THERE’S never a bad time for people to be reminded of what their nation aspires to be, so the Declaration for Independence released last week by a clutch of cultural figures should be welcomed by anyone who seeks the best for Scotland across all political creeds. You don’t need to be pro-independence to agree with most of what this Declaration desires.

It won’t, of course. Already, Unionist and Conservative lips are curling in disdain at a statement they portray as woolly, inconsequential and dreamily optimistic. Any document containing words such as "non-aggression", "transparency", "scrutiny" and "kindness" was always going to be treated with the caution of a bomb-disposal unit. The Labour Party in Scotland, meanwhile, will simply get Gordon Brown to describe it as nasty, divisive and a risk to old people’s pensions.

At other times in Scotland’s history, and in other circumstances, perhaps this document would have left itself open to charges of conceit: the entitled caprice of a comfortable elite who can afford to indulge each other at their dinner- parties and in their salons. It doesn’t exactly fuel the fires of revolution or rage against injustice. Its tone is that of a retired person asking why his discount voucher doesn’t apply during peak periods.

The following passage is instructive: “Ownership of land, property and natural resources should be subject to open and democratic scrutiny.” Well, quite. As a statement of intent it’s about as radical as a halloumi and bean crepe. I would have had something like this: “Ownership of land, property and natural resources should be reviewed urgently and then determined by a system of local people’s tribunals prior to re-distribution.”

Here’s another one: “We affirm the values of care, kindness, neighbourliness and generosity of spirit in all our dealings.” I’m sure that line is Emily’s from one of her daily chats with Bagpuss on children’s television many years ago. Shouldn’t there have been some kind of an “or else…” at the end of it?

I think, though, we should resist the temptation to mock. We should suspend our cynicism. At this time in the history of these islands, we’ve never been in more urgent need of a manifesto for decency which, essentially, is what this declaration for independence is all about. Very little of it is new or unexpected. If you are inclined to be liberal in your instincts while respecting the other person’s point of view you’ll agree with most of this, even if you don’t subscribe to its over-arching conclusion, that these aspirations are best guaranteed in an independent Scotland.

The wary optimism now being expressed by both sides as midnight approaches on our departure from the European Union will not repair the damage that’s been done to Britain over the course of the last three years. All debate about the economic cost of Brexit and the threat to jobs, fuel and medicine ceased a long time ago. The disputed weight of consequences and the potential impact on daily lives came to be replaced by something more visceral and elemental that adhered to the rules of a pitbull fight. Thus it became a raw struggle for the soul of England and England alone.

In this, notions of ethnic superiority began to hold sway fed by a steady stream of xenophobia from England’s red-top army. The High Tories, the architects of this extreme Brexit, encouraged these ideas and beseeched their Etonian chums in England’s great media houses to fan the flames. Only by appealing to this hidden fury, bottled up for decades after the end of the Second World War, could they hope to camouflage their ultimate aim of sweeping away all possible obstacles to accumulating wealth with the merest measure of scrutiny. Brexit was their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make laws unto themselves. Trifling considerations like “care, kindness, neighbourliness and generosity of spirit” were regarded as collateral damage.

Those Dorian Grays among the Tories who lately began to recoil at this image of what their party had been all this time seemed genuinely shocked. They expressed sorrow that "decent" Toryism and "gentle" Toryism and "ethical" Toryism had been abducted by the Cummings/Johnson/Gove axis. Perhaps they also believe in vegan alligators. Extreme Brexit and its beliefs are merely the quintessence of what Conservatism has ever been about: preserving power by all means necessary for as few people as possible. How did they think this was all going to end?

The Declaration for Independence produced in Scotland represents all that is regarded as anathema to the Brexiteers and Little England fanaticism. Inexact, hopefully optimistic and grandiose this document may have been but it was also a rebuke to the hollowed-out version of humanity that has fuelled Brexit.

The Declaration for Independence also carried a subliminal message to the SNP as its members and activists gather in Aberdeen tomorrow for their annual conference. The party has yet to espouse a coherent and consistent position on Brexit, a truth that was brutally exposed by a wide-ranging poll carried by the Wings Over Scotland website, which remains the wider Yes movement’s most influential weather-vane. The way in which the SNP’s increasingly exclusive and controlling central office has sought to ensure that there will be no dissenting voices about this in Aberdeen is becoming a major problem.

Another concern is widespread discontent about the stitch-ups masquerading as a candidate selection process for representation at Westminster. In at least one instance this led to a threat of legal action. There are a favoured few near the top of the SNP who are acting in the best traditions of the hard Brexiters whose methods they purport to despise.

The party would be well-advised also to consider closely that passage about care, kindness and generosity of spirit in the Declaration. Little of those have been in evidence in the poison being directed at some of its most able and committed politicians like Joanna Cherry, Joan McAlpine and Chris McEleny because of their personal beliefs. Much of this can be traced to the door of individuals with very close connections to a handful of senior figures in the SNP. It’s now time for Nicola Sturgeon to show leadership here and to stop this insidious faction contaminating the party further. She could start by taking them through the Declaration for Independence line by line.