SCOTLAND in cyberspace has had a crazy week. Not that any other part of the world is so different – little is left stable by the internet these days. But the cracks ran and spread almost randomly over our walls. And the fundamental force that caused them is the spectre of transparency.

Nothing stays secret for long in the digital age: it’s becoming an expectation that sunlight always gets into the cellars. In the old days, the distinctive sound of the Net was the alien screech of the modem. Now, it’s a whistle blowing.

And if the whistle reaches you – as it did the SNP this week – the best policy is even more transparency. Seemingly unwittingly, Brendan O’Hara MP’s questioning of Cambridge Analytica’s ex-employee Brittany Kaiser unearthed contacts between his party and the demonised data company.

In response, the SNP have released their full email exchanges with CA and its parent company, SQL, and soothed away raised eyebrows by calling them “a bunch of shysters” and “snake-oil selling cowboys”.

Yet it’s worth commenting on the technological arms-race that contemporary political parties feel they have to get into. This is the pretext behind the SNP taking (or making) the calls, mails and meets with CA in the first place, however dodgy they eventually found them.

For my sins, I know enough political operators on the indy side. And when I try to be fastidious about whether we should use the same attention-and-emotion-bending techniques as our potential opponents, they look at me as if I’m daft.

“We have to be as ruthlessly professional and up to date as our opponents, next time round, or any time,” they’ll say. “You think they won’t be?”

I wonder if this is the best response. Take the info-collusions of Trump, Putin and Assange. Add the mix of complacency and cynicism displayed by Facebook over its use by political campaigns. Then add increasing anxiety about how artificial intelligence and algorithms intensify our tribalism and social bubbles…

Aren’t we more wised up in 2018? Would the electorate these days be as susceptible to being manipulated and niche-targeted by strategists on social media as they were from the early 2010s? (If not, then we are all doomed – journalistic scoops are supposed to bring cognitive insight, after all).

The idea of a “Yes DIY” might well profit from this scepticism about how platforms are bamboozling us. Emphasising ground-up, face-to-face meets and activities, with networks and media largely serving that, could be a message that chimes with the times.

Yet in any future contest, will there also be a mighty war of cyber-position, conducted between parties deploying their expensive tech consultants, to entice the minds and hearts of device-using citizens?

You bet there will be. I’d just prefer to direct my attention to the capacities and imaginations of my fellow Scots, rather than their susceptibilities.

Another Scottish cyber-tale this week shows just how messy and murky the world of internet strategies can get. Two men were arrested by Police Scotland this week, as part of a raid on a “booter” service.

This is an online space where people can hire a cyber-attack on a website of their choice (by blitzing it with requests and overloading its servers; it’s called Distributed Denial of Service, or DDOS).

We know no more about the Scots detained (and others in Northern England, Serbia, the Netherlands, Croatia and Hong Kong). But they were all working for an Amsterdam-based organisation called webstresser, whose lugubrious promo videos can today be found easily on YouTube.

One dip into the “booter”/DDOS world is like stepping into Mordor, or a nightmare landscape by Bosch or Goya. It’s a dark, perverse, warring realm of all-against-all.

Anyone can decide to trash the website of someone (or some organisation) they have a personal problem with, an ideological or geopolitical objection to, or a nefarious plan against (DDOS attacks can distract a company from cyber-thieving going on elsewhere).

webstresser made this ridiculously easy with a scrolling price menu. As little as $15 a month bought you hours of digital mayhem.

The UK National Crime Agency (NCA), Interpol and others collaborated to make these arrests, based – as the Dutch police said – “on NCA intelligence”. Was this an exercise of the increased cyber-surveillance powers given to the UK Government in their recent Investigatory Powers Act – itself currently under legal challenge, for being too much of a “snooper’s charter”?

Yet the deep question is: how do we explain the brutal reality of this realm in the first place? It’s very hard for me to lay down my digital idealism – that an “open” net could build the nervous system of a new global consciousness.

So how’s that working out, when the same openness puts the networks of hospitals, schools and powerlines at risk of shutdown, from a bewildering potential set of malfeasants?

Never mind technological innovation – we may need some moral and emotional innovation before we get the best out of our accelerated, ramifying era.

And if we ever get to shape our Scottish state, I hope we avail ourselves of the best thinking and practice around how we balance the open freedoms and the vulnerable dangers of the internet.

We might already have an original angle. Land reform is often compelling citizens to think in terms of a “commons” – understood as a resource that belongs neither to market or state, and that you are actively responsible for.

Could we think that way about local digital networks – as a software commons? Using secure technologies like blockchain to support everything from e-voting to local currencies?

Again, this presumes an active stance towards the systems in your life. Rather than “I’m too busy or overworked to be a 21st-century citizen … can’t someone sort all that out for me?”

My final cyber-Scotland story this week is literally an answer to the too-busy question. The veteran business journalist Bill Jamieson alerted me this week to the potentials of the Scottish National Entitlement Card. At the moment it largely provides travel concessions – but it could easily be the basis for a “national ID card” (or “show me your papers!”, as the old war movies put it).

Bill is feeling “the ingrained hesitancy of a free people”, as he imagines an all-seeing Scottish state tracking you by a single number – or even a chip in your thumb.

A moment’s searching makes you realise that our quietly but steadily modernising Scottish Government is already on this question. Out of the hot mess of internet politics, crime and destruction already mentioned, can Scotland establish “Online Identity Assurance” (as the civil servants put it)? One that is “robust, secure and trustworthy”?

There’s much to digest here. It is reassuring that the ScotGov “stakeholder” group includes critics of identity schemes like Open Rights Scotland and No2ID. But it will be worth following its deliberations. They will be explicitly conducted in the spirit of “open government”, and contained in what they’re rightly calling a “living document”. That’s appropriate, when any prescription could change with the next wave of cyber-revelations and meltdowns.

Can we expect this diligent spirit of open digital progress to be consistently pursued by the Scottish Government? Even as the political technologists – or the criminal or subversive spammers – plan their seductions and wreak their havoc?

You would hope so. But it’s wild out there. And to coin a phrase, “taking back control” (or any control) of the net in 2018 is probably the slipperiest job there is. Tin helmets on.