SLEAZE, it’s the Tory gift that keeps on giving. At least that, I’m sure, is the way many members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government view this nefarious but lucrative practice just as many within their ranks at Westminster did so before them.

When it comes to the Tories, sleaze it would seem is part of their political DNA.

Yes, I know they’re not the only culprits with a predisposition for having their snouts in the trough, but as history has shown they have made it something of a specialism and political raison d’etre.

Who after all can forget that sleaze filled decade of the 1990s, a time when low life in high office saw Tory MP Neil Hamilton accused of taking bungs of cash in brown envelopes for alleged activities in parliament on behalf of Mohamed al-Fayed (below), then owner of Harrods?

The National: Mohamed al-Fayed

Not to be outdone it was then the turn of one-time Tory minister for defence procurement Jonathan Aitken to allow aides of the Saudi royal family to pay his hotel bill during a stay at the Paris Ritz in September 1993.

The Old Bailey gave Aitken 18 months in the pokey for perjury and perverting the course of justice after the “gallant” Aitken had tried to get his wife and young daughter to provide an alibi for him.

But hey, this is all pipsqueak stuff compared to the current crew like Owen Paterson and now former attorney general Geoffrey Cox who would appear to see their parliamentary duties as secondary to hauling in as much wonga from wherever they can.

Make no mistake about it there is a pattern here, and sleaze does not just begin and end with second jobs and lobbying. There are still for example those unanswered questions over allegations that Tory MPs helped associates gain lucrative Covid contracts.

Then there is that little matter of Boris Johnson’s flat refurbishment, questions over how peerages are handed out, attempts to sway watchdog panels and the terms under which parliamentary passes are granted.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson refuses to apologise for sleaze at COP26 press conference

In the case of the latter even Aitken was awarded a “grace-and-favour” parliamentary pass despite the House of Commons claiming that ex-MPs jailed for more than a year were ineligible.

That term “grace and favour” only serves to underline once again what most of us have always suspected about their being one rule for some and another for the rest of us ordinary constituents and taxpayers with whose dime these reptiles play fast and loose.

Which brings me to my real point here, which is that if Tory sleaze is the gift that keeps on giving then this surely is the moment if there ever was one for us giving it back with double-barrelled political force to sink them at the ballot box and in Scotland’s case use it as a tool for bringing about independence.

The National: Yes2Glasgow march for independence.   The march, organised by Yes2Indee started at Kelvin Way and finished at Glasgow Green...Photograph by Colin Mearns.9 October 2021.

Only the most short-sighted would fail to see this as the perfect tactical moment and political opportunity that must be exploited to the hilt by the Scottish government, SNP MPs at Westminster and all Scots engaged in campaigning for our sovereignty.

This, put quite simply, is the Tories’ Achilles’ heel, the political spot where they are most vulnerable and as such it needs to be attacked again and again, alongside which we must make the case with renewed and uncompromising vigour that Scotland does not wish to be, and will not be, ruled by those filling their pockets at our expense.

Those who doubt how imperative this moment is need only listen to how rattled some within the Tory ranks are right now are.

Only last week The i newspaper quoted one serving Tory minister warning of a real danger that the accusation of sleaze “will keep being prodded” and that “there are worries that this will begin to harm us”.

READ MORE: Is the weight of broken Tory promises finally catching up to Andrew Bowie?

By all accounts he’s not alone and you can see why after a YouGov poll last Thursday showed the Tories lead had been cut from five percentage points down to just one in the wake of the Paterson scandal.

Since then, things have only become worse, for financial scandals are toxic and shown themselves to have a persistent, profound and lasting impact on UK politics.

Through their own arrogance the Tories have handed those that oppose them the perfect weapon with which to retaliate. The real question now though centres on whether that political weapon will be utilised to full advantage, and the pressure sustained and unrelenting in a way that will damage the Tories and gain real opposition leverage along the way?

In other words, this then is not simply the moment just to “keep prodding,” but instead fully harness their weakness to the extent that it should become a campaigning platform that the Scottish independence moment should embrace wholesale.

TO date the record of SNP members at Westminster holding Johnson’s government to account has been mixed to say the least.

Lately too I’m sure I’m not alone in recognising that the independence campaign has been going through what at best could be described as something of a hiatus and at worst a damaging period of rather bitter infighting.

But, as witnessed at COP26, Scotland can when needed play a canny game in presenting our nation’s hopes and aspirations to a world audience.

That job done, it is time once again for the Scottish government and elected officials at Westminster as well as those indy activists who make things tick at the grassroots level, to look to our domestic audience and remind them we have their best interests at heart – and Tory sleaze will not be allowed to undermine that.

Such is the repugnance so many people feel at those that profit at the expense of others and renege on their elected duties that it often crosses the political divide.

If ever an issue had the potential to help all of us renew our indy solidarity against the threats and challenges posed by Johnson’s cabal and make the case for independence crystal clear – even to doubters – then the sleaze that lies at the rotten heart of the UK Government is that issue.

It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get the gloves off.