SHOULD celebrities and role models be held accountable to a higher ethical standard than the average person? Or do we understand and accept their flaws as a sign that they are only human like the rest of us?

That age-old argument over what ought to be expected from those in the public eye returned to the agenda twice in the past fortnight.

The first came as part of a lengthy debate on a recent night out sparked by the simple question: do you still listen to Ryan Adams?

For those unaware, Adams is/was a hugely popular American singer-songwriter who, in the early part of this year, was the subject of serious sexual misconduct allegations on the back of a New York Times investigation. One of his accusers was a 14-year-old girl.

Adams cancelled plans for a tour and the release of three new albums and is yet to fully address the claims. With his reputation tainted, is it wrong to still listen to and enjoy his music? Would it send the wrong message to pay to watch him in concert were he to tour again? Or is it possible to make the distinction between the public artist and the private person? The argument went back and forth until chucking out time.

Closer to home this week came a rare mis-step in an otherwise stellar year for Josh Taylor. Having become world champion and then Scotland’s first unified champion since Ken Buchanan, the Edinburgh boxer is undoubtedly this country’s sports star of the year.

How disappointing, then, it was to see him round off an incredible 12 months with a court appearance for acting in an aggressive manner in a nightclub and making homophobic and racist remarks to a bouncer.

Taylor, to his credit, accepted the charges, made a public apology on Twitter and then went to meet the subject of his abuse to apologise in person.

But as someone who has become a role model to young boxers throughout Scotland, it was a sorry and regrettable incident. If you were a parent you might think twice now about holding up Taylor as someone your child ought to be aspiring to. And given his undoubted talent, dedication to his craft and genial charm that’s a real pity.

This, of course, isn’t a new debate. And it is a wholly subjective matter that depends on an individual’s loyalties and moral viewpoint.

Paul Gascoigne, for example, remains a figure worshipped by millions despite a litany of offences over the years including domestic abuse.

To some people all of that can be forgiven or forgotten simply because of the pleasure he brought to many through his performances on the football pitch. Others will take the stance that there are some elements of misconduct that are too grievous to simply ignore and sweep under the carpet.

The easiest way to solve this moral conundrum, of course, is for those in the spotlight – including sports stars and athletes - to take the lead and raise their standards.

Some may argue that they did not chose to become public figures and that such status was only thrust upon them due to excelling in their chosen discipline.

Still, it is what it is. And given the likely perks that come with gaining such a profile – fame, respect and a few quid in the bank – then perhaps setting a good example both on and away from the sporting arena ought to be a small price to pay for that success.

You look at the humility of someone like Kash Farooq, another boxer who has quietly devoted himself to his chosen sport, shunning any of its trappings. He is the sort of figure who deserves to be admired.

Consider the recent actions of footballer Tony Watt, an unlikely spokesman against austerity who has shown a willingness to support others less fortunate than himself and used his profile to say so. These are the heroes we need in these difficult times.

There will be thousands of others who make similar gestures that fly underneath the radar. The footballers who give up their time to sign every last autograph and pose for every single selfie. The athletes that lend their support to charitable causes, and the swimmers who willingly give up their time to encourage the next generation.

Sport stars and clubs are so cherished in this country that it would be foolish not to make the most of their standing. Look at Motherwell and the announcement that they feed 6500 local children during the school holidays. A tremendous effort.

Similarly, there are the vast number of clubs up and down the country organising Festive Friends events this week to ensure the most vulnerable and lonely in society can enjoy a hot meal and some company this Christmas.

These are all truly inspiring stories. But it is not unrealistic to expect more. We need more stars like Watt to be willing to speak out against the many ills in our society. And to offer to make a difference.

Of course it would be naive to expect our sportsmen and women to be flawless machines. Mistakes can and do happen. But they have been given a platform through their talent and everyone is watching. How much better the world would be if they chose to use it for good.

Merry Christmas.