WHEN there are serious allegations against a former First Minister, and that First Minister is taking the government he used to lead to court because he claims that he is being denied due process, that’s a big news story.

However the unseemly glee with which sections of the Scottish media have rushed to hang, draw and quarter Alex Salmond means that whatever the outcome of the investigations into the allegations against the former First Minister, the Scottish press will have a lot of questions to answer.

I sincerely hope that the allegations against Alex Salmond prove to be unfounded. It is always distressing to discover that a person you have looked up to and trusted is subject to allegations of this nature, and there is an instinctive reaction to circle round the wagons and adopt a defensive position. That’s all the more true in Scotland, where the media is overwhelmingly opposed to independence and actively seeks accusations to hurl at the independence movement and its leaders, and very often those accusations turn out to be baseless.

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But we cannot prejudge the matter. Otherwise we are guilty of the same rush to judgement that we as an independence movement accuse the media of.

There is a serious problem in Scotland, as there is in all societies, of powerful men using their positions to abuse, harass and mistreat women. It is a testament to the maturity of Scotland that we are now in a position where even the most powerful amongst us can be called upon to answer for allegations made against them by those who do not enjoy the same power and influence. That is a sign of progress.

It is certainly true that the victims of sexual offences have a right to put their case forward and to have their allegations fully investigated in a way which is respectful to victims.

It is true that victims should feel that if they come forward that they have a guarantee that they will be listened to, no matter how powerful or prominent the person against whom they are making allegations. We need that guarantee, otherwise we’d be campaigning for an independent Scotland which is no better for victims of abuse and which doesn’t listen to women or the weak and powerless. That’s not a Scotland anyone should want.

But it is also true that those who are the subject of those allegations have the right to the presumption of innocence until such time as the investigation has been completed, and for the matter not to be prejudged by the media. When we have a prominent commentator in the Scottish media announcing that it’s all over for Alex Salmond irrespective of the truth or otherwise of the allegations against him, it’s clear that the media has taken it upon itself to act as judge, jury and executioner. Making that statement was bad enough, but when it comes from the same person who urged everyone to give Alistair Carmichael a second chance after a court had ruled he lied, it’s clear that double standards are at play.

The eagerness of the overwhelmingly anti-independence Scottish press to condemn Alex Salmond is based in its desperation to find something, anything, to kill off the independence movement for once and all. That remains its overriding consideration and the media treatment of the allegations against Alex Salmond is a perfect illustration of it. The Scottish media hasn’t come to terms with the new political reality of a Scotland where talk of independence is mainstream and normal, and still longs for the days when dreams of independence were the preserve of hairy men who put on kilts at weekends and ran about the hillsides pretending to be Pictish warriors.

The Scottish media is still in denial, still hoping that talk of independence is just a phase that Scotland is going through, and all they have to do is to find an SNPbad story that’s big enough to kill it all off forever. Then they can get back to the cosy consensus of the 1990s when Scottish newspaper editors lunched with the leaders of the British political parties in Scotland and between them the boys club determined the Scottish political agenda. The boys, and they are largely boys, of the Scottish media have no great burning interest in furthering the rights of women, this is just one more stick for them to use against the cause of independence, one more hope that this might be the magic bullet to kill talk of independence off for good.

The sad truth for Scotland’s anti-independence media is that this latest SNPbad story isn’t going to dent the cause of independence, because the reality that our anti-independence press still hasn’t grasped after all these years is that independence isn’t about the SNP. It’s about much deeper issues going to the very heart of the British state and the changing nature of Scotland.

Independence is about the democratic deficit that sees a Scotland which regards itself as a partner and founder in a Union being treated as little better than an English county. It’s about Scotland’s increasing confidence as a nation, and the growing political chasm that has opened up between Scotland and the rest of the UK over the past few decades. It’s about the British state’s destruction of the post-war consensus and its rush to adopt right-wing neo-liberalism as an article of faith. It’s about the cavalier dismissal of the devolution settlement by a British political establishment which always prioritises the political concerns of England.

It’s about the way Scotland’s interests and concerns have been completely sidelined and ignored by a British state that’s only interested in placating the Tory right and the right-wing press. And it’s about an anti-independence media in Scotland which is so terrified of anything that might rock the British boat that it will not stand up for Scotland even within the UK.

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None of these deeper issues is addressed by a media which revels in mudslinging about the alleged personal behaviour of an individual SNP politician. They will still be with us irrespective of the outcome of investigations into Alex Salmond.

The reasons for the rise of the Scottish independence movement are not predicated on the personal behaviour of any single prominent individual, and will not be affected by screaming SNPbad headlines about that person.

The grassroots independence movement is continuing to organise. The British state is continuing to career towards its own self-destruction. Sorry Scottish media, but no amount of SNPbad stories is going to make the independence movement go away. We’re here until we win.