West Highland Free Press: Founder of Scotland's foremost radical newspaper quits over free speech row

The row centred on an article written by a colleague that drew an apocalyptic picture of the impact that mass immigration might have on European civilisation

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The founder of Scotland’s foremost radical newspaper has severed his links with the publication because of a dispute over freedom of expression.

Brian Wilson, a former Labour energy minister, objected to a decision by the West Highland Free Press to axe a long-standing contributor for writing a contentious article about the rise of militant Islam. He described the split with the paper, which he helped to launch in 1972, as “sad and totally unnecessary”.

The row centred on an article by Professor Donald Macleod, a leading theologian, who has been writing for the paper for 24 years. His final column drew an apocalyptic picture of the impact that mass immigration might have on European civilisation. Unusually, the newspaper published the piece, but then appeared to have axed Professor Macleod for writing it.

It then invited Mr Wilson to take over the slot which Professor Macleod normally filled. He used it to criticise the treatment of his predecessor. Once again, the newspaper published the column, but then had a terminal row with its author. Writing on Facebook, Professor Macleod’s son, John, alleged: “Brian’s dismissal is particularly bonkers; it just makes the paper look ridiculous.”

Mr Wilson told The Independent: “There are two issues here. One is a straight freedom of expression issue, and the second is the failure to inform readers. If there was a problem with what he wrote, it should have been sorted before it was published. Once published it becomes the property of the paper. Then there is the failure to inform readers why a contributor has disappeared after 24 years.”

Confirming his own breach from the paper, he added: “It’s sad and totally unnecessary, but I’d rather fight under a freedom of speech banner than any other.”

He added that he was not defending what Professor Macleod’s last column, in which he had suggested that free speech and other aspects of a liberal society could be destroyed by the numbers of Muslims entering Europe.

“The millions of North Africans who will enter Europe in the next 25 years are not likely to arrive full of gratitude,” he wrote. “They will bring with them Islam’s innate sense of superiority and its contempt for the infidel.”

The paper’s management confirmed the departure of the two contributors and thanked them for their contributions.