Politics in Glasgow has become “toxic” and abusive a councillor has said to the extent he has to carry a panic button wherever he goes.

In the latest in our Times Talks series Stewart Paterson, speaks to Thomas Kerr about being a Tory in Glasgow and his fears for the democratic process.

Kerr, a councillor in Shettleston since 2017, said politicians of all parties are subject to serious and unacceptable abuse and he is considering whether he would stand for election again.

The councillor was allegedly assaulted in a restaurant in the city last November.

A man has been charged in connection with the incident.

The young dad said his family has to take extra security measures and his office door in the City Chambers has been vandalised.

After a period where he said the abuse and attempts at intimidation have ramped up he said he felt obliged to speak out for the sake of local politics in Glasgow.

Kerr said it has been there but has become more severe since the Hamas attack on Israel and the subsequent bombing of Gaza by Israel and splits over calls for a ceasefire.

Glasgow City Council passed a motion last year calling for a ceasefire and condemning the killings of both Israelis and Palestinians but Kerr and his colleague John Daly did not support it.

He said: Since the Gaza-Israel conflict in particular, there's been a heightened issue.

“Tensions in the city have been very, very high and when the motion was brought forward at the Council obviously myself and John (Daly), couldn’t vote for it because, at that point, it was only two weeks after the incident happened on October 7.”

Glasgow Times:

He said: “Times have moved on and I want a ceasefire now, I want everyone to put down their guns and support peace.”

Not only on social media but he said he has faced abuse in the street and in a supermarket even when with his family.

He said: “It’s been a lot more vicious.”

Kerr told of the measures he has been forced to take.

He said: “Because of that it’s meant I now carry a panic button everywhere I go, issued by the police.

“My fiancée also has to carry a panic button everywhere she goes because the police issued one.

"My grandmother has to do the same because I still stay with my grandparents.”

He said their home has had “heightened” security measures and the council told him not to take public transport.

The councillor added: “It’s not just me, I know other councillors will be feeling the exact same way and getting the same sort of abuse.

“I think. It's a big, big threat to where we are democratically.”

He said long before the current situation in the middle east he, like other councillors has faced abuse.

"I’ve been called a Tory c*** , a fat  b****** and everything else, but that's part and parcel of the job", he said.

He added:“What you don't expect is to have somebody try to assault or shout at you when you're going about your business or with your fiancee.

“My door was vandalised in the City Chambers, in a secure building where you need passes to get through, vandalism with 'Tory C***' scrawled across it.”

His location has been posted on social media telling people where he is at a particular time

Glasgow Times: Thomas Kerr, the Conservative candidate for the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election pictured with activists during a leaflet drop session in Hamilton.

  Photograph by Colin Mearns

While there is a focus on national politicians, he said: " I think we underestimate how much of an impact it’s having locally on the democratic process.”

He said other parties, Susan Aitken and the Lord Provost, Jacqueline McLaren, in particular have been very supportive in his own situation.

Councillors, he feels are more visible in their communities and he wants a “conversation around how we detoxify”.

And he fears for the future of local politics, adding: “I've gone into schools in my local ward talking about being in politics and I don’t know if I’d advise them to go into politics because of how high the tensions are.”

He also said he is contemplating whether he should stand again, either as a Westminster or Holyrood candidate as he has done, or for a third term as councillor when it comes around.

Kerr said: “I really am worried about where we go from here.

“There’s no party issue, I know Susan Aitken's had this sort of stuff before. Labour councillors will have felt the same thing.

“It's not a partisan issue. I know certainly green councillors feel the same thing, particularly on LGBT issues.

“People will find an issue that they want to hook on to that they disagree with your party and that's part and part for politics.

"But the level of intensity in the city seems to be heightened in a way that I've never felt local politics.”

Politicians, he recognised, have a responsibility to set a tone and admits he and others have to look at themselves.

He said: “The line between democratically being vocal and exercising free speech and abuse has been blurred, particularly through social media.”

On his own social media, he said he is now careful of phrasing adding “some of the wording I’ve used before I wouldn’t use now”.

“In hindsight “he adds “there is some stuff that I do regret, some of the wording I used.”

He notes abuse that Susan Aitken received and thinks some of the phrasing used by him and his group “may have added into an aspect that people felt it was acceptable to say stuff they would never normally say.”

He issued a plea for all politicians to stop and think about what is being done to local democracy even with campaign material as it all has an impact.

He said: “Language matters. While I’m up for a political rammy, I’m a Tory in Glasgow, we need to calm things down.”