HOPE is a rather tattered vestment in Scotland. Politically, we’ve been trapped in aspic, like some gelatinous Victorian pickled meat, for years now, with an exhausted SNP administration failing across an entire policy spectrum, yet sustained in power not just by its iron grip on independence, but by an opposition more shambolic than the Government.

So nobody should be hurling optimism around like a dance partner at a drunken ceilidh in Scotland these days. However, there’s one matter we do deserve to be hopeful about: that the Margaret Ferrier recall petition is successful when votes are counted today.

If the slumbering gods of democracy give two short damns about Scotland, then it’s clear our country needs to see the back of her.

However, if the recall petition is successful and triggers a by-election, then prepare for your hopes to sink even further beneath the waves. It will unleash all the toxic forces currently bottled up in Scottish political life. It will be ugly. It will be depressing. How could it not? This is politics, in Scotland, in 2023.

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A quick recap on the dishonourable member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West. Ferrier gadded around Scotland and England in late 2020 after taking a Covid test. After the test came back positive, she gadded some more.

She later admitted culpably and recklessly exposing the public “to the risk of infection, illness and death”. The sheriff in the case said Ferrier had “wilfully ignored the rules”. She was ordered to carry out 270 hours of community payback, and was told the sentence was an alternative to prison.

Ferrier was also suspended from the Commons for 30 days as punishment, triggering Scotland’s first recall petition. If 10% of constituents back the petition, there’s a by-election.

Ferrier previously called on Dominic Cummings to resign for breaking lockdown rules. On that she was right, and should clearly have followed her own advice and saved the environmental waste of recall petition paper.

The fault lines of this by-election spiderweb across politics. The first is the feud within nationalism. Evidently, the SNP remains badly split following Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation and the subsequent police investigation and arrests. The leadership contest exposed how divided the party is between the progressive and gradualist strand of Humza Yousaf, Ash Regan’s populist faction, and Kate Forbes’ social conservatism.

Prepare for wounds reopening. How will a split party conduct itself in a vote that will inevitably be taken as a bellwether for where the country goes at the next Westminster - and even Holyrood - election?

Will it self-sabotage, as it has done so often now over recent policies, with faction turning on faction? Or will the SNP’s command of the Yes vote mean that even a party at war with itself can still win because Scotland is so thoroughly divided on the constitution? Should we ready ourselves for more Angus MacNeils galumphing out of the woodwork thirsty for headlines?

Then there’s the even wider chasm in the Yes movement between the SNP and Alex Salmond’s oddball Alba outfit. Just this weekend, Salmond made the astonishing statement that Ferrier was “thrown to the media wolves”. The timing was notable. Humza Yousaf had been campaigning in Rutherglen.

Salmond claimed Sturgeon used Ferrier to “divert press attention from the other public health failings of her administration”. He said there should be no by-election, but then added that if there was one, pro-independence parties should put forward a single "Scotland United" candidate. Well, of course he would.

Salmond knows the chances of that are broadly the same as the chances of Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer finding a personality they could time-share together.

So, it’ll be knives out between the many nat camps if the by-election gets under way.

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What of the opposition? Conservatives will play hard to ugly culture wars, weaponising trans rights. The by-election also comes amid a new front in the Culture War, with green policies now a fault line between the Tories on one side, and the SNP and Labour broadly on the other.

The word "broadly" is used deliberately. It’s hard to tell where Scottish Labour sits on any matter these days, with Starmer shredding promises as he doppelgängers Tory positions. What will Scottish Labour’s trans rights policy eventually become, say, given Starmer has changed tack completely over self-ID? Additionally, Starmer, to woo soft Tories, is seemingly wavering on green commitments. Scotland and London are also at odds over welfare policy.

Rutherglen’s by-election will undoubtedly expose the flimsy relationship between Scottish and UK Labour. Too much exposure could well undermine Sarwar’s Holyrood hopes, if he’s seen to reinforce the nationalist insult that he’s simply the Scottish "branch manager" of London Labour.

The smart money, though, is on Labour winning Rutherglen. However, its rather muddied positions mean nothing is guaranteed. Anyone "hoping" - remember not to do that in Scotland - that Rutherglen will signal the end of SNP rule should still their beating hearts.

Amid all this, we cannot forget the joy a by-election will bring the increasingly voluble conspiracy theory contingent in Scotland. They’ll have even more reason to take to their digital podiums peddling a full-spectrum assortment of climate denial, hate, abuse, sectarianism, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, disinformation, misinformation and general sheer bloody awfulness for weeks. That goes for all sides, not just one.

On the fraught issue of climate change, it will be interesting, perhaps educational, to see how Greens fare in any by-election. We’re told by almost everyone with a voice in the Scottish media that the Greens are a hated bunch of idiots. Perhaps this by-election will prove these stalwarts of the last century right.

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Or perhaps we might find that many of our commentators are deeply out of touch with the Scottish people. Indeed, new polling shows well over half of Scots support Patrick Harvie’s plans to phase out fossil fuel boilers. The poll also shows 71% of Scots are fully aware of the negative impact fossil fuel boilers have on climate change. Contrary to what large swathes of the media would have you believe, most Scots want to see political action on the environment.

Who knows, the Greens might even rise in the polls. Now wouldn’t that be rather curious?