SOME familiar contemptuous voices emerged to disparage last weekend’s pro-independence march in Arbroath. What is it about the sight of thousands of ordinary people coming together in a common cause that vexes some anointed souls in the Unionist press? Does it perhaps trigger a collective sub-conscious fear left over from those times when protesters actually were knocking down the ancient pillars of the entitled and the privileged?

It’s not as if Saturday’s march, organised by the All Under One Banner organisation, was engaged in anything delinquent or harsh. And there were only around 3000 of them. And it was in Arbroath, for God’s sake, a douce and well-behaved town which had not previously been known as a hotbed of hostile agitation.

Predictably, some took issue with the maleficent nature of some of the banners on display as this mass independence peregrination proceeded through Arbroath. “Tory scum out” was one of the unruly slogans which seemed to have caused some fragile souls to fret and cower.

Admittedly, referring to those neighbourly and inoffensive types in the Conservative and Unionist Party as “scum” is not very pleasant behaviour. And it wouldn’t really be my own abjuration of choice. I suspect, though, that “PARTY WHICH HARBOURS THIEVES, LIARS AND CHEATS OUT” would require the sourcing of an unfeasibly large banner.

And besides, restricting the use of “scum” to a harmless scrap of vexillum might be viewed as much more preferable than actually treating thousands of your fellow human beings as scum. If you wish to observe a recent manifestation of what treating other people like scum actually looks like, you need look no further than Priti Patel’s Nationality and Borders Bill which, among many other iniquitous measures, requires Britain’s armed naval vessels to turn refugees fleeing torture and death back to the sea – and the probability of drowning or freezing to death.

The British Tory Home Secretary has thus made the UK a pariah state in withdrawing from the ancient and universally observed law of the sea which obliges civilised people to offer aid to seafarers in distress. That many refugees seeking respite in the UK are fleeing from adversity caused in part by Britain’s chaotic meddling in these places shames this Conservative administration even more.

The National: National Extra Scottish politics newsletter banner

And perhaps you might conclude that using a lethal pandemic which has killed 166,000 of your fellow citizens to enrich close friends, family and Conservative Party donors by doling out bogus PPE contracts also falls into the category of treating people like scum.

And we’ll leave aside – for now – the sickening spectacle of a billionaire Tory Chancellor taking to the nation’s airwaves to tell poor people they’ll just have to suck it up when sharp rises in the cost of living will threaten their families’ physical and mental welfare. Happily, Rishi Sunak was able to get all his interviews done before taking off for California and a break in one of the holiday homes which form part of his family’s sprawling property portfolio.

Yet, according to the perma-outraged monitors of what constitutes decorum in politics, this is less distressing than waving a disorderly banner. Perhaps the Scottish Tories might even be persuaded to campaign for the introduction of a law banning the flourishing of obstreperous standards.

But then the leader of the Scottish Tories also has recent form in uncharitable conduct. When Douglas Ross indicated his profound desire to rid Scotland of gypsies, you might reasonably conclude that this would also qualify as treating other human beings like scum.

Somewhat perversely, I draw some satisfaction from Unionist supporters getting all sanctimonious and censorious at loutish displays of bunting. It suggests, I think, a rising level of panic. Something of this hysteria characterised the closing stages of the 2014 referendum campaign.

During this febrile period you began to observe pockets of self-appointed special constables scanning civic Scotland for displays of unseemly behaviour by the nationalist hordes. The former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, even claimed to have been menaced by “burly men” at a voting station in the Borders region, another nest of rowdy insubordination. These phantoms were invisible to all other onlookers.

Jim Murphy, leader of Scottish Labour at the time and Davidson’s closest ally in the anti-independence movement, was once hit by the yolk of a single egg outside a shopping arcade in the notoriously mean streets of Shawlands on the south side of Glasgow. Unconfirmed reports suggested it might even have been two eggs.

READ MORE: Tories branded 'Islamophobic' over Trainspotting ad for 'choose Humza' mention

Elsewhere, there were reports of shop fronts and lampposts being vandalised by aggressive and sinister Yes stickers as innocent Unionists cowered in terror behind shuttered windows. According to various lieutenants in the Better Together campaign, this was a time when Scotland experienced The Great Terror as nastiness and division stalked the land and families were rent asunder and cracks began to appear in what had been, until then, very strong marriages.

It didn’t seem to matter that the Electoral Commission hailed the 2014 referendum campaign as setting a gold standard in peaceful and civic engagement. Eight years later, according to the Better Together survivors of this wretched period in Scottish history, their slumbers are still haunted by the monstrous banderoles of toxic nationalism.

Curiously, the same people didn’t seem to think that their own campaign of deliberately spreading fear, disinformation and outright lies was in any way questionable.

The All Under One Banner march was also followed by an opinion poll indicating that the SNP are heading for a record high percentage of the vote in next month’s local authority elections. By my reckoning, that would make it the 11th successive national election in four different jurisdictions spread over eight years in which the main party of Scottish independence has prevailed with massive margins of victory.

Like many others in the wider independence movement, I can’t see how a second referendum can be first secured and then organised before the end of next year. But with each national vote going overwhelmingly in favour of a party campaigning exclusively for self-determination, the legal case for going ahead with one, with or without Westminster’s approval, grows.

Another opinion poll – this one organised by a pro-Union “think tank” – indicates that only 36% of voters want a second referendum in 2023. Over the last few years these polls have appeared sporadically but they are only snapshots requiring nothing by way of binding intent. In the polls that matter, where you get to elect governments after considering their offerings during several weeks of intense debate, the Scottish electorate keeps stubbornly endorsing independence or at least another crack at it.