A MOB of us once defaced the pavement outside the gate of a French teacher we all fancied. We were aged around 13. It’s the sort of thing daft lassies do. Then they grow out of it. Then they put away childish things.

In contrast, the people who put a banner up on the railings beside the First Minister’s official residence are suffering from some form of arrested development. But whilst the gesture may have been infantile, the message was not. Comparing any politician on these shores to Hitler, complete with a defaced portrait, transcends the boundaries of political gimmickry and common decency.

Nor was this some biro scrawling on a stray piece of cardboard. Banners like these are costly. You wonder who, with any kind of fingerhold on sanity, would spend serious money on this trash. You also wonder what kind of banner maker would take the commission – though maybe it was a DIY job in some bampot’s garage.

It would be comforting to think this kind of mentality was reserved for a few neds, over qualified in the hard of thinking department. But the events of the last few weeks and months suggest otherwise. The snarling hooligans who fetched themselves up at Glasgow’s George Square spoiling for a fight – any fight would do – are cut from the same unsavoury cloth. Not for them civilised discourse or debate; just hate speak born of the mindless sectarianism and racism which still poisons part of the Scottish psyche.

It would be naive to think too that this was a sudden phenomenon; that politics had suddenly become subject to the laws of some terrible new jungle. In truth there have always been some men – almost always men – whose brains are rarely located above their waist. What has changed in the last few years is their belief that it is now OK to wear their bigotry on their sleeves.

The National:

READ MORE: Police investigate banner comparing Nicola Sturgeon to Hitler

That belief is predicated on a new kind of political leadership, where trash talk and cheap jibes have become common currency. Tone is always set at the top, and the kind of tone adopted by the permanently adolescent and profoundly ignorant American president provides a green light to those who would police by force, or protest with maximum violence. A president who none too subtly dog whistles his white suprematist followers, letting them understand that Nazi salutes and worse are fine with the man in the White House.

Nearer home, a Prime Minister who writes of “water melon smiles” and “piccaninnies” whilst comparing burqa-wearing Muslims to letter boxes. And, careless of the impact on a racially charged Britain, dismisses complaints. Folks can’t take a joke it seems. But some folks can. They elected him.

That’s the kind of casual insensitivity – to put it at its most generous – which makes people think it smart, witty or acceptable to fly a White Lives Matter banner over a major football fixture. The culprit now has his picture plastered over social media embracing that nice boy, Tommy Robinson.

Words matter. Banners matter. The ability to hold different political views without expressing them venomously matters.

I imagine Nicola Sturgeon is less perturbed about this latest display of asinine behaviour than many of the rest of us. She’s got a couple of other things on her mind. She’s got a country to run.

I doubt her would-be tormentor could run a bath.

This article is part of a new digital-only section of our website we are trialling, where we’ll bring you reaction, analysis and opinion pieces by our best writers in real-time, without you having to wait for the newspaper to be printed. Please send any feedback to callum.baird@thenational.scot!​