The National:

IN 2019 Boris Johnson said that he would rather be dead in a ditch than ask for Brexit delay. Two things have happened since then. First of all, Brexit dragged us into a ditch. Second, yesterday Boris Johnson dragged Westminster politics into a ditch with him.

The fact that almost every single UK newspaper and media outlet, including the BBC and the Daily Mail, are openly condemning the vote to save a Tory MP from a misconduct finding that Boris Johnson personally steamrollered through Parliament yesterday gives some indication of the scale of the crisis that this change has created within UK politics.

Owen Paterson MP had been found by the Westminster Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone OBE, to have committed a sufficiently serious breach of the rules of Parliament on paid lobbying to require his referral to Parliament’s Committee on Standards. That committee, in turn, decided that the breach was so serious that he should be suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days.

READ MORE: Tory government U-turn after outrage over Owen Paterson scandal

This might sound like a small penalty for taking £100,000 a year for asking inappropriate parliamentary questions. There was, however, a sting in the tail. Any MP who is suspended for more than 10 parliamentary working days for this reason can be recalled by their constituency.

In other words, a by-election might take place. What the Tories knew was that he would almost certainly have lost. If there is one thing that people of all political persuasions in the UK hate it is sleaze.

It was sleaze that finally brought down John Major's government, and with it 18 years of Conservative rule, in 1997. However, with all due credit to John Major, he was not at the centre of those accusations of sleaze. It was MPs like Ukip's current leader, Neil Hamilton, who were. And, if there is another thing to say about John Major it is that he is nothing like Boris Johnson.

Major was innocent of sleaze (if not unwise flings with cabinet ministers), but still paid the political price for it. In contrast, Boris Johnson is now subject to his fourth inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards into his conduct is an MP. Three of these have been resolved, with stains on Johnson's reputation remaining, but the fourth is ongoing and this inquiry is by far the most significant.

It is now an acknowledged fact that Boris Johnson did not, at least in the first instance, pay for the renovation of his Downing Street flat, as he should have done. It is also now known that a Tory donor did make the necessary payments. It is also known that this fact was not declared, and it should have been.

One should never prejudge an inquiry process. The Parliamentary Commissioner mind find good reasons for this to have happened, but it is also possible that she might think otherwise. In that case one of the next people up for sanction in front of the House of Commons Committee on Standards might have been the Prime Minister. What if they had felt that he too required a sanction that might trigger a by-election? What seems certain is that Johnson was not willing to take the risk of that.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon slams Boris Johnson's regime over Owen Paterson scandal

In this scenario, Owen Paterson is an insignificant player. However, what Johnson knew was that if the sanction against Paterson was upheld then he and some of his colleagues could be next in line. It's my opinion that to save his own neck Johnson forced his MPs to vote for something that instinctively a great many of them will know is wrong. No government should ever change the rules on a disciplinary process to save one named individual. More than that though, they should not also seek to prevent themselves from being held to account for things that they might have permitted in public office.

What we now know is that we have a government and a Prime Minister rotten to the core. This is not changed by the announcement today that the Government is going to rethink yesterday’s vote. Given that they also said that Owen Paterson’s penalty will have to now be decided by a vote of the whole House of Commons they have still given themselves, as the ruling party, a way out of the disciplinary process by simply voting to overturn its findings, and so of letting those who have broken the rules off the hook, which is what Johnson so obviously craves. Despite that 40% of people in the UK still seems to support the Conservative Party. That is not true in Scotland though. And Scotland has a way out.

However, there is a lesson to be learned. No government is beyond corruption. Those in power have always to be held to account. If Scotland after independence is to have a government free of corruption it will need a strong constitution, a powerful parliament, a thriving democracy with a strong opposition and people willing to speak truth to power. The independence movement has to address these issues if Westminster’s corruption isn't to spread to Holyrood.