POVERTY is heart-breaking to live through and one of the hardest things to write about.

I try to avoid writing about poverty for many reasons some personal, some political but also in fear of seeming hypocritical.

Every time I try to talk about my past I have a gathering sense of good fortune and have no desire to be a modern-day ­equivalent of the Four Yorkshiremen in Monty Python, who gathered together in pampered wealth to reflect on how poor they had once been. “Living in a shoebox – luxury, we couldn’t afford a shoebox.”

Nor do I think you have to be poor to write empathetically about poverty. George Orwell was from colonial land-owning stock and grew up in comfortable middle class surrounding before he embarked on the voyage of discovery that led to Down And Out In Paris And London.

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Although poverty is difficult to write about authentically, it is the biggest ­single challenge that an independent ­Scotland will have to deal with. For all the ­unfolding sagas of 300 years or more of political union, Scotland has a deep and irrefutable poverty problem. It is national scar and cannot be healed by ­independence alone.

The smug pragmatists that populate much of our media like to pose questions about how Scotland will be able to afford its aspirations as an independent nation. But ask them how we got into this state and they scuttle away into the corner ­fearful of the light.

Poverty is the most brutal and cruel ­legacy that the Union has dumped on Scotland. You cannot talk about the ­greatness of Britain without admitting its monumental failures too. By far the biggest lacunae is equality and social ­fairness.

If you are even vaguely on the left of the political spectrum, and oppose ­independence, defending the Union is ­increasingly difficult and leads you ­towards the ultimate non-sequitur – you cannot challenge poverty unless you stay in a Union that has delivered multiple deprivation over 300 years.

The scandalous reality of Boris ­Johnson’s puerile speech at the Tory ­Party conference is that last week alone 4.4 ­million households, saw their incomes fall by £1000 overnight. For one million households that will mean an immediate loss of over 10% of their income as we take the basic rate of benefits to its lowest level since 1990.

Cards on the table. I am comfortably well off, I am in the highest-tax bracket and with a regular income. My adult life has been kind, but my childhood was spent in crushing poverty.

My experience was neither rose-tinted nor character-forming: it was a horrible place to live, watching my mother try to hold together a household of three ­children in a freezing cold housing scheme, which to this day is one of the poorest areas of Scotland.

It will always be home to me, but ­Letham frequently features in the upper reaches of SIMD – the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation – and it was only the herculean efforts of a single mother and the subtle support of neighbours and foodbank friends that got us through it.

I had one stroke of luck in life, I grew up in a home rich in love and ­encouragement. By 25 years-old I was supported by a PhD scholarship from the old Scottish ­Education department and was already planning the Great Escape.

My childhood has made me doggedly committed to a core principle of ­socialism, you cannot truly address poverty without dealing with the redistribution of wealth. Scotland will have to raise taxes that is for me an inevitable outcome of seeking to address poverty. The problem is that that the ruling Conservative Party are allergic to tax rises and comfortable with poverty.

For their own selfish reasons the ­Tories have spent most of their conference ­avoiding anything that would ruffle the feathers of the ideologues within their core support.

An extraordinarily exchange was caught on camera on the outskirts of the conference. A man with cerebral palsy confronted Jacob Rees-Mogg about the ­reality of being poor and disabled. He told the Leader of the Commons in no ­uncertain terms what he had to go through to prove he was eligible for welfare benefits. This was Boris Johnson’s Britain in miniature, an obscenely rich man who has tucked much of his wealth beyond transparency trying to rationalise his party’s beliefs in the face of disability.

Another memorable moment came on STV where Boris Johnson was forced to defend cutting Universal Credit by £20 per week while handing a peerage and a Scotland Office role to a financier who donated a six-figure donatio. STV reporter Kathryn Samson asked Johnson how many £20 notes it would take for her to be given a peerage. It was pantomime with a purpose.

THESE unscripted media moments ­expose deeper questions about privilege and welfare in the UK.

An independent Scotland will have to address poverty from day one. To do that, Scotland will have to be evangelical about challenging hidden wealth, tax evasion and anti-social land ownership. It will have to be bold about tax too.

This week I have watched keenly as the Pandora Papers were leaked to the web. Over six million documents, nearly three million images and half-a-million spreadsheets, have been thrown open to further detective work. It has already been an ­embarrassing leak for Tony Blair, ­accused of avoiding £312,000 stamp duty on the purchase of a £6.45 million London townhouse. But rest assured it will not be the famous or glamorous that will be sweating it will be the wealthy Tories who love the cloak of anonymity, the very people that pushed Brexit to avoid the laws of financial transparency coming down the line in Europe. These are the very people that think buying a place in the House of Lords enriches democracy.

Gordon Brown emerged from his ­cryogenic crypt to write a feature for The Mirror newspaper. Here’s the spoiler. I thought it was a great piece of popular journalism.

Although Brown has soiled his ­reputation in the eyes of most Yes ­supporters it was a blistering attack on the Tories and worthy of greater attention.

Brown’s feature began with a broadside against Tory economics. “During the last 50 years,” he wrote, “Conservative governments have routinely frozen child benefits and made millions of families worse off… But never since the introduction of the welfare state have six million families been subjected to an overnight cash-cut of £20 a week.”

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His concluding sentence, came ­temptingly close to abandoning the myths of Better Together and the narrative that drove him to be a leading figurehead in the pro-Union campaign in 2014. He ­finished with a call aimed principally at Labour members, saying: “Britain ­cannot move forward if six million families who can least afford are his so hard. No ­Conservative can ever claim we are all in this together.”

It was either a slip of the pen or a ­realisation that next time round Labour supporters cannot and should not stand in alliance with the Conservatives. The next independence referendum will be a different debate, and one that Gordon Brown may not have the stomach for.

The risk that scared away older Scots is no longer loaded one-way. Of course, breaking away and becoming an ­independent nation carries risk, but ­staying tied to a Union that resents ­Europe and has such open disregard for the poor of society is an even greater risk, especially for those on the left that came into politics to defend the poor.

Dancing a jig with the Tories is no ­longer an option next time round.