SO how bad is the SNP then? It’s either bad, very bad, horrendously bad, or the tartan legions of the hell demons Alicsammon and the Sturgeonaroth made manifest upon the surface of the Earth, or at least upon the surface of the Unionist press.

What it’s not and never can be in Scotland’s Unionist media is halfway competent and better than the Unionist parties. There can’t be a logical explanation for the fact that the SNP is trouncing the opposition, there can only be an illogical one, and in pursuit of that illogical reason the Westminions are descending into madness.

Over the past few days there’s been a bit of hoo and quite a lot of ha about the increasing tendency of independence supporters to dismiss all and any criticism of the Scottish Government as yet another instance of SNPBad and go merrily on our separatist way, plotting indyref2 because we’re crazy cultists and not because we might have a logical reason for rejecting the opinions of the Unionist press. The Unionist press thinks this is unfair, because after all the SNP really is the legions of the hell demons, and it’s wrong of independence supporters not to listen to the opinions of professional opinionistas. That the SNP is bad is a given, and dismissing all criticism of them as another instance of SNPbad is just another example of cybernat nuttery.

What there hasn’t been, at least in the Unionist press, is any attempt to examine why SNPbad became a thing in the first place. Instead they prefer to howl in the darkness that the public doesn’t care any more what they say, and they blame it on the public for being in thrall to a cult of hell demons in tartan high heels.

Now you might think that if a media loses credibility more rapidly than Donald Trump’s hair stylist, if its readership is diminishing faster than a pile of expenses claims forms in a Glesca Labour cooncil meeting, if its viewers would rather learn about legal issues from reruns of Judge Judy than from a public broadcaster’s flagship current affairs show, that this lamentable state of affairs might just be the responsibility of the professionals who are failing to profess.

But this is Scotland, and in Scotland the fact that a huge segment of the public has lost all faith in the media is deemed to be the fault of the public, and the way to restore public trust is to insult the public’s intelligence. Last week it was the Forth Road Bridge which was the occasion of SNPbadness. This week it’s the trip to Iran made by Alex Salmond and the shocking revelation that 98.5 per cent of elective surgery in Scotland is carried out on time. The percentage of operations cancelled or postponed is a mere 1.5 per cent, working out at around 15 a day. This is half the number at the same time last year, and considerably fewer than under the last Labour administration. You might think that this was the sign of an NHS which is performing well given the stresses on it, but according to certain sections of the Westminion commentariat, this is a crisis. Or rather, A CRISIS!

The Unionist media argues, huffily for the most part, that it’s only doing its job in holding the SNP to account, and this is a vital task in order to ensure we have a functioning democracy. No one is arguing with that. What we’re arguing with is the claim in certain sectors that the SNP is escaping due criticism and oversight.

It’s easy enough to check. Google any Unionist newspaper in Scotland and search for “SNP accused” on their site and you’ll get thousands of search returns, you’ll find yourself drowning in a sea of accusations and finger pointing. But do the same with “Labour accused” and you’ll get a few dozen search returns. The claim that the SNP is not being held to account is laughable, as laughable as the oft repeated claim that Scotland is a one-party state because the Unionist parties are incompetent self-serving idiots and fewer and fewer want to vote for them.

What’s not laughable is that the Unionist parties are not being subject to anything like the same scrutiny, and the claims and accusations of the Unionist parties are being presented without any critical examination. In a country with a normal, balanced media, the one-party state claim would have been ridiculed the moment it was first uttered. It is a claim which is self-evidently nonsensical.

In no shape or form could Scotland with its multiparty democracy, its strong democratic traditions and institutions, and a media which is largely critical of the ruling party be said to be a one-party state. But in Scotland this ridiculous and partisan assertion gets headlines for months. What worries many of us is not that Scotland risks becoming a one-party state under the SNP, but that large sections of our media uncritically support the British establishment and state.

There is a clear and obvious imbalance, clear and obvious to anyone who doesn’t have a vested interest in maintaining it. It’s this gross imbalance which has led to SNPBad becoming a meme. And that imbalance is entirely the fault of a one-sided media which is nowhere close to being representative of the range of opinions amongst the population which it seeks to inform. Scotland has become a country where the media is increasingly having a conversation amongst itself, cut off from the country and population, and then it claims that it’s the people who are inward looking and not the media. If a business is failing it’s not the fault of the people who won’t buy its product, it’s the fault of the business for not providing a product that people want to buy.

The moral of this tale is clear. If you sling mud, you’re the one left with dirty hands. If you want to be taken seriously, then stop regurgitating nonsense. If you want to be thought of as unbiased, hold all parties up to the same degree of scrutiny. And the test of this isn’t what the media thinks of itself, it’s what the public think. Because if the public think their media is failing them, then it is. There is no other criterion. It’s not the SNP which is bad, it’s the Unionist press.