ONE of the favoured weapons of Unionist politicians is to dismiss Scottish nationalism as essentially tribal. It only flourishes in division and is fuelled merely by grievance, they aver. There is barely any attempt to examine why a specific criticism of the British state might lead to a sense of grievance. And when an argument in favour of independence looks like prevailing they rely on the Unionist catch-all: that when adversity arises our interests are best protected by the broad shoulders of the UK.

Gordon Brown deployed this specious argument often when he was wheeled out during the first independence referendum. Thus our pensions, our NHS and our place in Europe were on a sounder footing within the UK as opposed to the shifting sands of Scottish nationalism. In vain have I waited these last few years for a Scottish political journalist to ask Brown one question and one question only in the manner of Lady One Question in the cult Japanese television show Banzai. “To what extent do you think your concept of British jobs for British workers helped inspire the main message of Brexit?”

Curiously, the charge of tribalism could often be much more readily made of the Unionist side throughout 2014 and in the years since. I first became aware of this when assorted pro-Union politicians – Labour and Tory alike – snorted at nationalist claims that a vast oil field had been discovered near Shetland that would deliver more than 100,000 barrels a day. We now know that these claims were bang on the money following the announcement last week that BP expects the Clair Ridge field to deliver 640 million barrels over several decades. And, of course, there is a degree of entertainment to be had in recalling Murdo Fraser’s 2014 tweeted jibe: “I know all about the secret oil field. But I can’t tell any of you. It’s a secret.” Piling in behind Fraser were some of the commentators in the JK Rowling Glee Club: all of them trying to outdo each other in their scorn like bullies in Eton’s sixth form dormitory.

READ MORE: The Slorance Sketch: Murdo Fraser eats his words

What I found most distasteful about the jeering of these Unionists wasn’t merely their belief that Clair Ridge was a nationalist fantasy. It was the sheer joy they exhibited, mixed with a measure of relief, that something that might actually be good for Scotland (including our Unionists) wasn’t true. What could be more tribal than wishing a massive oil discovery away simply because it might damage your narrow political agenda? Some of those who seemed almost beside themselves hoping that this wasn’t true did so while continuing to insist that they were as patriotic as the most ardent nationalists. Until they began mocking the idea that there could indeed be decades of untapped oil off Shetland I believed them.

One of our most cherished legitimate expressions of democracy is the need to oppose the government of the day on its key policies so that leaner and more robust ones might emerge. During the first independence referendum this approach was shelved by Unionist supporters in favour of one which sought to diminish every aspect of Scottish culture and achievement. To express pride in Scottish institutions or history was to be accused of ethnic superiority. The phrase “exceptionalism” began to appear in their lexicon.

The same approach has been deployed every year since when the annual GERS figures are announced. The deficit wasn’t merely reported (often without any hint of placing them in the context of different Westminster spending priorities), they were proclaimed with great joy. “Lookee here, everyone; we bring you tidings of great joy: Scotland is an economic third-world republic.”

In health and education, reasoned criticism within the context of the Scottish Government’s own performance targets has been replaced with something much more insular and tribal.

There is gleefulness and much delight at casting them in the worst possible light. Many of those who take the greatest delight in portraying the country of their birth in this way also pledge allegiance to the primacy of the free market economy.

As such, they must be fully aware of the role that confidence plays in determining rates of inward investment.

I’d like to see a study produced by the economists at the Fraser of Allander Institute. This one would measure how much the value of Scotland plc has been diminished and how many jobs have been lost over the past five years by the persistent litany of false claims and propaganda by Unionists.

The National:

TV debates a pointless charade

I DON’T hold out much chance of Nicola Sturgeon being successful in persuading Sky News, being the chief instrument of conveying Rupert Murdoch’s worldview, to include her in its Corbyn v May Brexit debate.

Indeed I’d be inclined to dispense entirely with the forum of leaders’ debates. In Scotland these televised set-pieces have had a patchy history. The initial fascination was provided by the spectacle of Ukip’s Scottish leader David Coburn using up most of his brain-power walking to and from the podium. When the Scottish election in 2015 and the Westminster one the following year arrived Labour in Scotland had stumbled on their favoured tactic of simply having Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale shout very loudly when Nicola Sturgeon was talking.

Corbyn v May promises nothing new. The Labour leader has had two years in which to produce a sentient strategy of opposition to Brexit and has failed miserably. Everyone knows his heart simply isn’t in it. Nothing he can say in a live television debate will alter this view and Theresa May will relish the opportunity to remind us all of this. To participate in this charade will simply add legitimacy to it.

The National:

The Great British Fake Off

PERHAPS, though, there is an opportunity here for other broadcasters. I’d be looking at a gonzo version of the popular television game-show Would I Lie to You.

In this, a panel of experts is given the task of espousing some of the more adventurous claims made during the Brexit campaign and in the two years that have followed it. The task for the audience is to consider which are fake and which are merely false.

I’d pay good money to watch a Tory spin yarns about what “taking back control of our borders” and “taking back control of our laws” mean.

Perhaps then we could also get that other elusive thing: the sight of a BBC employee actually asking a Brexiteer to explain in detail what is meant by these shallow locutions.