Do we treat the SNP differently to other political parties? I come bearing no torch for Scottish nationalists, incidentally. The SNP deserves all the criticism it gets, as do Conservatives.

Yet there seems to be different standards when it comes to the SNP. Take the recent cartoon by Peter Brookes in the Times showing the hanging of Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon, Humza Yousaf and John Swinney - the noose is represented by the SNP logo.

Now, the editor of The Times is fully entitled to publish this cartoon. Others are fully entitled to say that in the current climate, in a nation that’s seen two political assassinations of late, such cartoons are at best crass, at worst flirting with the very darkest aspects of political extremism.

Most of us sit somewhere in the middle, supportive of free speech whilst feeling disgust at specific instances which challenge our liberalism.

Those from the right, and unionism’s sharpest edge, could see nothing wrong with The Times cartoon. Journalist Andrew Neil thought it “brilliant”. Yet, if roles were reversed, it’s likely right-wing "muscular unionists" may not have been quite so enthused.

Neil has taken exception to cartoons in the past. He’s described Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson as a “nasty man” who “produces nasty cartoons”. He was referencing a cartoon which many felt was anti-Semitic. Neil was perfectly right to call the issue out in that instance.

However, should we not hold balance in our views of what we deem as "crossing the line"? If "my side" offends, is it not incumbent upon me to call that out too? Should I only call out those wearing political colours I don’t like?

With the SNP, it seems, the party and its representatives can be subjected to attacks, hyperbole and innuendo which would not be acceptable if directed against others. Cartoons of Keir Starmer or Rishi Sunak hanging by their necks wouldn’t be so well received, and rightly so.

I’ve previously voted SNP. I say so in the interests of full disclosure, lest I be accused of favouritism. However, I’ve also voted Labour, and may well do again. So, I don’t come at this from a partisan position, rather one of fairness and balance.

Nicola Sturgeon, for example, was recently accused of an “astounding” lack of self-awareness after she warned of a “push back” against women’s rights, and said misogyny was “on the rise”.

Sturgeon isn’t a politician I’ve had much time for in a long while. Yet to attack her "feminism" seems quite contrary to her outspoken defence of the right to abortion, for example. It appears her position on trans rights is enough to invalidate any claim she has to be a feminist.

If I "hate" a politician’s position enough, can I simply redefine everything they stand for? I guess I can, but is that right? I think not.

Sturgeon is subjected to staggering levels of hate and misogyny online, as are nearly all women politicians. However, with Sturgeon we never hear many complaints from the opposing camp.

Her looks, her dress-sense - even the miscarriage she experienced - are all fair game for those from the fevered fringes of the right and unionism.


I’ve had my own battles with hate and I’m not proud of it

Why we love to hate

Scotland, a land of small ideas dominated by smaller people

Would they be so quiescent if this was a woman from a political party they voted for? Humza Yousaf also endures intolerable attacks, specifically around race and religion. Again, almost universal silence from the right and the hard wing of unionism.

Patrick Harvie of the Greens is targeted for grotesque homophobic abuse, with insults such as "groomer" thrown at him. There’s been disgraceful dog-whistles directed at Harvie by those with a public platform. Would this be tolerated for a Labour or Conservative figure?

The well-known comedian Janey Godley, seen as pro-independence and a supporter of progressive causes, suffers such appalling abuse online that it’s sometimes difficult to read. She has cancer, yet those who hate her hound Godley with undisguised sadistic glee.

Evidently, these are Scottish-specific examples of imbalance when it comes to how we seem to weigh offence against one group compared to another. England has it’s own variant.

Sadiq Khan, the newly re-elected mayor of London, is a victim of routine religious and racial hate. It’s mostly silence from his opponents.

If we cannot stand up for those with whom we disagree politically, then surely we’re without any moral bedrock? If a political opponent is being unfairly treated, then we should say so. Otherwise, one day the treatment will be meted out to those with whom we side, and eventually ourselves.

The hatred of the SNP - and those like Godley or the Greens seen to sit somewhere close to the party on the political spectrum - has reached absurd levels, which seem to speak to a process of damaging radicalisation going on throughout society.

This isn’t just a matter of balance, though. The hysteria is preventing political debate, and so crushing good policy. It’s become impossible in Scotland to discuss any matter without instant exaggeration. A debate about heat pumps becomes a culture war filled with climate denial and the constitution.

The Herald: Andrew NeilAndrew Neil (Image: PA)

This is evidence of a very sick polity indeed. Evidently, the SNP - and its political base - must bear some responsibility for this. For years, the party’s elected members amplified or ignored the worst excesses of their supporters. This isn’t victim-blaming. It’s simply a fact.

Clearly, one can castigate the SNP for past silence, whilst in the present feeling that the attacks it endures are imbalanced and unfair.

This isn’t the politics voters want. The English local elections were a full-throated rejection of the politics of culture war. Nor, in many cases, is this the media the public want. For large swathes of the media have been willing partners in the degradation of public debate.

There’s really only one way to fix what’s happening to our political culture. Ordinary people need to wrest back control of the steering wheel from politicians. Our political representatives - of all stripes - have dabbled their toes in hate’s waters far too long. The waters now rise around them.

We all know who the culture warriors are in every party. Vote them out. Elect people of decency and principle. Elect people who’d dare defend their political opponents. For they’re the ones who’d have your back if you needed them.