SHALL we take our text from Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland: “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less”?

Or maybe you’re more a fan of the Red Queen: “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

We certainly seem to be trapped in ­Alice’s looking-glass world these days, when what we were taught to be scientific certainties are routinely rubbished, while normally sentient people seem to have no little ­difficulty in defining that with which they once had nae bother at a’.

An amazing array of senior politicians found their tongues uncharacteristically tied when asked to define a woman. “Adult human female” seems to do it for most ­lexicographers.

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Our First Minister, a woman of no ­little intelligence and certainly, normally, ­politically savvy, got herself in a right old fankle last week both in a TV interview and then in Holyrood where she ­endeavoured to detach the debate over Gender ­Recognition Reform from the penal fate awaiting ­rapists.

For the benefit of any lingering doubts, I know of nobody who thought the GRR legislation would lead to risks from ­transwomen.

The fears of many feminists were never that transwomen would become sexual predators; rather that sexual predators might use GRR to somewhat suddenly ­decide to be trans. As when they had ­already been arrested or charged with a sexual offence.

Given that most people would have been perfectly happy with a parliamentary text that made the lives of trans women and men easier and the transitional process less intrusive, I’m at a loss as to how we got from there to the current stramash.

Ironically, among the collateral ­damage of this bourach is the trans community in Scotland. Certainly tiny, certainly the ­subject of ignorant prejudice, but ­finding themselves thrust into an unflattering ­spotlight. They deserved better from our politicians.

Had the government accepted an ­amendment from one of its own backbenchers so much of this could have been avoided.

(I understand there was some concern ­acceptance might have interfered with the pre-existing Equalities Act but given what has happened since – the Section 35 saga and all that – Holyrood got ­clobbered anyway.)

Had the placard army contented ­themselves with “trans rights are ­human rights”, with which no reasonable ­person could quibble, the toxicity might have been dialled down. Instead ­“transwomen are women” was a battle cry always likely to bump into biology, whilst ­“decapitate TERFS” – trans exclusionary radical feminists – is not the kind of banner with which most folk would want to be ­associated.

In summation, something which was born out of progressive concern for ­minority rights has morphed into a bloody great battlefield with all manner of innocent bodies lying bleeding among the wounded.

The looking-glass world is not ­confined to Scotland, mind. Up and down the land people are being monstered for ­expressing an opinion. Our ­universities, once ­renowned for their robust and ­eloquent debating skills, are running scared of ­anything which might smell vaguely ­controversial.

In case I sound like some anti-woke journo from GB “News”, let me ­assure you there are so many aspects of ­modern life which I believe have greatly ­enhanced our credentials. I well ­remember the ­Section 28/2A furore when our ­fledgling ­parliament took on thinly veiled ­homophobia. And won! Remember too when the unco guid tried and failed to stop same-sex marriage secure in their “Christian” belief that only one kind of love was valid in their God’s eyes.

Were I a believer, I’d like to think God was a beacon of tolerance compared with that emotionally stunted faction.

Their successors are those who still ­believe in conversion therapy for gay and trans citizenry, adding to the personal misery of those who want nothing more controversial than living their lifestyle of choice and having it respected.

You may have noticed in passing that the Synod of the Church of England has still got itself tied in theological knots over those of its adherents who would like their gay union blessed in their own church. Why so many sects are obsessed with other folks’ sex lives is truly a puzzle.

The kirk got its dog collar in a twist for years over this too, only the Piskies in Scotland managed to break free from hellfire and damnation on matters sexual. (For which we should be retrospectively grateful for former Episcopal Primus Richard Holloway.)

Yet what concerns me most about the most recent exchange of abuse over GRR is its likely impact on the next independence vote, however that comes about. In my view, JK Rowling’s T-shirt with its “Nicola Sturgeon – Destroyer of Women’s Rights” was both over the top and guaranteed to put petrol on the flames.

Similarly, those who expended their energies demonising the author were also wrong headed. Running virulent campaigns against authors and all their written works because you disagree on a particular issue seems equally overblown and unhelpful.

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It’s of much more concern to me that a celebrated, best-selling author, who has chosen to make her home and life in ­Scotland, joined the Unionist camp in 2014. I can wish fervently that were not so, while still retaining the ­fondest ­memories of being in an American ­bookstore watching queues of kids and their families desperate to get their hands on the latest Harry Potter book.

Being on opposite sides of one fence should never lead to open verbal warfare, not least if your aim is to lure the person concerned over to what you suppose to be the best outcome for your country.

S/he who shouts loudest rarely captures an audience’s attention.

Yet I’m fearful that many feminists, for whom independence is not a primary motivation, will now set their face against voting for any party in favour of it. That might not be logical in any way, but it is not atypical of human behaviour.

I watched the rally outside parliament where women from many backgrounds, and doubtless many political ­persuasions, announced that the First Minister was well and truly off their Christmas card list.

If these pro-independence feminists all fall off the independence wagon at the next election, then they too will be part of the collateral damage of this unhappy chapter in Holyrood history. And we need them.

We need the fully paid-up indy ­adherents – guilty as charged – we need the almost theres, and we need the ­mebbes aye, ­mebbes naws as well.

My tribe is often accused of ­intemperance and impatience. Of not pausing to take the temperature of the public before barging on to self -determination.

Yet it has to be said that the ­Government did not pause to read the public’s temperature before enacting GRR. And that’s OK with me. I don’t want a ­government who governs via focus group read-outs.

But if boldness is to be the order of the day, if legislators are determined to have the courage of their convictions, then how about a wee bit more courage on the independence front?

Being in government is not for the faint-hearted. Problems come thick and fast. My own trade is never slow to hurl ­brickbats across any and all policies. Yet this is not just any old government. This is one voted for to secure independence for Scotland.

And that cause surely has to trump ­other issues. In fact, the assorted ­opposition benches are aye moaning that it does already. If only.

We may have a different administration post independence. We may not. That will be up to the Scottish electorate. And, to coin a technical phrase, we cannot afford to piss any of them off.