The right to talk and the right to know

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Freedom. It’s something that many of us take for granted. But of course around the world there are millions of people who do not enjoy the freedom that we do.

One of the greatest of all freedoms is that of speech.

And that is one that we certainly take for granted, as a right – rather than as a privilege.

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

There are variations on that quote and mixed thoughts on who actually said it.

But it’s a wonderful maxim and one with which I whole heartedly agree.

You can’t beat a good, full-blooded discussion. And even more so a steaming, head-to-head argument.

Over more years than I care to admit to, I’ve been involved in my fair share of both. My first was probably when I spat out my dummy (that’s not really true because I’m told I never had one) and my last was just the other day over a pint with a pal.

The latter was on something on which we have continually disagreed and always will – the referendum and independence. I’m for it. He’s dead against. Neither of us will budge, so we should really just let it lie. But we don’t. And we won’t – ever.

The latest friendly verbal battle was complicated this time by a visitor to the town. An Englishman – but no ordinary Englishman. A Geordie – and you know what they say about Geordies, don’t we?

But that’s unfair, because some Geordies have a good heid on their shoulders – this one did because he didn’t drink Nookie Broon. So I listened with interest to his views. In summary, it seems Geordies – folk frae Newcastle like – are the world’s greatest. But the Meckems – folk frae Soonderland – are, well, not so great.

This chap – probably quite rightly – still takes umbrage that his beloved Newcastle and his not-so-beloved Sunderland were united in England’s local government reform in 1974 in the new metropolitan county of Tyne and Wear. That seemed to him to be massive carbuncle (my word not his). A bit like putting sugar on porridge.

That carbuncle of a council was burst in 1986, although it remains as what is quaintly known as a ceremonial county. But this Geordie says he has never used Tyne and Wear when furnishing his address. Good on him I say.

But when he was asked where Geordieland started and finished, he was unable to furnish me with those boundaries. It seems a wee bit frayed on the edges.

On the matter of independence and a free Scotland, he was more definite. If he’d had a vote , he would have been no. He is very much for the United Kingdom – even if it includes the Meckers.

I look forward to more such discussions when he returns to the Borders – the Scottish Borders.

I didn’t mean to go off on such a tangent. There is a serious point about freedom. And that is just how much information is kept from us. Kept secret by governments and councils, hidden behind various cloaks of legislation. The truth about Dunblane remains hidden for 100 years. Shocking.