HOLYROOD’S four main obsessions are - in no particular order - hate crime; gender recognition reform; assisted dying and minimum unit alcohol pricing. You could perhaps make a case for the annual increases in deaths from drug addiction, but this has now become so routine an occurrence that the public and the media have become anaesthetised from its effects.

I noted the cautionary words last week of my esteemed colleague, Neil Mackay on the proposed assisted dying legislation: that it behoves us all to be respectful when conducting this debate. I would agree with this wholeheartedly. Understandably though, normal people have a tendency to express their opinions forcefully and sometimes incautiously when discussing matters of life and death.

Similarly with hate crime and GRR. At the heart of both of these issues are deep moral and ethical considerations which require to be addressed with a degree of decorum and circumspection.

It’s just that, well … many people who celebrated the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament 25 years ago had none of these issues on their to-do lists when they were considering the main purpose of devolution. What, I think, they hoped for most was that Holyrood and its elected members would be much closer to the Scottish people and therefore much better able to divine their chief concerns than had ever been evident at Westminster. Holyrood would make the challenges faced by our poorest their main priority.

Such was the flighty rhetoric swaddling the opening of the Scottish Parliament about doing things differently they could have been forgiven for believing that ordinary, working-class people who weren’t lawyers, academics, lobbyists or party apparatchiks could also get themselves elected. A quarter of a century further down the line though, you’re more likely to see a working-class person in the royal box at Ascot than at Holyrood.

This is a parliament where affluent elites make laws that they deem to be good for the people. And it’s become wretchedly apparent in the Nicola Sturgeon/Humza Yousaf era that what they consider to be good for the people diverges greatly from what the people think is good for them. If you resist you will be labelled reactionary and right-wing: this from a cohort of people whose main acts of political resistance are to purchase Fairtrade coffee at Waitrose. “I’m so glad that our politicians are much more concerned with pronouns, hate speech, cheap swally and euthanasia than on tiresome issues like child poverty, homelessness, rough sleeping and the cost-of-living crisis,” said no resident of Scotland’s poorest neighbourhoods ever.

Bernard Ponsonby, the most authoritative political broadcaster of his generation spoke eloquently about this when I interviewed him last week. “In the 25 years of Holyrood,” he said, “it’s been governed by social democrats of one ilk or another. Every policy is road-tested against its ability to deliver net zero and that’s fair enough.

“But if you’re a social democrat you should be road-testing absolutely every single policy against its ability to make poor people less poor and to give working-class people more opportunity.

“Twenty-five years ago especially in Glasgow, there was deeply embedded, intergenerational poverty. Schools weren’t delivering for certain children and this was rooted in chaotic family circumstances. People were unable to realise their potential. There were high rates of alcohol and drug addiction. Yet 25 years in nothing has changed in these places. The people who live in them have no real connection with the institution that governs them.”

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Mr Ponsonby wasn’t saying devolution had failed, rather he was expressing his dismay at the manifest failures of an entitled, out-of-touch, middle-class elite who have devised an authoritarian police state to make them feel better about themselves.

This has been miserably evident in fall-out from the hate crime legislation which came into force yesterday. Almost a decade on from #MeToo women with concerns about gender self-ID are hearing an old tune once more: being told by privileged white commentators to calm down and shut their mouths.

In the last few weeks The Herald and other media outlets have reported on sharp increases on rough sleeping and child poverty. According to new figures published last month by Public Health Scotland, 8,857 people had waited more than half a day in A&E last month. This was a new record and was up from 6,644 in December.

This paper also reported that the number of people forced to sleep rough in Glasgow rose by more than half in the course of the winter months. Yesterday, we reported that Scots are dying younger than in any other western European country, according to Public Health Scotland. Contributing to this are the thousands of annual addiction deaths which have made Scotland the drugs death capital of Europe.

The Herald: The number of people forced to sleep rough in Glasgow has risen sharplyThe number of people forced to sleep rough in Glasgow has risen sharply (Image: Newsquest)

Yet, the Scottish Government has taken the easy, financial option of creating "safe consumption rooms", another middle-class caprice in which they can keep addicts doped up in a controlled environment (well away from Bearsden and Giffnock) rather than waste good Beaujolais money on proper rehab beds.

The path of least resistance winds lazily through the social priorities of the elites: GRR, hate crime, alcohol pricing, state euthanasia. They serve to avert our eyes from the failure of Scotland’s self-indulgent, affluent political opportunists to lift a finger to help our poorest and most vulnerable people.

They specialise too in crawling all over geopolitical eruptions in lands thousands of miles away. This is easy too and comes with not an ounce of jeopardy. It conveys empathy and solidarity from a safe distance and lets our senior politicians pretend that they’re global statesmen.

At the same time they cosy up to Nato, the most aggressive and powerful military alliance in the world whose disastrous diplomacy since the end of the Cold War currently threatens another one. All of it is fair game and nowhere is considered too remote for weaponising. Anything, you understand, that deflects from the shambles they’ve made of devolution.

In the mid-1960s, the Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson recognised that Britain’s social tides had turned in his party’s favour and that his government had a powerful mandate to make reforms that would provide long-term benefits for working-class people.

Mr Wilson often referred to them as “our people”. By “our people” he meant people who were unemployed or poorly-paid; people who lived in public housing; those who needed better access to good healthcare: all those who needed the state to give them a helping hand towards a better life.

The SNP is the antithesis of this. It loathes Harold Wilson’s people and seeks at every opportunity to silence them; marginalise them and make them feel bad about themselves.