THE phrase “speaking truth to power” always makes me feel a little queasy, even though I’ve occasionally used it myself. It’s often used to describe what journalists routinely do when they attempt to scrutinise the policies of governments and the deeds of powerful men and women.

It implies that we journalists are always acting for the common good. If only it were as simple as that.

Like our readers, journalists have their own personal agendas and a complex suite of prejudices reflecting their lived experience of the world around them. These are also informed by their upbringing, their ethnic characteristics, their religious faith (if applicable), their sex and their sexual orientation.

You can add to that gaseous little mix factors such as the influence of friends and family, the schools they attended and the state of their personal finances.

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If we really were “speaking truth to power” we’d be required to put these aside when we’re conducting our investigations and prescribing our solutions for the improvement of society. It would be much more accurate to describe what we do as “speaking our own truth to power”.

When I write about politics and social inequality – even the current transgender debate – my articles should probably end with the italicised qualification “other views are available”.

And considering that, as journalists, we have privileged access to power, walk freely in its corridors and mix contentedly (for the most part) with those who exercise it, then you might also argue that we are part of the establishment to which we loftily proclaim to be “speaking truth”.

And besides, most journalists work for news organisations which have their own political and social agendas. Sure, we have a free press in the UK but it’s not quite as “free” as we’re constantly portraying it.

In England, all but a handful of national publications are owned by very rich and very powerful individuals and families. They don’t own these papers simply as a means of making money and providing employment opportunities for starving journalists. They use them as a means of preserving the institutions and structures from which they derive their power and wealth.

We like to proclaim that money and power doesn’t figure as much in the patterns of newspaper ownership that exist in Scotland, but that’s a fanciful notion.

All of the major newspaper proprietors in Scotland (including those who own The National) are either very rich Scottish families or large global and UK publishing concerns which possess a sprawling portfolio of titles. That said, Newsquest which owns The Herald, the Glasgow Times and The National choose (more or less) not to interfere with our output. But then, I suppose I would say that.

In Scottish politics, there are some unique factors which make the whole “speaking truth to power” thing even more complicated. These also present challenges to journalists who broadly support the idea of Scottish independence.

The SNP have been in government for almost 16 years. Such is the size of their Holyrood majority – reinforced by the Scottish Greens – that they are likely to win the next Scottish election, slated for 2026. You wouldn’t bet against the SNP being in government for a full quarter of a century or more. No other party in Europe has had such a lengthy stranglehold on power.

The SNP’s grip on Scottish politics has been tightened by the lamentable absence of any meaningful opposition during this time. And so long as Scottish Labour persists in its absurdly fanatical devotion to the Union Jack, the SNP’s electoral hegemony is unlikely to be challenged in the near future.

This represents something of a challenge for journalists like me who favour Scottish independence. You can either choose never to criticise the SNP, lest you risk making Scottish independence a less attractive option for those who remain undecided about it.

OR, you can voice your opposition to some SNP policies as a means of reminding the party that, if Scotland is to have a second referendum, they must win over the crucial 10% of voters who made the difference in 2014.

There are many voters who, like me, favour independence as a preference, rather than a sacred mission. They proliferate my closest social and family groupings. If Anas Sarwar wasn’t so opposed to holding a second referendum they’d prefer to vote for Labour.

In recent years, I’ve sensed that the SNP has been hollowed out by small interest groups who simply have no knowledge of or interest in the large voter group who remain to be persuaded by the cause of independence.

Indeed, I’d go further than this. I’m convinced that some nationalist actors are less concerned about Scottish independence than they are with ensuring their cultural credo holds sway in civic Scotland no matter what our constitutional future holds. I’d also include in this group some of the SNP’s professional class for whom the annual clarion calls about independence are little more than an appeal to give them a few more years on the public teat.

The debate within the SNP about its Gender Recognition Reform Bill seems to have been conducted in a bubble dominated by special interest groups who have little or no interest in Scottish independence. They’re also impervious to the fact that a clear majority of Scottish voters have reasonable concerns about certain aspects of this legislation.

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And why would they be concerned? Their mission is simply to have their cultural agenda embedded in law, not to worry about its impact on the prospects for Scottish independence. Likewise, there are also reasonable concerns about the SNP’s failure to bridge the academic attainment gap that thwarts the progress of children from disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Meanwhile, the annual toll of drug deaths leave many of us who support independence cringing in shame and embarrassment. (And, by the way, it’s infantile simply to place these problems at the door of Westminster).

As a journalist, you can’t simply ignore the effects of these just because you share the overall vision of Scotland’s ruling party. And I’m not having any of that nonsense about us all pretending everything is fine … just until we get the referendum out of the way. If we are to get a second referendum (and I’m not convinced this is anywhere near the top of the SNP’s list of priorities) these issues will be far more prominent than anything that transpired in 2014.

I’m not claiming that any of this is about speaking truth to power. Perhaps it’s simply about encouraging the SNP to present the best version of themselves to those who are yet to be persuaded.