One of the things I’m often reminded of, as I watch the headlines at the moment, is how back, just around a decade ago, in the heyday of Iain Duncan-Smith's cuts at the UK Department of Work and Pensions and the introduction of fit-to-work tests for disability allowances, the newspapers, particularly the right-wing tabloids, were filled with stories about disabled people cheating the system.

The author and journalist Frances Ryan wrote a book analysing this phenomenon, Scapegoat. In a 2016 article, she noted, “It’s a well-tested method of rightwing governments to find a scapegoat during tough economic times, or to set one marginalised group against another.”

I see parallels now in the representation of trans people in the media. The front pages of newspapers carry images, not just of Isla Bryson, the convicted rapist who was initially sent to the women's prison Cornton Vale before being moved to the male estate, but others, declared to be either trans women, or simply men dressed as women.

Vicky Allan: Sturgeon led world on climate change – will her successor follow?

The story, of course, is not the same – one is about money, the other protecting women – but something similar is going on in the coverage. In each case they are out to prove something, but in doing so they have told stories that are demonising, tipping the scales of how a particular group are represented teetering off balance, so that all we see is the cheat and the monster.

I’m not denying there’s a need to make sure that there aren’t loopholes via which someone like Isla Bryson can be housed in a woman’s prison, as there was back then to eliminate benefits-cheating (though a 2016 report it found that more than 85% of fraud allegations made by the public were false), but we also need to be aware of the overall impact of the stories we tell and consume, and the way they generate fear and hate.

We need to resist both scapegoating and the witch-hunt.

We hear almost daily now of witch-hunts, and who each of us sees as being the hunt-victim is a matter of politics, belief, prejudice, depending on our individual perspective.

Some of the attacks, for instance, on, say JK Rowling or Kate Forbes, channel impossibly deep wells of misogyny. But not all do. Over the past week we have had people of various different party-political persuasions defending Kate Forbes for her Free Church of Scotland beliefs, including rejection of gay marriage, and her statement that “a trans woman is a biological male”. Some call these attacks on Forbes misogynistic, some a witch-hunt. But is it?

Vicky Allan: Is big business to blame for bottle deposit return shambles?

It says a great deal that mong her defenders is Jacob Rees-Mogg, writing in the Daily Mail, in an article whose headline declares, “The vilification of Kate Forbes over her religion is a canker in the body politic. The last public figure treated so badly was Mary Queen of Scots.”

Well, hardly the 'last'. Nicola Sturgeon, and many others, have been regularly burned at the social media stake too.

We have to be careful to pick politics, prejudice, hate and legitimate debate apart – particularly as this SNP leadership race forges ahead.

Meanwhile both trans people and women know what it is to be dehumanised. It’s worth acknowledging that what many women felt when they were referred to as “people who menstruate” was a kind of dehumanisation. Read feminist Catherine Mackinnon's 2006 essay Are Women Human? for a catalogue of such dehumanisings of women.

But what trans people feel when they are misgendered, or referred to purely in terms of their genitalia, is a kind of dehumanisation. It's also a word that was used frequently in reactions to the coverage of the killing of Brianna Ghey; one that featured in the Council of Europe report, published last year, which criticised the spread of “anti-trans narratives” in the UK, saying “such narratives deny the very existence of LGBTI people, dehumanise them”.

Trans hate crime has reportedly risen 87 percent over the past year in Scotland. UK Home office figures show it rising at 156 percent over the past four years, a rate far higher than any other hate crime category - though, admittedly, there is no category for misogynistic hate crime.

Vicky Allan: Garden pesticides are linked to bird decline. Why aren't they banned?

The American philosopher David Livingstone Smith, author of On Inhumanity: Dehumanisation and How To Resist It, writes in this book chiefly about racism, but also touches on sexism, ableism and transphobia, saying that these are not strictly processes of dehumanisation but rather of something parallel.

Notably he sees the forces of dehumanisation as having two parts – psychological and political. To fight it, he says, we need to combat both the power systems that drive it and the psychological elements within ourselves. What he describes taking place with transphobia is that people feel “metaphysically threatened”.

Sure let's debate how to make this world safe for everyone, but not weaponise and ramp up that threat.