THE only invitation I’ve ever received to earn a living in the perfidious realm of politics was a very strange one. It came from my still sorely missed friend Paul McBride QC, who had lately joined the Scottish Conservatives in a senior advisory role. “How do you fancy becoming the party’s director of communications,” he asked me one day. He then quoted me a salary and benefits package that would have kept the Bacardis large for a while yet.

After a cursory look around his flat to check for the tell-tale signs of daytime drinking, I politely asked him if he was feeling OK. He’d been defending in a couple of high-profile cases and I felt he might perhaps have been feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. “How’s that going to look, McBride,” I replied. “My brothers and sisters in the press would be filling their boots for weeks with my previous denunciations of all things Tory.”

Our conversation troubled me. Just what was it in my conduct and demeanour that made him think I might be open to such an offer?

I made immediate plans to downgrade the car, use more public transport and spend less on suits. Was there an anti-poverty demonstration any time soon that I could join to reinforce my leftie credentials? Perhaps I needed to rethink my life.

The subject was never mentioned again. Indeed, I’m not even sure McBride had the authority to make such an offer but, to date, it remains my only solicitation from any of our political parties. If a political commentator is doing their job properly, they really shouldn’t be getting any offers like this.

The trick is to keep an appropriate distance from all politicians and party advisers; not be popping in and out each other’s houses and sharing pictures of your dinner with them on Facebook. Your job is to apply regular kicks to their virtual haw maws on a regular basis and to be treated with suspicion and disdain in return. This keeps everything honest.

And so I have mixed feelings that Richard Walker is aiming to stand for the SNP at next year’s Holyrood elections. Walker has been a friend and former newspaper colleague for more years than either of us care to remember. At a very human level, the nature of this friendship will change if he is successful.

Unlike my startling entreaty to come over to the dark side, Walker is seeking to represent a party and a cause he has supported for most of his adult life. If he succeeds, he will be a huge asset to the SNP, not that they’ll necessarily put that to good use. Preferment in the current party owes more to your personal fealty to the Sturgeon/Murrell project than to any discernible talent or authentic commitment to an independent Scotland. It explains the presence of some outright roasters on the list of candidates.

If successful, Walker will join two other gifted former print executives in the ranks of the SNP. Murray Foote, the former editor of the Daily Record, is the party’s head of communications, a job that really ought to have gone to Walker and probably would have done were he not deemed more on-message with the current party hierarchy.

Joan McAlpine, another much-valued former newspaper colleague, is one of the hardest-working MSPs in the ranks of the SNP and one of the cleverest. Yet the party’s inner sanctum keeps her at arm’s length because she fails to sign up to the dafter ideas of the woke cult now in control of the NEC.

READ MORE: Richard Walker: The National’s founding editor in bid to become SNP MSP

Falling revenues and the drastically altered model of print journalism have seen the departure of too many talented colleagues in recent years. The Scottish Government, adroitly, has eyed an opportunity here. That’s why in their ranks of paid advisers a large number of former journalists now appear. Once, they were specialists scrutinising the fine detail of government and exposing to the light information they’d rather conceal. Now they engage in the grand conspiracy of governments everywhere to keep the people’s noses out of business that are deemed not to be their concern.

THE other beneficiary of the journalistic brain drain has been the BBC. This lavishly state-funded institution has, under the UK Tories, never more resembled an arm of the government’s communications strategy. This is why, in a long-overdue move, a group of SNP MPs is seeking urgent talks with the BBC’s high command over its egregious pro-Union bias.

While they’re in there, they might also want to ask why the political output of the BBC Scotland channel has about as much depth as the news on CBeebies. Some in the SNP and the wider Yes movement lament what they perceive to be anti-independence bias in the mainstream print media in Scotland. Some of this is real but a lot of it is imagined. When the next referendum occurs, I’d be surprised if more titles didn’t come out for independence or at least be much more measured about the prospect of it.

It’s fondly imagined that there once existed in the UK a Xanadu when newspapers provided fair and balanced analysis of big events.

Such a time never existed. All of the UK’s biggest media empires have been assembled by

billionaires principally to turn a profit or as an investment in ensuring that their power and money remains untroubled by anything resembling equality.

Thus, the movement for Scottish independence will never be anything other than a threat to this pattern of influence.

In Scotland, the SNP are set fair to reign relatively untroubled for a quarter of a century. They are the established party of government and their writ runs in every jurisdiction. This has bred a palpable sense of complacency within the party, such that it can afford to indulge itself in cultish and boutique legislation around hate crime and gender reform.

Some pro-independence commentators now seriously question the party’s commitment to independence as it grows fat on entitlement, big pensions and a sprawling suite of paid advisers happy to keep their heads down and eye a rewarding retirement.

Journalists who continue to question the party’s commitment and route to independence are dismissed as Unionist shills. In reality, they benefit the wider cause of self-determination. But, another journalist potentially leaves this old trade for the comforts and emoluments of permanent government, the less scrutiny there will be of the SNP leadership’s real priorities.

I need hardly add that if any should see me in a cheap Matalan suit, smartphone in hand, running after some over-promoted minister of state in Holyrood, you have my permission to take me away and administer a deserved kicking.