THERE I was last Friday evening, watching the League Cup final highlights again, when I received the fateful message which was to shape the next two minutes: “You’re being mentioned in despatches at the SNP leadership hustings in Glenrothes.”

Ah, how delightful, I thought, beaming with pride. Perhaps Ash Regan was quoting from my interview with her the previous weekend. Maybe Humza Yousaf was citing one of my columns as having inspired him to keep going during dark times. Had Kate Forbes drawn strength from my defence of her right to be a Christian and to hold high office?

Sadly, no. An audience member had spoken of his despair that the Yes movement was getting into bed with the wrong people, including me and my stalwart friend, the esteemed writer and commentator Gerry Hassan.

The sclerotic nationalist went on to say that we were impostors because we each write a column for The National. The chap claimed that I hadn’t voted Yes during the first independence referendum.

Now, my memory might not be as sharp as it once was, but I was sure I had voted Yes in 2014. I had to consult a couple of columns I’d written about it for The Observer, just to be sure.

What a relief: I certainly had voted Yes.

Poor Mr Hassan. He’s written countless essays on Scottish politics which leave no one in any doubt as to where his preferences lie. Along with the imperious Lesley Riddoch, he’s probably been one of the Yes movement’s most important thinkers on independence.

Last year, he even wrote a book about it, called: Scotland Rising: The Case For Independence. It’s a splendid work and I have no hesitation in recommending it.

I’m not yet entirely sure what bit of that title gives cause for doubt about Mr Hassan’s feelings on the matter. Perhaps it should have been called Scotland Rising: The Compelling And Morally Crucial Case For Independence.

I CAN only think the furious Fifer in the hustings audience felt that neither Gerry nor I were “good” nationalists. In Gerry’s case, this is, as I’ve just pointed out, weapons-grade mince.

However, I must hold up my hand and admit that, well ... I’ve never been the most ardent of Yes supporters. I mean, I’ll always be a Yes supporter, but it’s not exactly a matter of life and death for me. And besides, I love England and English people.

So, if we were never to gain our independence, I’m not going to lose a moment’s sleep over it. It’s not as though we’re being held against our will by an occupying force wearing jackboots and imposing curfews.

Plus, I have come heartily to loathe Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP. It’s a deeply unpleasant and poisonous entity which actively encourages threatening behaviour against women by some of its younger male members.

It also rewards mediocrity and incompetence, so long as the mediocrities and incompetents are fully signed-up members of the Sturgeon cult.

It explains the presence of several people in the Cabinet, including the two rockets representing the Scottish Greens.

So while I may stand accused of being a “bad” nationalist, so does the main party of independence. In fact, I’d even suggest that the professional SNP are so bad at being Scottish nationalists that they have become the biggest reason not to vote Yes.

Fortunately for me, there were other pro-independence options on the ballot paper out where I live.

FOLLOWING the Glenrothes hustings, one of my valued press colleagues posted a tweet deploring the attitude of some SNP members towards the media. He also pointed out that both Ash Regan and Kate Forbes had heartily applauded the audience member who’d questioned the commitment of me and Gerry Hassan.

There’s gratitude for you!

I brought this up with both Ms Regan and Ms Forbes when I encountered them last week and affected to having felt bereft and undermined by their actions. However, I do hereby forgive them.

When faced by an audience member whose vote you’re hoping to solicit in the leadership contest, it’s probably best to signify your effusive agreement.

OF course, it’s undoubtedly true that almost all of our main newspaper titles are yet to be persuaded by the case for independence. This is hardly surprising when you consider the pattern of media ownership across Scotland and the UK. In a grown-up democracy, this is not unhealthy.

It speaks of two other undeniable truths. That in the absence of any competent opposition at Holyrood, it’s the responsibility of journalists to stand in the gap and scrutinise the performance of the party of government. It also points to the fact that since 2015, the SNP Government has failed to bridge the yawning gaps in life expectancy, health and education for our poorest communities.