When I've been able to keep my eyes open for long enough, I have been following the current, very long-running scandal concerning the allegations against Alex Salmond and the tawdry reactions of the leadership of the SNP and the Scottish Government. Of course, in the current neo-Soviet structures of Scottish governance, the leadership of the SNP and the Scottish Government are one and the same thing. There's even a two-person Politburo holding the whole thing together. Not even Lenin and Krupskaya went that far.
Sex scandals are nothing new but when I was much younger they could ruin political careers and bring governments down. I vaguely remember the case of John Profumo, although there the KGB were involved. I also remember the Jeremy Thorpe scandal where a nasty tear appeared in the veneer of the British establishment.
The most recent example sticking in my mind is that of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2011. Head of the International Monetary Fund and lining up a shot at the French Presidency on behalf of the Socialist Party. His disturbed and disturbing sexual excesses were uncovered during a stay in New York and were immediately globally publicised, as he rushed to the airport. He became one of those all-consuming French cause célèbres that erupt around the relative disgusting nature of men from time to time.
As has become more common these days, the politics of the DSK scandal quickly overtook any consideration of the relationship that many rich and powerful men, married or not, imagine they should have with every woman on the planet. As the sharks gathered, any consideration of and compassion for the hotel maid involved evaporated, except in the State of New York. Today we blame Trump for all this but it was happening before he crashed into public office.
As the Salmond case has evolved, it seems that the sharks have again taken over, political opportunities identified and so tasty drops of blood have been dripping into the little pool of Scottish politics ever since.
My particular interest in this drama stems primarily from what it tells us about the narrative that is continually being sold to the people of Scotland by their political establishment; and by that I do not mean only the current SNP and their pious 'civic nationalism' fantasy. For centuries, we have been telling ourselves that we are the best warriors, the greatest inventors, world-class engineers (see Scotty in Star Trek
), the best educated, the most just, the least racist, the most tolerant, the finest Protestants and, of course, the most sinned against by our larger neighbour. Our large diaspora invests a great deal of time and money in the ancestry industry, keen to establish just how Scottish they are, to drink more from the fountain of exceptionalism.
Despite this mountain of virtue, here we are. A sex scandal and the consequent political competition at the top of the ruling party have dragged us right back to our own 17th and 18th centuries. The inclusivity that our parties and their various interest groups talk about is absolutely impossible unless and until the naked tribalism, steaming distrust and establishment self-interest that we see every day in the Scottish Parliament and in the Scottish media is brought to an end, between and within our political and governmental institutions.
Why should Scots ever expect that to happen? With a few exceptions, we have shown ourselves incapable of uniting to achieve a common goal or even agree on how that goal might be. The massacre at Glencoe, for example, on 13 February 1692 and its aftermath was a festival of greed, revenge, distrust, back-stabbing and brutal expediency that went far beyond any simple feud between the clans Campbell and MacDonald in the western Highlands. It would take too long to go over the whole shameful episode here but there are plenty studies and articles that lay bare the venality that existed throughout Scottish political society at the time.
Everyone in the Scottish establishment would have been happy to let the hapless Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, commanding officer of the Argyll detachment that carried out the massacre, take all the blame for exceeding his brief. He was what we have come to call the 'patsy' in this story. It took King William III, of all people, to confirm that Glenlyon was actually following his orders to the letter, orders originating in London and enhanced by the King's Secretary of State for Scotland, John Dalrymple, in Edinburgh in favour of his own interest.
Similarly, the final signing of the Act of Union in 1707 was, as we all know, pushed through the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh by a powerful group of nobles and their supporters, again in their own interest. They received payment, of course, but not very much. However, promises of great preferment, containing huge opportunities for them and their families in the new state, were deemed more than satisfactory reward for their co-operation.
There are a great many other examples of how Scotland's ruling class have carelessly exercised their civic responsibilities.
No, the Salmond affair, if we may call it that, and the grotesque machinations that it has spawned, is not an isolated bump in the road on the journey to the promised land of independence for a chosen people. It is another glimpse in the mirror that shows us who we are, no better and no worse than anyone else and far from occupying any moral high ground in our public life.
As I finish this commentary, I read that Mr Salmond's evidence to the Scottish parliamentary committee investigating the enquiry into the original allegations against him, will be made public after all. This will undoubtedly inflame his conflict with the current First Minister and her husband and divide the rancorous party of independence even more. I suppose we can all just wait for the next independence campaign until old Scotland's 'new nobles' sort things out between themselves.
Ronnie Smith has been a history teacher in Romania and France over the past 10 years. He continues to live in France where he intends to devote more time to writing