DO you think we could agree on one simple fact? It would appear not.

This week, the sheriff court in Edinburgh ruled in the case of Stuart Campbell against Kezia Dugdale over whether a tweet by Mr Campbell was homophobic. Ms Dugdale, the Labour MSP, said it was; Mr Campbell, the Wings Over Scotland blogger, said Ms Dugdale had defamed him and sued for £25,000. The court has now ruled she does not owe him anything. In other words, a case that was all about what is factual and what is opinion has given us one big, shiny fact: Kezia Dugdale won and Stuart Campbell lost.

Except that it’s not quite that easy in modern Scotland is it? Within a short time of the judgment being issued, supporters of Wings were questioning the fact of Ms Dugdale’s victory. On his blog, Mr Campbell himself also cast doubt on the result. “In almost every sense that the case was brought,” he said, “we’ve actually won.” And inevitably, some nationalists accused the BBC and others of bias in reporting a win for Ms Dugdale. This is the maddening way many people think in the debate over nationalism: the ideology comes first and the reaction, reporting and recording of the facts are then made to fit around it.

The truth is that, from the very beginning, a win for Kezia Dugdale was always likely. Sheriff Nigel Ross said Mr Campbell does not hold homophobic beliefs, but he also said Ms Dugdale’s accusation of homophobia was fair comment. On the face of it, this looks like a contradiction, but it’s simple really: an average person looking at Mr Campbell’s tweet about David Mundell and his son Oliver (“Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad embraced his homosexuality sooner”) could honestly and rationally form the view that it was derogatory about homosexuals.

Read more: Kezia Dugdale wins £25k defamation case

That is an important point. In court, Mr Campbell said the case should be based on semantically-correct definitions, but that’s not how it works. Knowing whether a comment is derogatory about gay people often comes down to an impression, or context, or the person who says it, and gay people are best placed to recognise when they are being abused, in the same way that we should trust Jews to recognise anti-semitism and trans men and women to recognise transphobia.

This is effectively what Mr Campbell’s own witness, Paul Kavanagh, said in court. When it comes to homophobia, said Mr Kavanagh (who is gay), a heterosexual is not best placed to recognise it and I hope we can accept this as one of the best lessons of the case. Straight people trying to explain to gays what homophobia is amounts to the gay equivalent of mansplaining: straightsplaining. You might think that’s unfair, but I refer you to the media lawyer David McKie, and his reaction to the Dugdale case: fair comment doesn’t need to be fair.

David McKie also said he believed the sheriff got the law of fair comment spot-on, but the case does something else as well: it protects the principle of free speech – a principle that has allowed Wings to thrive despite its often abusive opinions. One of the most interesting observations by the sheriff was that Mr Campbell had chosen insult and condemnation as his style and he therefore could not hold others to a higher standard. “I do not accept,” said the sheriff, “that he can dismiss the feelings or reputations of his opponents cheaply, but receive a high valuation of his own.” Or, in less legal language: if you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.

I won’t be the only one to have noticed that these comments by the sheriff also highlight a central irony about Campbell versus Dugdale. Here we have a blogger who’s been a big player in the divisive style of modern Scottish politics and yet he’s suing someone who’s made a personal comment about him. As someone who’s been abused on the Wings site, I find that pretty extraordinary and illogical and, by the looks of it, the sheriff did too.

Read more: Kezia Dugdale releases statement after winning defamation case

But it’s what more mainstream independence supporters – and some high up in the SNP – make of the case that’s particularly interesting; their views also point to where politics may go from here. The pro-independence tweeter Southsidegrrrl, for example, was one of those who said she was delighted at the result of the case. Others expressed alarm at nationalists who laid into the Scottish courts in the way the Daily Mail laid into the Supreme Court over Brexit. Their suggestion was that, rather than Ms Dugdale winning, Mr Campbell’s case had been “rejected” by the British establishment.

All of this poses a major problem for the SNP. For years, the party has been apathetic at best about negativity in the debate over independence, but more mainstream nationalists are now worried they could go into another election or referendum with the “Wings problem” still unresolved. They know the more hysterical nationalists damaged the cause last time and they’re worried they could so again. And they’re right to be worried: if the SNP can dampen down the extremists, they could have the advantage at the next election. This is why there’s been a conscious effort of late to promote a calmer, more realistic version of independence. The Growth Commission was the start, but there will be more to come.

In his own way, Sheriff Ross has also done his bit to promote this calmer version of the debate – “persuasive arguments are not improved by insults” he said. But I wonder if the case could achieve something else as well. In England and Wales, anyone wishing to sue for libel has to show that there has been serious harm to their reputation, but in Scotland, the Wings case went ahead even though the sheriff said he would value Mr Campbell’s loss at £100.

The hope now must be that this will change and that the Wings case will encourage the Scottish Government to go ahead with reform to defamation. Most of us are also hoping the case will strengthen some essential principles of public life. The right to make a fair comment and not end up in court, for example. And, more importantly, the expectation that we can all engage in debate without being abused or insulted.