IN George Orwell’s great novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four – written in 1949 – he imagines a future dystopian world where state control insinuates itself into every facet of the individual’s life.

This was manifest in a culture of mass surveillance where any sign of individuality or independence of thought was reported via a network of informers.

Miscreants were targeted, chivvied out and subject to brain-washing until they were back on message.

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Some of these themes have been evident in the orchestrated outrage that greeted Kate Forbes’s public confession of her Christian faith at the start of her campaign to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the SNP.

Ms Forbes is widely regarded as the brightest and best minister in the Scottish Government and long known to be a faithful adherent to the Free Church of Scotland.

In common with other major world religions, it holds that all human life from conception is sacred and that marriage is reserved for male/female couples.

Crucially, she pledged to uphold all secular legislation in these areas because, well … she’s a democrat and a liberal who acknowledges that the settled will of the people, expressed through the election of political representatives, must be paramount.

Indeed, she’d already practised this in the way she’d carried out her duties as Scotland’s Finance Minister.

All of those lining up to condemn her for believing in this were collectively channelling George Orwell’s Big Brother, the entity in whose name repressive manipulation of the state proceeds.

INDEED, Ms Forbes’s fate has echoes of Ampleforth, a secondary character in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Winston Smith, the main character in the novel, worked with him in the Records Department where history is constantly distorted and updated to suit the prevailing whims of The Party.

Ampleforth had neglected to remove the word “God” in a poem by Rudyard Kipling when he should, of course, have erased it and was imprisoned for his malfeasance.

Ms Forbes’s crime was merely to answer questions about her own faith openly and honestly. Several siren voices in politics and the media suggested that this ought to debar her from any political office, while others in her party felt that she should be disciplined.

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One former SNP candidate even suggested that Ms Forbes and others who held similar views should all be “binned”.

Those who have chosen to conduct this persecution claim to be liberal and progressive. What they are exhibiting, though, are traits associated with repressive and regressive regimes.

ONE of Ms Forbes’s loudest critics is Mhairi Black, who always likes to make an event out of her sporadic and inchoate outpourings.

Ms Black, the MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, waited until the end of the week before her intervention, lest it ran the risk of not being accorded the profile she felt it was due.

Ms Black, who married her wife last year, tweeted: “A lot of people have asked me my views of the leadership contest. Truthfully, I have been incredibly hurt so far. Hurt originating with the statements Kate Forbes has made and since stood by.”

No one should question the sincerity of Ms Black’s incredible sense of hurt. They’re entitled to wonder, though, if Ms Black considered the hurt she may have caused those women whom she called “Jeremy Hunts” for daring to express reasonable doubts about some aspects of the GRR legislation.

Her comments were representative of some chilling attitudes circulating in Scottish politics and sections of the media.

Not only must you be condemned for expressing your commitment to your religious faith, but you must be condemned simply for thinking it at all.

Ms Black seems to epitomise Doublethink, another concept in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four: “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

It describes the position of Ms Black and many other critics of Ms Forbes perfectly.

That they believe themselves to be liberal and progressive while, at the same time, seeking to silence and hound those whose beliefs they just can’t abide.

BRITAIN’S worst political spy has just been revealed. His name is Austin Sheridan and he claims to have infiltrated Alba so that he could expose something unpleasant about the party.

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Mr Sheridan seems to have modelled himself on Mike Myers’s comedy character, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

He tweeted: “I got involved with Alba … to expose them for what I believe is their homophobic, transphobic, racist and misogynistic tendencies. And I done it good.”

Having failed to find evidence of any such vile traits, Mr Sheridan is now back with the SNP. Here’s the thing, though: no-one in Alba seems to remember him and no-one I know in the SNP can recall having seen him either.

Perhaps Mr Sheridan was modelling himself on the 1956 espionage thriller, The Man Who Never Was.