PLEASE forgive me for a slightly personal column this week, but I want to share what I now think to be a quite reasonable concern.

As we learned last weekend, peaceful protest in England and Wales has now ceased to be a right and has instead become a freedom. The distinction is important. A freedom can be limited or taken away. A right is absolute and inviolable.

Switching the right to protest peacefully into a freedom takes us across a boundary. What we once knew that we could do in England and Wales can now only be done with permission. Worse, that permission has to be given by police forces, some of which have been found to be institutionally prejudiced and even corrupt.

The consequence was apparent in the treatment of members of Republic (an organisation I support) last weekend.

The National:

Despite having worked for months to agree their right to protest at the coronation, eight members of Republic were arrested in two separate incidents last Saturday. We now know that no action will be taken against any of those arrested. More than that, six have had an apology made to them. But, so what? Those who wished that those arrested be silenced succeeded in their goal.

READ MORE: SNP demand debate on 'thought police' after anti-monarchy arrests

With this right to peacefully protest having gone, I wonder for how long other rights might survive? For how long, for example, will this newspaper (which is available in England) or bloggers (as I am) be able to express ourselves freely so long as we do not libel anyone, as is our right at present?

Or will we, like those who want to protest, become subject to some spurious test that suggests that if someone thinks we are causing a nuisance (however slight) then our right to publish is curtailed?

Don’t, by the way, take this risk lightly. My friend and colleague Prof Danny Blanchflower CBE, a former member of the Bank of England monetary policy committee, had his Twitter account with about 115,000 followers closed down less than a fortnight ago. He does not know why. He has no idea who complained. But he has been silenced.

There will be many who will be pleased about that, I am sure. Meanwhile, a powerful voice for economic justice has been silenced. So of course I worry about the future of my own Twitter account, with over 230,000 followers, as a result.

But I also wonder for how long I will be able to blog as I do, since I criticise both the government in Westminster and Labour as the official opposition on a regular basis whilst proposing economic alternatives that show that they (and on occasion the SNP as well) talk nonsense that can only increase injustice across the UK.

A while ago I would have thought it absurd that I might have this concern. But then, a while ago I presumed that I would have the right to protest (which I first exercised as a teenager) for the rest of my life.

Now I cannot be so sure. Worse, and to my shock, I have discovered Labour have no intention of restoring that right to peaceful protest. As a consequence, that right has seemingly gone in England and Wales for good.

Scotland can't be complacent

Of course, it could be argued by someone in Scotland that the right reaction to all this might be "so what?", simply because this law does not apply here.

But that’s not the point. Labour and the Tories want power in Holyrood. And anyway, the threat can creep over the border, most especially if (as I now fear it might) the right to write freely in the public domain is lost.

READ MORE: Republic crowdfunder skyrockets and set to reach £100k following coronation arrests

Scotland cannot, then, be complacent. A fundamental freedom lost in one part of the UK might so easily be lost in another, and once these processes start they have an uncomfortable history of developing rapidly.

The most obvious response to this is to support independence. But that is not enough. As importantly, those who believe in fundamental freedoms need to say so.

The time has come in that case to expect independence-supporting parties in Scotland to make clear where they are on this issue. Doing so would make clear what sort of Scotland they support.

It’s my hope that they will support fundamental freedoms as a right. It would make the dividing line between the countries very clear. That is vital now. After all, upholding the rights of people in a country is what a government should be about.

Will the Scottish Government do that? It’s the least that is required of them at present. And it would provide another reason for Scotland to hold its head high if they did.