That’s the title of an article that appeared this week at the Daily Sceptic. It presents a bleak but accurate picture of Scotland’s recent sad decline. Here’s an excerpt.

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.

What was Thomas – a murderer? A rapist? Was he one of Edinburgh’s notorious ‘Resurrection Men’? No. Young Thomas’s crime was that in an Edinburgh tavern on Christmas Eve 1696, he had a drink and went on a rant offending the Church and its stranglehold on Scottish culture. He was reported, arrested and tried: “The jury found Aikenhead guilty of cursing and railing against God, denying the incarnation and the Trinity and scoffing at the Scriptures.”

Thomas Aikenhead was the last person to be hanged for Blasphemy in Britain. As such he became a martyr and inspiration. The hanging of a young man for the crime of having a rant in a pub late at night became seen as an act of tyranny and oppression so heinous it was the spark that turned a barren minor nation on the north west fringe of Europe into the blazing furnace of ideas that was the Scottish Enlightenment. Ideas that would change the world forever.

The execution appalled Scottish Society at the time and was both the high tide of the theocratic tyranny of 17th Century Kirk and its tombstone. With Aikenhead’s execution died all moral authority of those who would control the speech, conscience and opinions of others.

Scottish intellectuals queued up to condemn the act and their voice of outrage coalesced into arguably the most important and internationally influential Enlightenment of all. …

[T]he Scottish Enlightenment – a historical 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.

Mr. Yousaf, his ministers and those who drafted and will enforce this law would do well to remember how history judged those who hanged Thomas Aikenhead on that bleak winter morning on the road to Leith. In doing so they should recall that this gross act of overreach and tyranny was the high tide of the power of the Kirk, power which was swept aside by the forces unleashed when the people said ‘enough’.

It’s a tragedy that the country that produced thinkers like David Hume and Adam Smith – thinkers who inspired the classical liberal system of political economy that spread freedom and prosperity throughout the world – has become a woke bastion of illiberalism. Scotland the brave? More like Scotland the craven.

H/T: Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution.