Let there be Holyrood. Let there be light. We like to think of Scotland as a beacon of enlightenment in a United Kingdom tainted by graft and sharp practice. When the Scottish Parliament was established, among its founding principles was a commitment to a more civilised way of conducting the nation’s business.

Holyrood would have no truck with the discounted drinking-dens and shadowed nooks where many of Westminster’s shoddy compromises are reached under cover of night. Scotland’s parliamentarians would be held to a higher set of values; their extra-parliamentary business concluded over healthy food and perhaps a drink in a cheery saloon they call the White Heather Club where it seems slightly profane to order hard liquor.

The robust rectitude of Holyrood’s committee structure would examine our MSPs’ motives as well as their legislative intent and the D’Hondt method of apportioning seats would end one-party dominance and replace it with collaboration.

It’s not quite worked out like that, has it? The SNP’s astute manipulation of the constitutional question, aided by a rudderless Scottish Labour Party, is propelling it towards a quarter of a century of unbroken and virtually unchallenged power.

It doesn’t really matter, though does it? We found solace in the SNP’s stated commitment to inclusiveness and open government. No one wants a one-party state but if the dominant party is a shiny one, motivated by compassion and empathy then what’s there to worry about?

Our political leaders signal their own virtues incessantly: we’re a carbon-neutral, pronoun-wielding, hate-free and Pure Different Class Scotland driven by a higher purpose. Just don’t poke about too much underneath the bonnet because there you’re likely to find something else entirely: corporate lobbyists, arcane rights of royal privilege and the most feudal system of land ownership in Europe.

Already, the revelations of corporate influence on civic Scotland in the joint investigation by the Ferret and The Herald last week have begun to fade from public consciousness. The matter of how easily billionaires and energy cartels can secure audiences with the Scottish Government – and how often it’s concealed – matters little, it seems, when there’s a pandemic on the loose or Britain’s hoovering up Olympic medals in Japan.

The Queen, eager to protect her status as the biggest private landlord in Scotland, seems to know the score too. She might be approaching her 100th birthday but there’s no flies on the old girl, it seems. And not when you have a Holyrood administration eager to roll over and accommodate all her whims.

On Thursday it was revealed that, though she and her family are among the richest people in the world with one of the UK’s largest art and property portfolios, no ancient stone is left unturned in her desire to protect every state-provided penny of it.

Lawyers acting on her behalf (and ultimately paid for by us too) successfully persuaded the Scottish Government to exempt her sprawling land-holdings from an important carbon-reduction programme. This happened five months ago but we, the ordinary voters, weren’t meant to know anything about it, until The Guardian reported it. Just like we weren’t meant to know that corporate lobbyists have been visiting Holyrood so often that they’ll be getting small family members named after them. Thus, the Queen is the only person in the UK not required to fit special pipes to heat all her properties with renewable energy.

There’s a reason why she’s always victorious, happy and glorious. When one can exert this level of influence over a democratic, 21st century government by using an arcane royal prerogative from the 17th century it must be difficult to remove the smile from one’s face. The droit de seigneur, permitting old aristocrats to sleep with their subjects before their wedding day, dates back quite a while too. Oh look: is that Prince Andrew arriving in his helicopter?

The SNP, complicit in this secret exercise, concealed the details of the Queen’s gambit as MSPs debated their Green Energy bill. Paul Wheelhouse, the Energy Minister, moved an amendment, suggested by Buckingham Palace that exempted the Queen from measures in the Heat Networks legislation.

Andy Wightman, who has done more for environmental issues than the entire performative cast of the Scottish Greens in two decades, objected to the amendment. He told The Guardian he was “shocked to discover that the amendment was put in place in order to secure the Queen’s consent. That should have been stated in the debate”.

Of course you won’t get to hear any of this at next month’s SNP conference. Or about the case of the vanishing £600k in funds allocated for a second referendum. You’re more likely to find honest debate at a North Korean political rally than this gerrymandered and stage-managed chimera.

The SNP have good reason for seeking to avoid a referendum any time soon. A campaign such as the last one in 2014 is conducted over many months offering voters a simple binary choice. It’s much easier to prevail in a flash-bang-wallop Scottish election. Here, several parties are trying to shoe-horn all the myriad items on their wish-lists into rank, rotten five-minute propaganda slots on television and the inchoate sloganising of the leaders’ debates.

In a prolonged referendum campaign though, it’s different. These offer far more time for a sophisticated, well-funded campaign to highlight in withering detail all of the deceptions and subterfuges practised on the people of Scotland by the government they thought they’d elected to work on their behalf.

More time to examine why, when Scottish ministers were having their tummies tickled by billionaires and royalty in fancy hotels, Scotland was amassing the world’s worst drug-related death toll. And more time to ask why, despite having a head start in rolling out Covid vaccinations, our rate of infection is now among the worst on the planet. And lots more time to ask why the educational attainment gap between Scotland’s poorest and most affluent pupils hasn’t significantly reduced five years after the First Minister said she’d stand or fall on this.

In Nicola Sturgeon’s Club Tropicana Scotland, the drinks are free, but only for billionaires and royalty.

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