WE rarely miss the opportunity to highlight the hypocrisies of Westminster, and in particular, the far right, who have gained leverage in the Conservative Party. Indeed I’ve always felt that one of the foundations of the Tories’ belief system is built on hypocrisy, if not an outright lie.

It exists in the Tories’ sacred belief that the free market alone is the arbiter of price and quality and that everything and everyone must bow down before it. Human casualties of the free market are regarded as acceptable, if regrettable, collateral damage. Only by showing iron discipline in sticking to this philosophy can you reach peak competitiveness and thus maximum efficiency of production.

Yet the Tories, while believing in the primacy of the market in business, will deploy any artifice in business, finance and careers to distort the markets and gain personal leverage. These range from aggressive tax avoidance to the private school system and the recruitment policies of the BBC and the British Army.

Yet, in Scotland the political classes we are no strangers to setting our own double standards. We were able to witness a prime example of this last week in some of the responses to the news that The Johnston Group, owner of the Scotsman group of newspapers, was placing itself in administration following a decade or so of managerial incompetence on a titanic scale.

Having spent several very happy years working on all three of The Scotsman titles, I was immediately concerned for the future of the papers and some of the very fine journalists who continue to work there in very challenging circumstances. Predictably, there were some Yes supporters who couldn’t resist signalling their glee at the prospect of several hundred people and their families facing uncertainty in the weeks before Christmas. I’ve never quite understood why a newspaper’s political choices induce such feelings, but it’s not a hanging offence.

Just as predictably, the sanctimonious wing of Scotland’s right-wing and Unionist commentariat adopted their default position of faux outrage at such beastly behaviour. The same ones affected to be disgusted by all the nastiness and divisiveness around the first independence referendum while secretly rubbing their hands at the prospect of nice, wee Brucie bonuses from the BBC for punditry duties.

Many of them have also displayed a degree of malevolence to The National since it was founded four years ago this week that has been unprecedented in Scottish newspapers. Journalists tend not to attack a rival newspaper in print as they never know the minute when they may require a job on this scurrilous publication.

When The National emerged it was vilified by some Union-facing journalists and commentators who have since wished its demise loudly on social media and derived pleasure from any dips in its circulation. Some Tory MSPs, including the indefatigably indolent Murdo Fraser, have joined in.

I retain a great affection for The Scotsman and its sister titles. I can honestly say I spent some of my happiest years of my career in Edinburgh and was privileged to work among some truly outstanding talents. Even in its reduced circumstances today The Scotsman still produces brilliant journalism from writers like Dani Garavelli, Martyn McLaughlin and Joyce McMillan.

Newspapers though, do not have a divine right to exist and, like politicians, must sometimes stand or fall by their own choices. The Scotsman made its choice during the independence referendum and turned itself into a cheerleader for the Unionist cause.

At their best newspapers perform a valuable function of democracy in standing in the gap between a corrupt government and a weak political opposition. Many newspapers though, have not been at their best for many years.

Journalists too, can have a distorted view of the importance of their calling. I’ve heard it said that we “speak truth to power” an insufferably pompous phrase that ought to meet with a summary response when uttered by an actual journalist.

We are supposed to hold governments to account and occasionally we put ourselves in some danger.

N-one though, forced us to do this job and many of us are praised often enough to counteract any criticism. We enjoy a position of some privilege, can occasionally have some influence (though this is waning) and work in a pleasing environment.

There are many jobs which are much more vital than ours and of far greater importance to the proper functioning of the state.

The National doesn’t pretend to have all the answers or even very many of them. It simply offers a different angle on a news agenda which for many years had been pre-set by a small cadre of very rich, very white and very conservative males.

The National:

Mundell's latest wheeze

I’M not entirely sure how to categorise David Mundell’s latest series of interventions on the Brexit debate. The Scottish Secretary was somewhat exercised by Nicola Sturgeon’s perfectly reasonable observation on Theresa May’s Brexit deal that, among other outcomes, it would give Northern Ireland a competitive advantage over Scotland. She was referring to the backstop solution that allows the six counties a degree of leeway in its future dealings with Europe that will be denied to Scotland, despite this nation having voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.

Mundell accused the First Minister of “weaponising” the historic troubles in Northern Ireland. Surely he wasn’t suggesting that a history of violence earns you special treatment. And he certainly can’t have been suggesting that in conducting politics in a peaceful manner Scotland should just stand quietly at the back and take what’s coming to it?

This is the same individual who, along with the rest of his party, most of their partners in Scottish Labour and many Unionist commentators, became very upset at any behaviour they viewed as divisive during the first independence referendum.

Hypocritical doesn’t even begin to describe such a position. Making it up as you go along certainly does.

The National:

Godley on the money

THE runaway winner of social media this week is the Glaswegian comedian and stage performer Janey Godley. Her two-minute video analysis of Brexit must be seen and heard. It possesses a rich texture of word and expression which I simply can’t adequately convey in mere print. Ms Godley communicates her displeasure at the unfolding chaos of Brexit and ridicules Nadine Dorris, the Tory MP. Ms Dorris had previously expressed her anger at how unfair all this Brexit malarkey is on ordinary British Brexiteers and Ms Godley’s response is along the lines of, well what did you think you were voting for. It contains the following memorable locution: “We’re all gonnae be f*ckin’ eatin’ apples aff ae a bus that soldiers bring in noo”.