MATERIAL success in politics often requires you to embrace fake virtue and to hedge the unkempt values of your cultural traditions.

Perhaps this explains why a simple declaration of unvarnished truth by Kate Forbes this month seemed so startling. “To be straight, I believe in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe that he died for me; he saved me and that my calling is to serve and to love him and to serve and love my neighbours with all my heart and soul and mind and strength.

So that, for me, is essential to my being. Politics will pass. I am a person before I was a politician and that person will continue to believe that I am made in the image of God.”

The Scottish Government’s Finance Minister was being interviewed by Nick Robinson for the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast. Politics is obviously important to her and she’s proven to be very good at it but they’ll never be central to what she considers to be her primary mission in life. She wasn’t preachy and nor was she seeking to convert anyone. She just wanted to be clear with people where she stood with them and where they stood with her.

Not long ago, Ms Forbes’ words wouldn’t have elicited much comment. This was, after all, an unremarkable distillation of what’s fundamental to all of Scotland’s Christian denominations. What elevated her words from the mundane to the profound aren’t the truths she attaches to them but those that attach to the world in which she operates.

They moved against the grain of what’s currently considered essential in the cultural philosophy of the political and media classes. In this, adherence to beliefs handed on, unchanged through generations must be assumed to be problematic. As such they could have severely damaged her career, and may yet still do so. Ms Forbes represents a party where several others have been persecuted for daring to follow the tenets of their faith against the wishes of the secular inquisition.

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By all accounts though, the Finance Minister is admired across Holyrood’s political and cultural spectrum. “There is no artifice about her,” I was told last week. “She treats people kindly and people always respond well to that.” In passing judgment on her world – “politics will pass” – she removed the potential of that world to damage her. No-one can say she didn’t tell us.

But this declaration of simple, unadorned faith carried an authenticity that wasn’t only startling but purifying too. For, they occurred in a month when it seemed that nothing that emerges from the mouths of politicians has ever been less trusted.

There was an initial release of endorphins last week following Dominic Cummings' sworn testimony about the UK Government’s early handling of coronavirus. It was quickly followed though, by the familiar torpor that comes with knowing there’ll be no consequences and that we’ll never get to the truth thousands died needlessly. As if to underscore the fact an opinion poll indicated an increase in the Tories’ numbers.

Perhaps, having become so desensitised to the universal finagling and dodging of the political classes, our expectations of truth and transparency are diminished now. Perhaps we no longer rate these as necessary virtues of high office because we want to spare ourselves the pain of disappointment.

And do politicians, their political antennae divining this shift in the public consciousness, now simply factor it in to their modelling? “Look, we say we’re transparent and accountable, but we know we’ve battered you with so many lies that you don’t believe it any more than we do.”

Previously, there had always been an assumption of truth within which we granted some degree of flexibility. All that we asked is that they didn’t take us for fools. They’re only human after all.

Now there seems to be an expectation of falsehood and we now give our preferences to those who can disguise their contempt best or who can provide the best spin. I mean, did anyone really buy Matt Hancock’s denial of Mr Cummings’ accusations? No-one had really bought the weekly £350 million for the NHS during the Brexit campaign either; had they? Not if you create sufficient fog around the numbers or delay an official inquiry or manipulate another of nature’s convulsions to put any malfeasance beyond reckoning.

In Scotland, of course, where we like to think we’re better than this the finance director of the party of government has resigned in exasperation that he was being denied oversight of documents he considered crucial to the proper function of his office. His resignation comes after months of unanswered allegations that more than half a million pounds of members’ donations for a referendum fighting fund has been misappropriated.

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Yet, the SNP didn’t even deem this worthy of a full denial. Mibbees aye; mibbees naw. Who cares? “We’ve just smashed another election and no-one can touch us.” During the Alex Salmond inquiry this party was revealed to have been rotten to its administrative core and reinforced by a civil service itself characterised by contempt for the concept of openness and accountability. All those with serious questions still to answer remain in place. The easing of lockdown and a six-week election permitted the waters to become tranquil once more.

The role of social media in this quiescence may also require scrutiny. What if something terrifying has happened? What if the democracy of opinion has actually imprisoned objective truth? Does everyone’s subjective truths come at us so quickly and with so much certainty that these too become malleable in the hands of the political classes? As the allegations and claims form into a thicket, those that deserve further investigation get choked amongst the weeds. “It’s all just social media conspiracy” seems to have become the “we’ll get a committee to look into it” of our age.

“This is not who I am,” Kate Forbes seemed to be telling us. I believe her. And when she asks questions about the departure of her party’s finance chief I trust her integrity to get at the truth. Because, as she knows, the truth will set you free.

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