WHEN we emerge stumbling on the other side of coronavirus the SNP must deal with an internal complaint that continues to gnaw at its vital organs. While other governments prepare to confront the likely effects of an economic apocalypse, Scotland’s governing party must also contend with a matter that threatens its soul. Before this, though, must come an acknowledgement that they govern on sufferance, put there by those many who want independence but are growing increasingly alarmed at the way the party is being used to wage a culture war.

Earlier this week, the First Minister and her Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf were quick to denounce the mayhem caused by right wing protesters in Glasgow’s George Square. No-one can doubt their sincerity, but it was a risk-free intervention made in the knowledge that it carried the endorsement of an overwhelming majority of Scottish voters. Their loud reproofs, though, rang somewhat hollow to those women within the party who have been subject to intimidation and threats of violence from a group of militant trans-rights activists for much of the last two years.

One of the main recipients of this misogynistic campaign is Joanna Cherry, the MP for Edinburgh South West and the party’s Justice and Home Affairs spokesperson at Westminster. Her crime is that she remains profoundly disturbed at the potential consequences of the SNP’s planned Gender Recognition reforms; in particular the proposal to permit gender self-identification. This, she feels, threatens the rights of many women to privacy and a sense of security in their personal spaces.

During this ordeal she has received not an ounce of support from the party leadership, even when she was offered protection by Police Scotland and London’s Metropolitan Police following a death threat they considered to be credible. Ms Cherry has now made three specific complaints about individuals within the SNP. None has elicited a response from party headquarters.

Such callous indifference to her plight and that of other women in the SNP is now beginning to look inhuman. Let’s speak frankly here: this party is embracing a nihilistic agenda driven by an infiltration of cowards who will stop at nothing to turn Scotland into something resembling a virtual North Korea. They seek a cultural dystopia where dissent from the correct type of morality is repressed and where people’s courts in the manner of Salem are convened to target the unredeemed. If the SNP has its way their position will be reinforced by a new Hate Crimes Bill which is a piece of illiberal and authoritarian nonsense.

READ MORE: Opinion: Kevin McKenna: Has push for independence been sidelined by Hate Crime and Gender Recognition fanatics?

Unable to silence Ms Cherry, some on the party executive is now attempting to scupper her desire to stand for Holyrood by contriving a dual mandate rule. This would oblige a Westminster MP to resign before standing for selection in Scotland. It would force a lengthy period of financial uncertainty on anyone caught in this bear-trap, during which they would be unable to pursue another source of income. It is intended purely and simply to stop Ms Cherry defeating Angus Robertson for the Edinburgh Central nomination.

Joanna Cherry has now been joined by another in the trans-warriors’ crosshairs. The author JK Rowling has been denounced for espousing similar views to Ms Cherry. She, too is a committed feminist who has never been anything other than supportive of the basic human rights of trans-people. Last year, though, she was denounced as a stain on the hide of humanity for tweeting this lively precis of her views: “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security, but force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?”

Ms Rowling enraged her detractors further by refusing to be silenced and produced an equally vibrant tweet last week: “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” For some, this laconic expression of fact should have seen her appearing at The Hague for war crimes. It was like adherents of the Flat Earth theory screaming ‘discrimination!’ at those who proclaim the earth is round.

In response, Ms Cherry tweeted her support for the author: “Depressing to see how many of those who lectured us about the importance of taking the abuse of women seriously earlier this year silent in the face of JK Rowling revelations or, worse still, attacking her. Hypocrisy? Much? #StandWithJKRowling”

The SNP will fight next year’s Holyrood elections without several of its most experienced campaigners who have chosen to step away from the fray. Among those who have announced their retirement is Mike Russell, the party’s Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs.

READ MORE: Opinion: Kevin McKenna: The British elite has failed utterly. It's time for Scotland to break free

Mr Russell still has much to offer Scottish public life and is one of the very few SNP politicians who command the respect of all parties at Westminster. I very much doubt he would walk away from politics at this moment if he thought there was any chance the SNP might push for an independence referendum any time soon.

Some of the SNP’s office boys have been keen to proclaim recent polls which have seen support for independence edge over the 50% mark. It’s an impressive-sounding number which appears to guarantee a Holyrood landslide in 2021. Yet, the dial hasn’t moved much in five years of SNP dominance of Scottish politics. This is a period in which the return of a hard-right Conservative government on the back of a hard Brexit and the antics of Dominic Cummings would normally have been expected to add several points to the Yes cause.

Not so long ago the SNP joyously took to releasing its soaring membership figures in weekly bulletins as it smashed through the 100,000 barrier and reached a record high of 125,000, making it the third best-supported party in the UK. The trumpets have been curiously silent of late.

There are many like me who support an independent Scotland, but not at any cost. And certainly not if it means supporting a party whose leadership have become estranged from basic human decency. If this is how they treat their own what can we expect in their treatment of others?

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald