicrous pantomime parade of beetled brows and serious faces, as pompous moral vocabularies are dusted off to justify a range of reactionary reforms. Politicians assume grave airs to have their photos snapped by Amnesty International – all too happy to condemn repressive regimes abroad for jailing bloggers, writers, speakers – but seem to struggle to find the time even to shrug about domestic outrages.