THIS week, I’m going to depart from my usual approach and comment on two separate stories I watched unfold last week. One is potentially tragic yet at the same time hugely inspiring. The other is just plain dispiriting.

So, I’ll start with the one that’s caused me some despair. Following Alex Salmond initiating a judicial review, the Scottish Government acknowledged a procedural flaw in its investigation of complaints against him by two women. So far, fair enough. That’s what the law is there to do, if you can access it.

What I found disheartening was the frenzied onslaught against the First Minister in the wake of the decision and the readiness of so many people to jump on the bandwagon and chuck in their tuppence worth of criticism.

Those who read this column regularly will know that I’m not a member of the SNP or any other party. They will also know that I have differences with the Scottish Government on a range of issues. As well as being a lifelong supporter of independence, I’m a socialist and feminist and have some fundamental differences, especially on economic policy with both Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor.

So, I’m not part of any protective coterie surrounding the SNP leader. But, politically, I respect her. She has always been an honest, principled and courageous woman and in recent years has grown into a highly-skilled politician who is head and shoulders above any other political leader in the UK right now.

And it’s precisely these qualities that make our First Minister such a prized target for those whose mission is to defend the United Kingdom. They understand that a damaged Nicola Sturgeon can only weaken the wider independence movement, so they’ll take her out of the game if they can.

READ MORE: Sturgeon refers herself to ministerial code panel over Salmond case

I understand that and I’m not complaining. That’s politics. I’m more disappointed with those on the independence side who have seized on this opportunity to settle old scores. I’ve heard terms like “puritan” bandied around as an insult before, but I’d have expected that, in the light of all the experience of the past few years, the least we can do is take allegations of sexual misconduct seriously rather than dismissing them as some kind of quasi-religious phobia. Perhaps it would be naive to expect otherwise, but I’ve also been dismayed at the eagerness with which some media commentators have rushed in head-first to brand Nicola Sturgeon as the villain of the piece. So, let’s put this in perspective. We know that for decades, serious criminal behaviour was rampant across a host of institutions in the UK and beyond. I am not suggesting that to be the case here; nothing has been established and there are ongoing investigations. However, for many years, from the BBC to Hollywood, powerful men abused women and children with impunity. Behind closed doors, those at the heart of the banking establishment made themselves richer by the day, impoverishing millions in the process. Hordes of Westminster MPs cheated the taxpayers out of millions for personal gain, for many years unchecked and unchallenged.

Newspaper editors routinely ordered the hacking of people’s private phones, so they could outsell their rivals. Churches and charities harboured serial abusers. UK ministers concocted, with the secret intelligence services, to falsify classified information to justify a war that led to the death of millions and whose chilling reverberations will be felt for generations to come.

The National:

Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

This is not to indulge in whataboutery, but to put last week’s furore in the wider context. And that context has been the deeply ingrained cover-up culture which has wreaked so much damage on so many people’s lives. I understand that the Scottish Government’s Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans may be about to resign, and Nicola Sturgeon has reported herself to a ministerial standards panel.

But these women did not create this crisis. And whatever mistakes have been made, they should not be allowed to overshadow the fact that the Scottish Government did what multiple other institutions failed to do. They refused to take the easy, cowardly road out by contriving a way to sweep these allegations under the carpet, in full knowledge of the fraught political consequences that lay ahead. For that, Nicola Sturgeon deserves credit, not frenzied abuse.

The parliamentary investigation may well throw up answers to questions that have not yet even been asked by the media. Like, for example, who actually instigated the discussions between Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon? Who was trying to achieve what? At whose request were there no minutes taken? Is there any evidence that any of these discussions affected the First Minister’s subsequent actions? Has any previous First Minister or UK Prime Minister ever held un-minuted conversations with colleagues on sensitive matters? And if not, why do we have so many explosive revelations from Westminster finally seeing the light of day 30 years later?

I don’t know the answers but just by asking the questions, I think I can make a reasonable guess. And from previous experience I also know how difficult it is to be at the heart of a sensitive political crisis with all the difficult decisions, sensitivities and pressures that entails – not least the dilemma of trying to do the right thing while being powerless to defend yourself from those who have the luxury of firing off accusations like machine gun rounds whenever they choose.

READ MORE: Solidarity is even more vital during hard times – like January

Now to something more uplifting, despite the horrific context. As reported in yesterday’s Sunday National, my friend Roz Paterson, a stalwart of the Yes campaign in her local area of Beauly, and a gifted writer and journalist, could die within weeks, leaving behind her husband, mother, brother and two young children.

A highly effective treatment that could completely eradicate her cancer is available. But to get the treatment, she needs money – and lots of it. So, last week, backed by family and friends, she took the remarkable step of launching an online funding appeal.

It was like a novice hillwalker deciding to tackle Mount Everest. It might well have turned into a bold but doomed venture that would rapidly run out of steam. Instead the people of Scotland and beyond have rallied round magnificently raising 10% of the target sum within five days – an incredible £50,000. And instead of fizzling out, support is accelerating by the day.

People often argue that we can never have a genuinely fair and equal society because people are inherently selfish; that solidarity is myth; that cooperation for the greater good is idealistic. Well, Roz has just proved them wrong. Thousands of people, mostly complete strangers, have already weighed in with personal donations large and small. The whole campaign has unleashed a torrent of compassion.

We may live in a capitalist society infused with the values of acquisitiveness, rivalry, contempt for weakness, and callous disregard for the plight of others, but the eloquent, poignant, kind-hearted words on Roz’s funding page reveals the real nature of people. Despite everything – and we all have our defects – the generosity, the humanity, the selflessness of ordinary people comes shining through like a bright spotlight on a darkened stage.

In the words of the bard, Robert Burns, It’s Coming Yet For A’ That.

And in the meantime, please, please help out Roz in any way you can.