PICTURE the scene. You take a friend to a party who you’re worried won’t quite match the vibe and, after vociferously vouching for them to your pals, they go on to dramatically embarrass you. We’ve all been there. Actually, that hasn’t happened to me. Maybe I was the embarrassment. Excuse me for thinking this was an appropriate time to talk about rail infrastructure.

Regardless, no matter how mortifying it is to have this happen, it pales in comparison to what the Scottish Tories are currently going through. Having vouched hard for the UK Conservative party as the last, best hope for Scotland and the Union, they’ve only turned around and gotten themselves embroiled in yet another lobbying scandal.

Yet it is not really Owen Paterson’s behaviour that has led to the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Scottish Tories, but rather the cardinal sin of having drawn attention to it.

The Tory Party goes with sleaze and corruption like a cop does a kettle, and the somewhat disturbing truth is that, knowing this to be the case, their actions are often shrugged off with a “well, you know what they’re like”. But trying to wriggle out of accountability and reverse the rather slight consequences offered for taking part in paid advocacy is what has really knocked over the teacup and set the storm loose in public. Had Paterson just taken his 30-day suspension from Parliament, our press would have moved on and been back to bashing transgender people within the week.

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But not now. To be clear, the trans-bashing will likely continue, but a Tory MP might also find themselves involved every now and then too. Just to mix things up a little.

If we want to truly judge the institution of Westminster, we can’t limit ourselves just to what the governing party has managed to get away with, but what they have tried to get away with too – and what these past few days have shown is that the Conservatives are ready and willing to rip up any form of accountability to protect their class.

While Boris Johnson may have U-turned on the decision to functionally scrap the parliamentary standards system in favour of a superficial, Tory-led appeals process, that doesn’t change the fact that they endeavoured to do so in the first place, nor that he whipped MPs into backing those short-sighted plans to let Paterson off the hook.

The Conservatives tried to blatantly game the system for their own benefit – and now the Scottish Tories have been left to make the case that it is right that Westminster continues to limit and, more and more often in recent history, overstep the boundaries of devolution; stuck arguing that an institution repeatedly revealed to be a den of corruption and sleaze is a superior decision-maker to our own elected parliament.

That’s where the true source of the Scottish Tories’ ire lies. Because to acknowledge there is an institutional problem within Westminster and the Conservative Party is to recognise that there is a meaningful case for Scotland to leave the UK. If the broad shoulders of the Union are shown to lead to the greedy hands of parliamentarians like Owen Paterson, the argument for staying crumbles.

Paterson is in no way an outlier, or a bad apple within the barrel. For the past 20 years, all 16 of the Conservative Party’s main treasurers whose donations to the party have exceeded £3 million have been set upon a political conveyor belt that has taken them from party donor, to party treasurer, to peer. Barring the most recent treasurer who stepped down a couple of months ago, every single one has been offered a seat in the House of Lords after making serious contributions to the party coffers.

Closer to home, we had our own questionable peerage handed to Malcolm Offord, a former anti-indy campaigner who was slipped into the House of Lords and given a role in the Scotland Office after handing almost £150,000 to the Tories.

There is even speculation that Johnson’s bombastic assault on the standards process, and on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone, may be driven in part by fears of an investigation into his own behaviour after he reportedly accepted £200,000 from a Tory donor to refurbish his flat.

Owen Paterson is a prime example of what it means to be a Tory politician, whose definition of cruelty is to be held accountable for their actions – and that is how Paterson described his ordeal. Intolerable and cruel.

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I’ll let you, reader, pass judgement on a man who believes accountability is cruelty, while his inhumane colleague Priti Patel attempts to give Border Force staff immunity over migrants drowning under their watch.

With the eyes of the world on the UK for COP26, Boris Johnson and his cohort took a step further than even our right-wing press were willing to defend, and dramatically undermined the case for the UK Union while they were at it. How can we trust that any decision made at Westminster is based on anything more than whose money is in whose pockets when they step into the Commons?

The discomfort of the Union-minded Scottish Tories seems more tied to being made to look like fools than the fact that one of their colleagues collected a small fortune in fees to advocate on behalf of big businesses – one of which was handed some serious government contracts during the pandemic.

Ironically, this all makes a rather striking case for the Scottish Tories forming their own independent political party... But instead, they’ll continue arguing that this is as good as it can get for Scotland.