WHEN it comes to the case for Scottish independence, there are many well-worn paths through which the conversation can tread, from the democratic deficit to more obscure discussions around Scotland’s inevitable success at the Eurovision Song Contest.

My money is on something involving a set of flaming bagpipes to really seal the deal.

But while the economic and political arguments are safely in our wheelhouse, the ethical argument for leaving the UK is often less explicit.

Boris Johnson has lost, in the course of his limited time in Downing Street, two successive ethics advisers who have reached broadly the same conclusion about the Prime Minister as much the rest of the country – that like Johnson’s coronavirus guidance, he views them as something that only applies somewhere else.

There is a moral vacuum at the head of the UK Government and no number of well-timed trips to Ukraine will patch over that fact.

With Nicola Sturgeon stating that the formal indyref2 campaign has officially begun, the anti-independence camp has been left in the rather unenviable position of arguing the case that it is better still for Scotland to remain crushed under Johnson’s administration over setting out on its own path.

It’s a difficult task considering the Prime Minister can’t even convince his own advisers that he’ll bother to stick by the ministerial code and act with any degree of honour in his role as leader of the country. In the words of Boris Johnson, “nothing and no-one will stop” him, so why anyone expected him to act in a manner befitting his position is anyone’s guess.

Between the various Covid cash scandals and the questionable access to government that a few extra pounds in a Tory’s pocket can provide, this government has shown itself to be a morally bankrupt institution – but is that enough to make a moral case for Scottish independence?

On ethics, there are varied and conflicting premises and groundworks on which to build morality. But rather than getting into the finer elements of Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperatives or Ayn Rand’s theory of rational self-interest (actually maybe that’s a bad example), it’s safe to say there is broadly a consensus on the principle of doing no harm, or at the very least, limiting the harm we do to others.

Well, maybe not that safe to say, actually. If anyone has watched The Good Place, they will be aware of the means by which moral philosopher Chidi Anagonye, played brilliantly by William Jackson Harper, ties himself in knots over the correct moral decision in any situation given the vast and conflicting nature of the field of study.

Still, on the UK Government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda rather than provide aid in Britain, there’s hardly a moral case for the human suffering being caused by this reckless plan, both in its intent and its violent execution.

Asylum seekers forced aboard the first aborted flight out of the UK described being pushed, kicked and hit by security; threatened with being tied up if they moved too much; had their feet bound together, and for what – the crime of seeking safety? So much for love thy neighbour.

The way that asylum seekers and refugees have been treated by the UK is beyond repugnant, and it reveals the British state as a bitter, insular institution that, even with good people working within it, will still always pivot to cruelty.

And I say the British state here with purpose. While the reign of the Conservatives is, in theory, a transient property, the Labour Party are as much a part of that world of unelected lords and hanging your sword up before taking to the debating chamber as any other Westminster party.

Prior to the Tories’ seemingly endless revolving door of failed leaders, Tony Blair was just as cruel and careless with the lives of asylum seekers. Under his eye and guidance, serious human rights violations took place under his government, including the introduction of 28-day detention periods without charge or trial.

Locking up immigrants without any sense of how long they will be held in inhumane conditions, nor any limits on how long they can be held arbitrarily, is a facet of contemporary Britain whose widespread use can be attributed to Tony Blair’s government.

In recent history we have endured the Windrush Scandal, the demonisation of lawyers for ensuring immigrants have basic rights, and “Go Home” vans paraded in our cities. Antagonism toward vulnerable people seeking safety and refuge isn’t a bug of the British state; it’s a feature – and Scotland has a moral responsibility to fight it.

But even in the most ambitious plans for devolution, powers of immigration and defence always remain in the hands of the state. There is no settlement under the Union that lets Scotland be a refuge to those in need, nor to exit the illegal wars that create more displaced people.

Yet across Scotland there are community-driven actions taking place against the British state to protect those in danger of its exceptionalist zealotry, in Glasgow’s Kenmure Street, Edinburgh’s Nicolson Square, and more.

Independence is a permanent solution to the violence that the British state forces upon asylum seekers. If to stand aside and do nothing in the face of such cruelty is to be complicit, then Scotland has a moral imperative to take its own path, and be a refuge for all.