IN our bitter, tribal political landscape even an expression of sympathy can be taken as an insult today. So let me say from the beginning that what follows isn’t intended to patronise. It’s a genuine offer of empathy - though even empathy is now sneered at by an ever growing troupe of political extremists as somehow evidence of weakness or failure: of not seizing the opportunity to metaphorically ‘kill’ your opponent. For isn’t that what we’re supposed to do in the zero sum world our leaders have crafted for us - destroy our enemies? So make of my words what you will. They come with good intent, not bad.

What I feel right now is a great deal of sympathy for unionists - I say this as a long-standing supporter of independence. I find it a sorry negligence that Nicola Sturgeon and other prominent SNP members haven’t added some soft words to unionists as the campaign for another independence referendum gets underway.

I say this not in the belief that ‘we’, ‘my side’ - Yes voters - will win any referendum. I truly don’t believe - yet - that a legal referendum can be held; and I certainly don’t believe enough diligent work has been done by the SNP and the wider Yes movement to convince the many necessary undecideds that independence is the right course for our country.

I say this because I’m heart-sick and soul-tired of political division. Unlike in Holyrood, millions of Scots can disagree with someone fundamentally over political issues, without wanting to hurt or humiliate them; we can wish to win an argument without wanting to see an opponent destroyed. But politicians don’t offer that example. The world should be a two-way street where we all learn from each other - not a one-way system where if you end up in the wrong lane you’re run over.

I’ve zero animosity to either unionists or unionism. It’s a perfectly valid and respectable political position, just as my support for independence is a perfectly valid and respectable political position. Of course, there’s loathsome people who shame both camps, but they’re irredeemable - too far gone, too drugged by manipulative politicians who simply foster hate to better their careers and wallets.

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Yet nobody reaches the hand of friendship to the broad sweep of the unionist camp from ‘my’ side. Or vice versa, it must be said. But I’m an independence supporters, and we need to remember that what ‘we’ want, if successful, will hurt many unionists very badly. For a successful Yes vote would cause many unionists to feel as if their identity had been stripped from them.

I’m not saying that all politicians need to air-kiss each other. No. It’s politicians, evidently, who trade in division. It makes perfect sense that Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson are at daggers drawn: from hardline positions, the opponent always seems beyond the pale.

I’m talking about a show of friendship for ordinary unionists - the people, the voters, the Scottish citizens, who feel that what’s now underway threatens to rip the ground from under them.

Are we so far gone down the path of partisan self-obsession that we cannot imagine the shoe on the other foot? What it would be like to feel a sense of our self taken from us?

If Scotland doesn’t wish to degenerate in this coming campaign into a land divided as bitterly and intractably as America, then politicians need to show they care for everyone in this country, not just their own ‘team’. As to how politicians behave towards each other, I’ve no hope of that ever changing.