ON Wednesday I faced up to a momentous moment in my life, one that would have been unthinkable five years ago – let alone in the early 1960s when my father tragically died on the way to a lorry drivers’ strike.

I grew up in a strict trade union household, where one of the cardinal rules was that you never cross a picket-line. I have abided by the principle ever since, even refusing to take my weekly seat in the Off The Ball studios in support of a strike at the BBC.

Then came Wednesday, May 8, 2019, when one of the biggest days of action in the history of the gig economy unfolded. Uber’s drivers went on strike to protest about the low incomes they receive from the global car-hailing app.

Admittedly, it was more of an event in America than in Scotland, but since Uber is a global business with thousands of drivers here, the strike was not just a distant dispute. The company may be based in California and part of the global tech boom but an estimated 1000 drivers in Glasgow are registered to use the firm, and many claim that they can earn as little as £5 per hour, scandalously low pay in a busy city.

The only real way of guaranteeing a decent wage is by anticipating “surge” – this is when local demand multiplies the prices of a hire, due to heavy rain, a peak event in the city or in the commuter-hours when those late for work will pay more.

I made the decision in the early morning that the best way to avoid unwittingly and mindlessly booking a cab was to disable the app. So for the first time ever, I refused to cross a digital picket line. The app lay unused on my smart-phone through the 24 hours of industrial action and is currently still off. What I now need to wrestle with is a different conundrum. Why do I have the app at all? Is convenience a big enough justification for supporting low pay?

There have been several flare-ups among Uber’s disaggregated drivers, mostly disputes about the rates Uber charges in urban areas, where they have been cutting driver pay rates in major cities to boost the bottom line, at a crucial time for the company.

Context is all. On Friday, Uber made its initial public offering (IPO) on the stock exchange and needed profits to deliver an impressive launch. That has infuriated drivers, who say they were already struggling to make ends meet as the company trades at a premium.

Wall Street will make millions for a small number of investors, most of whom are already obscenely wealthy. Uber’s former chief executive Travis Kalanick, who still owns 8.6% of the stock, was expected to make nearly $9 billion on his stake, while the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com, stands to make $400 million from his investment.

In a statement that did not involve a blow-torch and a brass neck, Bezos has challenged Uber to match Amazon’s minimum pay rates of $15 per hour.

Uber’s business model is a step-change in taxi hire, linking the nearest car to the customer in real time. Digital and smart-phone communication has improved communication to customers and also aids the driver with direction of travel, but it is a business model that has the punishing habit of isolating the driver in their car, and so mitigates against collective action.

It is worth pausing to think what’s happening here. In Scotland, a strike of potentially 1000 workers in a city synonymous with the history of the labour movement has passed with precious little media attention. It has gone by isolated and unnoticed.

This is the real-world outcome of a new economy that needs much greater scrutiny. Digital innovation is already enriching Scotland in areas of data-mapping, nanotechnology and sustainable energy, but it is an economy with many hidden deficits too. How people are paid for their work is one among many.

Frustratingly, as the Uber strike went silently by, much of the conversation online in political Scotland was an arcane and self-perpetuating argument about online decorum. It is a damn shame that the Uber drivers’ digital picket-line, one of the first in our country’s history, broadly coincided with puerile arguments about who is rude on Twitter.

According to reports, the Uber strike was at best muted. Waiting times were barely impacted and the number of drivers online compared to the monthly average was almost the same.

Of all the issues within our complex digital economy that we could be debating – online security, data-harvesting and online child exploitation among them – swathes of the Scottish independence movement have wasted nearly a week bickering about a newspaper article, in which a small number of SNP leaders raised concern about caustic online comments.

The so-called “cybernat” – a folk-devil much loved by the political status quo in much the same way that 1950s Britain feared the “Teddy Boy” – was the subject of inflated importance. Many more pressing issues went on in shadows.

It is worth taking a deep breath and remembering that there are currently more lowly-paid taxi drivers in Scotland than abusive independent supporters.

For the record, I thought Neil Mackay original piece was a legitimate stab at a marginal issue in Scottish public life and it took a well-established journalistic approach – highlighting tensions between leadership and grassroots.

But like many articles, it was over-egged with a rash headline, which turned a fair point about the need for a more nuanced debate into an attack on online independence campaigners.

Remember, the people maligned by implication in the piece have no privileged access to the media and can legitimately argue that London-controlled media ownership seems disproportionately contemptuous of their views. They have only one outlet as a right-to-reply – the bandit lands of the web.

So two very different issues ended up being muddled in the feature. One is the question of nuanced debate, which is an essential part of the next phase of the independence campaign, a view that Angus Robertson in particular regularly articulates.

The other was unsavoury online behaviour, which is a by-product of social media and no more evident in Scotland than in any other active democracy.

I sincerely doubt that either Neil Mackay or the senior independence figures he spoke to believe that nuance is the greatest strength of Twitter or that caustic online comment is Scotland’s problem alone.

The one thing that I do agree with is that being active online is all very well but not to the abandonment of the core values of fairness, honesty and decency. That said, I am adamant that those things are not like dinner-table decorum nor a subset of Debrett’s etiquette.

Yes, argument should be conducted honestly, but it is the lifeblood of a rude and healthy democracy, not a debutante’s guide to elegant manners. This is Scotland, not a Swiss finishing school.

Nor should we over-exaggerate the harm of the issue of disputational comment – often wrongly described as abuse – and try to see it within a checklist of those things that an independent Scotland will have to face up to.

The challenges we face moving more deeply into a digital economy are much more complex than rudeness.

I, for one, am much more vexed about 1000 taxi workers, many of them refugees from war and famine, being paid well below the minimum wage than I am about someone in Elgin calling Andrew Neil a sleazy tosser.

Perspective please.