THOSE who possess sufficient power and resources will always find ways to bend politicians to their will. Most of their efforts, no matter how sophisticated they appear, will always involve handing out large amounts of money.

It’s one of the failures of the democratic system we imagine sets us above tyrannies and dictatorships that since, the Great Reform Act of 1832, political leverage can still be purchased easily.

Incremental change began with outlawing the ancient corruption whereby the owners of sparsely populated rotten boroughs could force or bribe permitted voters to return favoured candidates. Secret ballots were also eased out and suffrage gradually extended to all citizens in the course of the next century.

It’s still proven difficult, though, to block off all those myriad routes by which the rich and mighty send money to win influence. We delude ourselves that the spending cap placed on party candidates at UK elections ensures that political advancement is open to all. And that tighter restrictions and closer scrutiny of lobbyists ensures that undue influence can’t simply be bought.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour and LibDems pocket £400K from Peak Scientific to oppose SNP

But when you have a massive budget employing teams of advisers and consultants and unrestricted access to national print and broadcast media, you can ensure your interests will always be much better represented than those of the common voter.

This is why it was so refreshing to learn this week that Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats had each received large six-figure donations from a global energy company called Peak Scientific to “positively communicate their plans for improving public services in Scotland”. Isn’t it grand that such massive global companies take such a close interest in improving the lives of Scotland’s local communities?

Peak Scientific is owned by a company in the US, where it also does business. It has interests in Spain and Italy, too. It warms your heart that despite operating in these sexy big countries these businesses can find the time and money to help with the “improvement of public services in Scotland”.

And it’s not just the amelioration of public services which has occasioned this act of kindness to the people of Scotland. The company also wants to invest in democratic accountability. A spokesperson said: “We feel it is important that current opposition parties are well funded so they can positively communicate their plans for improving public services in Scotland by maximising the potential of the powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament.”

What a high-minded and civic company this is. If only more companies were like Peak Scientific and were willing similarly to hand over massive sums of cash to improve public services and support democratic accountability.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton, surely spoke for us all when he thanked Peak Scientific for its generosity in what he took to be “a massive vote of confidence in the party, my leadership and our prospects for growth across Scotland”.

Mr Cole-Hamilton, of course, is well placed to appreciate what improving public services can mean to Scotland’s hard-pressed householders as we negotiate the choppy economic waters of post-pandemic recovery. Cole-Hamilton supplements his meagre £66k annual salary (plus significant living and travelling expenses and money to help him run his parliamentary office) by earning up to £10,000 a year renting out a cabin in his back garden on Airbnb. Being the owner of multiple dwelling places gives you a keener appreciation of the efficiency of public services, don’t you think?

People’s champion Cole-Hamilton added: “It’s up to the Liberal Democrats and progressive allies to set out a vision for a Scotland with strong public services, a commitment to public education and a platform for businesses to flourish. That’s how to get the SNP out of power.”

SCOTTISH Labour, who recently admitted that the entirety of their fundraising efforts in 2020 had amounted to just £250, probably can’t afford to be too choosy about where they’re getting their money from these days.

Perhaps Mr Cole-Hamilton could provide his Labour opposite number Anas Sarwar with advice about how to dip your toe in the holiday let sector. I’m sure that if, say, Labour MSPs with second homes or even just a large garden where you can fit a decent-sized shed were willing to use Airbnb adroitly – like Cole-Hamilton – the party’s modest finances would very soon experience a princely upturn.

I mean, if it’s all about “improving public services” and “maximising the potential of the powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament” I’m sure no-one would look too closely at the small print.

Even so, you’re left to ponder the eternal Mrs Merton/Paul Daniels/Debbie McGee conundrum.

What was it about a country with the largest coastline in Europe, massive oil and gas resources and the potential to meet half its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030 that made it so attractive to a global energy company that it was prepared to drop several hundred grand into the coffers of two opposition parties?

But it would be rude to ask too many questions. We don’t want to prevent other big-hearted corporate entities from handing out large quantums of poppy to improve our public services and stimulate democratic engagement.

Perhaps, too, we are all a little harsh on what lies behind the willingness of very rich people to bid hundreds of thousands of pounds to sit beside assorted UK Tory leaders in the run-up to General Elections.

And nor perhaps should we look too closely at the shipments by UK arms manufacturers of large consignments of lethal weapons to countries with dodgy records on human rights. Perhaps they also wish merely to improve the service infrastructure in these countries and support democratic principles.

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And what about all those donations and messages of support that came pouring into the bank accounts of Better Together during the first referendum on Scottish independence. Why, we even had a train-load of minor English celebrities disembarking at Glasgow Central to show the Scottish people that despite never, ever letting on that they cared much about us they’d actually been attending Burns nights and gatherings of their local Caledonian Clubs from a very young age.

Until 2014, I hadn’t actually realised that so many Tory politicians, newspaper moguls, retail consortiums, banking institutions and global energy companies – had actually been caring about Scotland since they were out of short trousers.

It was very moving and poignant to discover that they’d been caring about us for all this time. And that they, too, really only cared about improving our public services.

What a time to be alive and to be blessed by having such philanthropic people desperate for Scotland to remain in the UK.