WHEN professional politicians make their mewling appeals for kindness you know that you’re being softened up to receive a truck-load of hypocrisy.

The Scottish Conservative MSP, Murdo Fraser was melting in his own sanctimony last night. Mr Fraser was among several in the media and political elites expressing outrage at the unpleasantness endured by the BBC’s James Cook as he reported on the Conservative leadership hustings in Perth last night.

Mr Cook is a fine operator and one of the most convivial journalists you’re ever likely to encounter. He displayed admirable poise and professionalism as he sought to reason with a handful of knuckle-draggers among several hundred protesters outside the event.

Mr Fraser, like dozens of Unionist politicians lacking anything sentient to say about the constitutional question, used this tawdry incident to slander the entire Yes movement.

The list MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife tweeted:  “The strongest argument against indyref2 wasn’t made in the hall in Perth last night, but by the appalling behaviour of the mob outside, shouting vile abuse & hurling eggs at elderly women. A hideous foretaste of how divisive another referendum would be. No thanks!”

Perhaps alongside the staged outrage at the nature of some of these protests we ought to be asking another question. Why is it acceptable for a senior Scottish politician to portray a mass-participation political event that’s yet to take place as ‘hideous’ and ‘divisive’?

When a referendum does eventually take place several million people will cast their votes. At the first referendum on Scottish independence eight years ago more than three and a half million Scots and people resident in Scotland thronged the polling centres that September day, accounting for around 85% of those eligible to vote.

The independent and respected Electoral Commission said afterwards that the entire campaign was conducted according in an impeccable manner and delivered a gold standard in democratic engagement.

There is no reason to suggest that the next referendum will be any different. Indeed, Mr Fraser’s verbal incontinence is itself divisive and malevolent. To be fair to him though, it’s entirely in keeping with the tone of many other affluent and aloof politicians who were repulsed at the very prospect of thousands of ordinary people engaging eloquently on platforms which they had assumed existed for their own exclusive use.

Senior Labour figures and those directing the hapless Better Together campaign were enthusiastic purveyors of the “nasty and divisive” myth when they began to lose ground to the Yes campaign. Having shipped almost 20 percentage points in the space of 18 months, they began resorting to desperate measures. Sporadic instances of unpleasant behaviour such as the egg thrown at Jim Murphy and assorted sticker vandalism were whipped up to portray the entire Yes movement as thugs and hooligans.

The EU referendum campaign in 2016 unleashed some dark forces that were motivated by racism and extreme xenophobia. Some of it appeared to be orchestrated by leaders of the Leave campaign in a series of adverts and public statements designed to cause fear and alarm at the wrong sort of immigrants descending on the UK in waves.

Yet, it would be fanciful and irresponsible to infer that the entire campaign was ‘hideous’ and ‘divisive’. It would also be a lie. The overwhelming majority of voters in the EU referendum expressed their opinions calmly and peacefully, even as the professional politicians were scraping the barrel. 

In recent weeks, during the strike action organised by the RMT, Sir Keir Starmer seemed repulsed by the picketers. These were men and women using the only tool left at their disposal to argue for a reasonable pay settlement after years of wage stagnation. Yet the leader of the party tasked with representing them instructed his MPs to avoid them as though they were something attached to the soles of their well-shod feet.

There’s a reason why many among the political and media elites recoil at the prospect of massed action. They view the political terrain as a place reserved exclusively for them. Politics is merely a career choice which offers an opportunity for personal enrichment. It’s a place where they can reach out and touch the hems of power and garland their futures and their families’ futures with executive benefices and folderols.

For many of the people affected by their decisions politics is a matter of life and death. And this winter many of the most vulnerable risk ill-health and death depending on what decisions are made by a privileged few in Westminster and Holyrood.

Occasionally, their language and the way they comport themselves reflects what’s at stake for them and their families.

They can do without the contrived disdain and revulsion by a professional, political elect who have never experienced hardship in their gilded existence.