IAN Hamilton, who died this week, had an amazing backstory. In the wee small hours of Christmas Day 1950, along with three other Glasgow University students, he demonstrated all the brilliance, determination and disdain for authority that was to typify his entire life by snatching Scotland’s ancient Stone of Destiny from right under the noses of the British establishment and returning it to its rightful owners, the Scottish people.

Ian was a constituent of mine for a decade, and I admit to always being a little scared of him, having also been, as a party bureaucrat, the subject of his scorn during the 1997 selections for the first Scottish Parliament.

In the end, he didn’t stand for that Parliament, though as Joan McAlpine rightly observed in her tribute, if he had been elected, he would not only have been a formidable contributor to debate but also would have given the party whips a fair few headaches.

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The Stone is surrounded by myth, but it certainly isn’t the pillow on which the biblical Jacob had his dream of heaven. Nor is it the Irish Lia Fail, taken to Tara by the prophet Jeremiah and then on to Scotland by Fergus, the first King of Scots.

It is, in fact, a block of Perthshire sandstone, almost undoubtedly the same one that was looted from Scotland in 1298 by England’s Edward I – because Scottish kings were crowned on it – and placed in a specially made coronation chair to demonstrate his claimed lordship over Scotland.

There is no great harm in attaching fanciful stories to such an inanimate object, as long as we remember that in the 21st century, our head of state requires the people’s consent much more than he needs the right bit of rock to be crowned on.

There is, however, substantial harm to be done by present-day politicians who quote “destiny” as a spur for their actions.

The word itself was used by Kwasi Kwarteng in his lacklustre, but still massively over-confident, Tory conference speech on Monday. According to him, it was not the “destiny” of Britain to “fall back into middle league status”, and he was determined to stop it from happening.

Coming from a man who had, in his first week in office, tanked the currency that sounded somewhat over-ambitious. Frankly, even staying in the middle league will be a tall order if he remains anywhere near the levers of the economy.

However, he was echoed by Liz Truss in her conference finale when she lauded “growth, growth, growth” as the solution not just to the current challenges but also to the long-term issues of decline.

Her speech could have come from another age. It paid no attention to the urgent reality of climate change or to current public fury at her hugely damaging, self-seeking, incompetence which has led to massive rises in mortgage costs. It ignored the fact that exiting the world’s largest single market has inevitably undermined the economy and will go on doing so, just as joining the EEC in the early 1970s greatly improved the UK’s competitiveness and ability to trade.

The figures confirm that fact, and no amount of Brexit bluster will change them. Johnson was a liar, but Truss is something that, in time, might be even worse – a ruthless fantasist who will sacrifice anything and everything in order to sustain her illusory world.

The huge difference between the Tory and Labour conferences in the last fortnight and the SNP conference this weekend is that whilst they went chasing after a fantasy – a mythical “Global Britain” that never was and never can be – we will seek to improve our real nation now and for the future.

Brexit is again the example. Truss and Starmer both talked about the need to “be free” of all vestiges of EU membership and take up the “opportunities” Brexit offers by “doing things differently”.

At the Tory conference, Brexit was the banner under which there were announcements about a host of new initiatives. There is to be new UK data regulation, replacing the EU’s world standard GDPR though that will just mean costly and pointless duplication. European judges are to be silenced because they defend human rights against a cruel and racist immigration policy. Planning controls are to be shredded – no matter that they are vital for the environment. Banker’s bonuses have already been liberated whilst, unlike in the EU, energy companies are being allowed to trouser obscenely excess profits.

Those aren’t “benefits of Brexit”. There is no such thing. They are actually exercises in narrow prejudice, and the only people who will gain are the greedy spivs and speculators who paid for Truss’s leadership election and who entertained Kwarteng with champagne on mini-Budget day.

As the 19th-century musical hall song has it: “It’s the rich what gets the pleasure / it’s the poor what gets the blame”. That’s the actual Rees-Moggian world they want to take us back to. Fortunately, it is now clear that the Scottish public, as shown in the recent opinion polls, are not fooled by either Truss or Starmer, still less by Ross and Sarwar.

Our fellow citizens don’t want to regress, they want to fare forward, taking on the challenges of the world and finding their place within it.

Scotland needs to be determined and clear-minded about its prospects – which are good. Whilst we must learn from our past, we must not mythologise it.

In Aberdeen this weekend, we will rightly assert that it is better to be a small country working with others on the basis of equality to build a cooperative existence than to be an exploited and ignored appendage of a larger one locked into a self-imposed cycle of decline. All the talk of “destiny” in such circumstances is just so much deluding, wasteful, debilitating, hot air. Ian Hamilton spent a lifetime fighting against such things. We need to go on doing so.