MAYBE I can cast a little sideways light on the “dark money” that has been exercising those interested, whether with benign or malign intent, in the condition of the Scottish Conservative party.

There was a time 20 years ago when I knew and liked Richard Cook, a man mentioned in one half of the unfolding story, the bit concerned with the path of £435,000 through the DUP to the Leave campaign in the EU referendum.

In 1999, as Tory candidate for Maryhill at the first election to the Scottish Parliament, I marked up the magnificent feat of saving my deposit. Not that I ever expected to win, but I wanted to ensure that at least the campaign would be enjoyable. In this I succeeded, thanks to Richard among others.

For pit stops on the campaign trail I patronised most of the good restaurants round the West End of Glasgow, and so sought affable dining companions for my canvassing team. There was the Rev Stewart Lamont, minister of Kinning Park, and Katie Grant, at that time a blossoming hackette but today a prize-winning romantic novelist and luminary of the Royal Literary Society.

As the word spread among my journalist colleagues they too ventured westwards for lunch, to report on me and give me (usually) good write-ups in the city’s press. The climax came with a visit from the world-famous Neal Ascherson, who had borne eloquent witness to the democratic revolutions in Eastern Europe. Now he followed me up and down Great Western Road, till we turned for rest and refreshment into the Café Oblomov (meanwhile vanished, alas).

And then there was Richard Cook. I give him credit for being a loyal supporter, who I think had chosen me among all 10 Tories standing in Glasgow as the most congenial to him; others must judge if that proved to be a correct assessment.

He himself never gave much away. I had no idea exactly where he came from or what he did or even (unheard of in Tory circles) which school he had gone to. It doesn’t surprise me when investigative reporters fail to get far with him now. Richard can look after himself. But, hey, we had a campaign to fight and he was a good companion as we tramped the streets and clambered the stairs. Along the way he would teach me useful Weegie words and phrases.

“Bit of a rough diamond,” sniffed my agent, a respectable young lady from Ayr. Still, I was grateful to him. We lost contact after the election, he to climb up the Tory hierarchy and to fail twice as parliamentary candidate in East Renfrewshire. So his political career has not prospered and he has turned instead to exploit those business opportunities now projecting him into greater eminence than anything else he has done. By contrast, I steadily fell out with Scottish Conservatism and finally renounced the party and all its works in 2005, in order to commit myself to the national cause.

Those older memories were yet happy ones. Others had been less so. For a long time no political story has surprised me so much as the one awaiting me when I opened The National the other day and found a list of the trustees of the Scottish Unionist Association Trust. In recent years they have, without declaration or disclosure, donated more than £300,000 round the Tory party.

And I thought all these people were dead. I knew them from the time they were in charge of the Conservative machine even before the Scottish wipe-out at the UK election of 1997. I used to write then how incredible it was that those who had just led the party to such crushing defeat never seemed to think it was their fault especially. On the contrary, to their mind it was just a temporary blip. Scots might have been led astray by anti-Tory delusions, such as the idea that devolution was worth a try, but surely they must soon come to their senses. Then they would see how the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major had been completely right about Scotland all along.

Meanwhile, there was naturally no need for any heads to roll at party HQ. In fact, it was all the more vital to carry on as if nothing had happened. “We must wait for the tide to turn,” the leader David McLetchie used to intone as the party flatlined in the polls year after year, in fact till long after his death.

What any outside observer needs to grasp is that these people were not even interested in policy. Thatcherism as an economic doctrine left them cold: they preferred a genial secretary of state who would, as of old, go round Scotland distributing hand-outs. A typical figure among them was Lord Sanderson – of the wallpaper – who had actually purged Michael Forsyth and other young ideologues at one stage for being trouble-makers (that is, having ideas). When appointed to chair a review of party organisation in 2010, at the age of 77, his lordship’s chief qualifications seemed to be that he opposed gay rights, wanted the Northern Isles and the Western Isles to lose their constituency status, while Holyrood’s strategic planning responsibilities should be removed so that more nuclear power stations could be built: a catalogue of imbecility rather than a political philosophy.

Sanderson is today too decrepit even for Scottish Tory purposes, but some who accompanied him through his long career turn out to be still going strong. In charge of that Unionist trust is Robert Miller-Bakewell, a man whose personal convictions are impossible to read. An Old Harrovian financier and stalwart of the horse-racing scene in the Borders, he certainly disapproved of the oiks (to use the contemporary terminology) trying to come through the rubble of 1999 and wrest the party from the hands of the duds like him. His close ally remains Kim Donald, a woman always terrified of speaking in public in case people heard she was English. What she did do was plot behind the scenes, above all to topple Raymond Robertson, the ex-MP who had assumed the thankless chairmanship of the party – again for no obvious reason except he was another oik.

To cut a long story short, at length the oiks revolted and (organised by myself, I had better add) made sure the duds were either voted off their pedestals or felt forced to resign.

And I had thought that was the end of them, that I would never hear of them again, that they would retire to their country estates and wait for the bad dream of non-Conservative government to come to an end.

But no, now I learn they had only retreated even further into the inner recesses of the Tory party structure, there to hold out till a trumpet should sound, and the dead would be raised, and people like them could be called back to duty, with God in his heaven and all right with the world. Instead they got David Cameron and Theresa May.

This has not inhibited their tactical interventions with the large sums at their disposal from the Unionist trust. So the leopard does not change its spots. Many things have happened to the Scottish Tory party in the past 20 years, but one thing remains constant. It is a party concerned not with convictions but with control, not with listening to the voters, or even to its own members, but with manipulating and regimenting them – all to maintain the political fixtures of the Union, the absolute sovereignty of the Parliament at Westminster and Holyrood’s continued subjection to it. They still have nothing else to say to Scotland.