FOR an exalted troupe of shape-shifting, civic spivs, Scotland in the devolved era has been a Xanadu. Almost invisible to the naked eye, they proceed above and beyond the excursions and alarums of the national drama, ever ready to change into a new costume should a large contract or an exalted public appointment require it.

You might reasonably have thought that Scotland’s 129 MSPs represented the fulcrum of political and cultural influence, but you’d be wrong. The majority of these people are mere party hacks, preferred not for their ability or their efficiency but for their capacity to swap principles and originality for membership of the platinum members lounge.

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Nowhere has this been more apparent than within the SNP. In the ruinous Nicola Sturgeon era the party went from being the primary vehicle for Scottish independence to a career opportunity for mediocre middle-management, floor-walkers. For them, Scottish independence was never a cause, but a sector.

The SNP, once an optimistic, big-tent party of many different colours and creeds became a parlour game of Nicola Says.

Nicola says: Fully-intact men can become women.

All: Fully-intact men can become women.

Nicola says: Never ask me about party finances.

All: We will never ask you about party finances.

Nicola says: Those who disagree with me must be cast into the void.

All: We will cast them into the void.

Nicola says: You can have no other gods but me.

All: It shall be so.

Gradually, it began to dawn on an itinerant troupe of media and civic actors channelling fake liberalism that it was time to switch allegiances if they wanted to exploit new opportunities. Many of them had previously been members of the G12 kitchen cabinets that gathered around Donald Dewar and Jack McConnell when Labour was in the ascendancy. And then, before you could say “make mine a skinny oat latte”, they’d all done a midnight flit to Ms Sturgeon’s land of make-believe.

Here be non-exec health board positions, soft-shoe lobbying firms; academic professorships and third-sector directorships. All that was required of them was to propagate the Sturgeon articles of faith and choose from an approved list of management consultants to fill out the grant application forms. No jostling at the back; there’s plenty of poppy to go around.

You’ll have seen many of them at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The lobbyists are the most shameless of all. They have become expert in the art of staying friends with everyone and being all sanctimonious about our personal conduct. “Can’t we just all be nice to each other?” It’s what their secret clients need them to say in the hope of being admitted into the presence of ministers.

Even the trade union executives have begun to exhibit evidence of this blancmange activism. Having built their chi-chi careers telling everyone to show solidarity and express fury about inequality, they’re now urging us all to be respectful and passive in our public discourse. Within the SNP itself, the hustling for advancement in this new magical land became intense. There’s a coterie of party desperadoes who were once falling over each other to touch the hem of Alex Salmond in the vain hope that they might be favoured with a high list placing at the next Scottish election or a place on the short-list of preferred candidates for Westminster (whichever comes first).

Then they began to compete with each other in showing disdain for the former Sun King in the hope of catching Ms Sturgeon’s eye. “We knew he was a bad ‘un, Nicola, honest we did. We’ll do anything for you.” The police investigation into party finances disorientated them somewhat … but not for long.

Once it became clear that Humza Yousaf was the preferred choice of the party’s Star Chamber to succeed her they all prostrated themselves before him and contrived to be outraged by Kate Forbes’ religious beliefs. Curiously, they’d kept silent about them throughout her four years of making them look economically literate. “Campervan, you say? 100k cash purchase? Amazon frequent-flyer club? Fancy pens and expensive tomfoolery? It’s all an MI5 plot.”

In recent months the SNP has made Gerald Ratner look like Bill Gates. Not content with gaslighting 70% of the voters over GRR (“you’re all hate-filled transphobes”), it's now getting stuck into the nation’s codgers. Mhairi Black revealed that being paid 86 grand a year for her part-time job at Westminster wasn’t enough to compensate her for being “surrounded by a***holes”. Then she condemned older feminists who disagree with her on gender self-ID as “50-year-old Karens”.

Patrick Harvie, fresh from his appearance at the World Cycling Championships (where he seemed to be auditioning for the part of Professor Dumbledore in Harry Potter: the LSD years), described Fergus Ewing as “an angry old man” who was “out of step with the future”. John Nicolson insisted that there had been “an explosion of transphobia in Scotland” in recent years.

The SNP’s Westminster troughers have spent the last eight years condemning Labour and the Tories for failing to “stand up for Scotland”. Yet, their version of talking up Scotland involves telling the world that it’s populated by rampaging squads of transphobic crusties who are disproportionately responsible for global warming. Meanwhile, our First Minister is fuckity-fuckitying around Scotland like a posh sixth former who’s just discovered the joy of swearing in the kitchen at student parties.

Then they expelled Angus Macneil for saying merely what the 70,000 members who have recently quit the party believe: that his colleagues aren’t really serious about fighting for independence and have grown too accustomed to the slippers and soft furnishings of Westminster.

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On the streets of High Blantyre last week, in the first weeks of the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election campaign it was evident why Scottish Labour is the runaway favourite to gain this seat. If it does so, the SNP will blame the backlash from Margaret Ferrier’s Covid lockdown breaches. Last week in North Lanarkshire though, I never once heard Ms Ferrier’s name mentioned.

The poison at the heart of the SNP is now seeping out and the public are noticing it. It’s why Labour now genuinely believes it can win the 2026 Scottish Election.

Without independence, the SNP stands for little more than the interests of a supine, super-annuated coterie of acolytes. After eight long years of this racket it’s to be hoped that, finally, the voters are seeing right through them.

They have betrayed the honesty and hard work of thousands of their most committed and authentic supporters and activists. Only by losing - and losing big - can independence, in the long-term, be rescued from these deceivers.