I EXPECT a few readers did a double take after opening yesterday’s edition and seeing the headline: SNP MP’s tribute to working-class Labour ‘hero’. A hero? From the Labour party?

The story was about a new internship in the office of Glasgow North MP David Linden that’s named after John Wheatley, the famed Scottish socialist who oversaw the massive expansion of council housing by the first Labour government.

It’s a canny move by Linden, as the creation of a new internship wouldn’t usually merit any column inches (and he’s bound to get a large and diverse set of applicants now), and it’s also a refreshingly non-partisan one. “He might have been from a different political party than me,” said Linden, “but John Wheatley remains one of my biggest heroes.”

Credit where it’s due, you might think. A fitting tribute that rises above the pettiness of party politics.

Naturally, professional party-pooper David Torrance was having none of it, and aimed a pin at Linden’s bright red balloon by tweeting: “The SNP’s co-option of Labour Party history is getting a little out of hand.”

Then along came Glasgow North East MP Paul Sweeney to knock rose-tinted glasses off the faces of anyone feeling nostalgic about the days of the Independent Labour Party and sneer that he might “consider allocating some of [his] annual Parliamentary staff budget to launch the ‘Winnie Ewing internship’.”

What better reminder of the huge gulf between Labour men past and present? Wheatley was once suspended from the Commons for calling a Tory milk-snatcher a murderer. Sweeney is probably best know for egging on the bottom-feeders of the internet by calling Mhairi Black a skiver.

It may be tempting, in the face of such shoddy behaviour, to simply dismiss every utterance of a modern-day Scottish Labour politician as irrelevant. But those in the Yes movement would do well to remember the strategy endorsed by Michelle Obama: “When they go low, we go high.” It doesn’t help the cause to counter lazy “SNP bad” narratives with equally lazy “Labour terrible” ones, especially not when (as they occasionally do) Labour politicians talk sense.

Of course, there’s no shortage of legitimate criticisms to be made of the Labour leadership at both Scottish and UK level – the most obvious being their quite astonishing ignorance about the absolute basics of devolution – but this means opponents can afford to be generous in their praise when the party’s MPs and MSPs manage to come up with half-decent plans, or run successful campaigns for change. A confident ruling party needn’t be threatened by the fact that a stopped clock is right twice a day. Backing good policies proposed by rivals is surely a sign of strength and maturity, not weakness.

The majority of voters are capable of grasping more than one idea at a time. It’s possible to commend Central Scotland MSP Monica Lennon for her work campaigning on period poverty, for example, while also reiterating that Holyrood can only mitigate problems caused by UK-wide austerity, rather than address their root causes.

It doesn’t make you a traitor to the indy cause if you agree with the arguments of Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Claire Baker about the need for better support for rape victims, or those of Rutherglen and Cambuslang MP Gerard Killen about fee-charging cash machines, or those of Highlands MSP David Stewart about sprinkler systems in new social housing blocks, or those of Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill MP Hugh Gaffney on … OK, so it’s not clear what Gaffney’s actually done since his election other than give an offensive Burns Supper speech, so it might be safe to just ignore him. But you get the idea.

Even Sweeney, a shipbuilder’s son, might have something valuable to say about the diversion of funding from the Clyde to maintain Trident. You never know.

Lifelong Labour supporters will not be persuaded to switch allegiances by the argument that their party’s pro-Union stance entirely negates any bright ideas, successful strategies or proud legacies. But explaining to them – politely, respectfully – why the society they wish to see will not be achieved under current constitutional arrangements might persuade them to lend their votes to pro-indy parties until such a time as these are changed.

Most Scots are neither die-hard nationalists nor die-hard Unionists, and in between elections they’re much more interested in hearing about policy proposals with the potential to affect their lives than who landed the most blows at First Minister’s Questions. Bickering, grandstanding and petty tweeting prompts many to simply switch off, and to disengage from discussions about the important but under-scrutinised policy-making work of Holyrood committees.

It doesn’t seem likely that 100 years from now someone will be establishing a Kezia Dugdale Summer Internship or an Ian Murray Award, but there will be certainly room for Labour voices in the parliament of an independent Scotland. And it’s worth remembering that nobody’s perfect. John Wheatley might have positioned himself as a children’s champion, but he was a dinosaur when it came to women’s access to information about contraception. Even heroes have their flaws.