AMONG the many tributes to his journalism was a reminder that Jon Snow had refused any kind of “honour”, despite being offered an OBE. That intimation came in the midst of an avalanche of compliments paid to the Channel 4 news host as he formally retired last Thursday evening.

His reasoning anent the honours system, like his work, was underpinned by a strong sense of personal morality.

He didn’t think it appropriate that journalists should accept honours from those on whom they were reporting, and he couldn’t imagine why anyone would accept a gong with the word Empire attached. Amen to all of that.

READ MORE: Jon Snow to get 'honorary citizenship in independent Scotland', Nicola Sturgeon says

That the honours system as practised in the UK is a monument to class-based bias and cronyism is surely now beyond dispute. When life peerages were first introduced they were supposedly awarded to citizens whose knowledge in a particular discipline, trade or profession could be said to add something distinctive to the wisdom of the revising chamber.

It is true that chamber does contain a number of people distinguished in their chosen fields. In recent times it has also become bloated with time-served politicians past their sell by date, and those whose “distinction” lies in feathering the nest of the governing party of the day.

So naked is that form of preferential treatment that you can now calculate who will receive a knighthood and of what type by the level of their donation. David Lloyd George (below) was said to openly sell gongs; I doubt the present administration has much to learn from his history.

The National: FALL FROM POWER: David Lloyd-George resigned on the day the result of the Newport by-election was declared.

The question of Empire is similarly dismal in a contemporary context. Actually strike that. Similarly dismal will do. Some awardees whose antecedents were victims of imperial expansionism subsequently returned their medals having reflected more deeply on how their acceptance might be viewed.

In truth the terminology and symbolism should offend any sentient citizens regardless of their ancestry. For reasons best known to himself, David Cameron chose to re-invent the British Empire Medal, thus re-inforcing the insidious nature of a far from level playing field.

Just as civil servants can predict what level of honour will fall into their laps after driving their desks for an appropriate period, and backbench MPs can expect a long service knighthood however mediocre their contribution, so too can the poor bloody civilian infantry work out where they stand in the national pecking order.

READ MORE: SNP demand police investigation into Tory 'cash for honours' scandal

Not only are there several layers of “honours” but even the layers sub divide. Thus those charged with deciding whom gets what know, for instance, that there are two classes of MBEs. Thus will you find that those who have genuinely served their communities for very many years, will not figure in lists of upper gongs reserved for the allegedly great and not always very good.

This nonsense is replicated throughout the armed services whose individual contribution will be decided by rank rather than merit. This discrimination reached its nadir when Captain John Ridgeway and Sergeant Chay Blyth were given different gongs for acquiring the same blisters and facing the same challenges when they rowed the Atlantic together.

Sadly those least likely to be well served by this shoddy system, are often those who unwittingly re-inforce it. Many people write fulsomely to put the case for Joe or Jane Bloggs who have stood in the pouring rain helping kids across the street since god was a girl, or tirelessly worked to make their human and natural environment better places. These are people whom we should genuinely cherish, but they will never be a Sir or a Dame.

The National: Captain Sir Thomas Moore receives his knighthood from the Queen (Chris Jackson/PA)

When these begging missives arrive on the desks of those who locally represent their monarch, they will be examined for worth and merit before those approved go up the chain for further scrutiny. And there their ranking will be determined. Some weeks later a note will drop through letter boxes announcing that at New Year, or at the Queen’s official birthday in August some people’s newfound fame will be published.

Of course you will need to have twenty-twenty vision to find your 15 minutes of media fame, since the headlines and opening several paragraphs will be reserved for the information that this actor or that singer or thon other talented kicker of a ball has been given a suitably shiny gong.

Folks in the electronic media in particular are very aware of the inbuilt imbalance in all this, and will dutifully search for a hospital porter or lollipop lady to feature briefly in their bulletins.

Equally the more self aware of those given major honours will find ways to indicate their faux embarrassment or guilt. These are the folk who only accepted because it pleased their wife/mother, or on behalf of the (unnamed) team of support staff. Aye right.

But the fact remains that the system is now so badly skewed and manipulated that it seems to me to be beyond repair. I’ve often wondered how this could be addressed within an independent Scotland. How people who make real contributions could be properly honoured and the chancers weeded out.

The problem inherent in such pondering is that there comes a point where any honour for any activity must at some juncture be determined by some sort of committee, hopefully of peers and those with real knowledge of the field under consideration. Yet inevitably one which will be accused of favouritism or worse.

I have some knowledge of this same problem in arts funding. No matter who decides, the winners will be put under public microscope and the losers will cry foul. My only plea, if Scotland finds a way of rewarding its citizenry for their contributions, is that the panel in question is unable to benefit personally from the process.

It is regularly argued that the reason we are still obsessed with class and rankings is that we retain a monarchy which still exerts a powerful hold on the public imagination. Let us remember that this has its own hierarchy being subdivided into monarchs and princes, dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts and barons with variations for the female of the species.

READ MORE: Stephen Paton: This is why getting rid of the monarchy is necessary for any modern country

These are the titles which still prompt a rather sickening degree of forelock tugging, despite the fact that in very many cases the title itself was only awarded on the basis of which bed you were born in and on what side of the blanket. The owners of these titles remain sought after by those running charities and other public bodies who seem to suppose an aristocrat or two on the letter heading will somehow transform their fortunes.

Like supporting Scottish sporting teams the reality rarely matches the level of expectation expended.

When we had to clear out my mother in law’s house we found a quite extraordinary collection of royal memorabilia. No royal could apparently be born or get married without adding some mug-shaped memento to their display cabinet.

Yet this house was rented by staunch working-class folk who still set their own fire in the morning, who never owned a car, and who did an honest days work for something well below an honest day’s pay all of their lives. My mother-in-law came from a large family many of whom went into service and cherished their weekly half-day off.

For reasons best known to themselves, they found some reflected glory in following the lives and times of people whose wealth and status were literally beyond the dreams of avarice.

We never spoke of such matters. It is not for incomers to step on dreams, or suggest that they probably had the real salt of the earth around their own table.

Their morals were sound, although, in truth the prejudices of their age had not escaped them.

They were good folks. There were no gongs in that cabinet.