THERE is a lot to be learned from the current SNP leadership contest, not least how difficult it is to hold such a thing in the bad-tempered, divided, confrontational and aggressive social-media-infected politics that prevail in Scotland today.

The SNP is the most successful political party in these islands, but unfortunately – and as a result – those who have got it and our aim of independence to the forefront of our national life are subject to increasingly vicious and unprincipled attacks by their fearful opponents.

Enemies is not too strong a word for those people, not least because their actions are designed to disrupt and defeat the norms of democracy.

However, the time to discuss those lessons is not now given there are still nine days to go before the result is announced.

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Moreover, there are other things which demand our immediate attention – chief among those is the Tory government’s deliberately cruel treatment of some of the most vulnerable people on our planet.

They are the victims of modern slavers and they suffer constant indignity, sexual and physical exploitation and sometimes even death. If it is still possible for the Scottish Parliament to raise a united voice then this is the issue on which we need to hear it – loudly and with urgency.

It is bad enough to see a senior Tory like John Redwood opine that the time has come to legislate in order to “override human rights” for those who seek refuge on these shores. Fortunately, that could be difficult given that the whole purpose of human rights legislation is – by definition – to stop that happening. But then again, John was never the sharpest knife in the box.

But for a serving Prime Minister and a serving Home Secretary to repeatedly but falsely assert that the modern slavery laws which protect these desperately vulnerable victims are being “gamed” by migrants is immeasurably worse especially as the lie is then used to back up the Redwood position and force through draconian legislation.

The National: Home Secretary Suella Braverman (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Sunak and Braverman (above) know that their government’s own figures contradict their contention – 85% of those arriving here who are referred under the modern slavery legislation are found by Braverman’s Home Office itself to have “reasonable grounds” for their claim to be victims of human trafficking, slavery, servitude or forced labour. The vast majority of those go on to gain fully protected status.

In December a group of UN experts expressed alarm at “ the rise in unsubstantiated claims by public officials and government departments regarding persons seeking protection under the Modern Slavery Act and the National Referral Mechanism”.

Yet those unsubstantiated claims have actually increased in recent weeks with the Prime Minister glibly shrugging off the fact that modern slavery protections would not now be available to anyone arriving by small, dangerous boats across the channel.

That is not only because of their proposal – now going into law – for instant deportation without appeal, but also because the trauma suffered by these individuals often delays a full understanding of their circumstances.

To put it bluntly, people will have been thrown back into the clutches of their exploiters before they even have time to cry for help.

The National:

To make things even worse, there is presently no one to stand up for them as in December, Braverman deliberately halted the appointment process for the recruitment of a modern slavery watchdog. That post has been vacant for almost a year.

Slavery is an age-old crime but Scotland’s participation in the Atlantic slave trade from the 17th to the 19th century is a particularly shameful stain on our collective past. Our country cannot escape censure for the role many of its citizens played in the abomination of the middle passage.

They profited from extremes of misery and mistreatment and were even compensated when it came to an end, unlike their victims.

Some of their statues still stand in our civic squares, alas, whereas we should actually feel a sense of horror and shame at the desperately inhuman and evil treatment which they either participated in or permitted.

We are not responsible for it, but we are the heirs of those who were and we must take increasingly seriously not just the need to tell the truth about it, but also the matter of reparations.

Yet a modern form of slavery is still all around us. The Office for National Statistics points out how hard it is to estimate numbers given the shame, fear and criminality involved but it defines the matter as being one “in which victims are exploited for someone else’s gain” – and obviously the weaker the individual is in terms of immigration status or debt, the easier it is for them to be treated in that way.

But rather than empathise and use their positions of power to assist, the Tory government from top to bottom is hell-bent on demonising those who are in such need, all to try and garner votes.

The National: Theresa May

Well not all Tories, I have to admit. These are strange times, for we must exempt Theresa May (above) from the condemnation, given her clear position on the matter whilst I know there are others who agreed with every word of Gary Lineker’s tweet but were simply afraid to say so given the nature of their party these days.

Many people have observed in the last week that a society is measured by how it treats the most vulnerable.

It is hard to imagine many that are more vulnerable than those abused and terrified at home, who set out on a dangerous and long journey seeking safety, only to be abused and terrified once more en route.

Then on arrival instead of safety and support, they meet only with hostility and rejection.

I don’t believe that any feeling human being anywhere would wish such treatment on a friend , neighbour or stranger. This is not being done in our name, and we need to be heard.

Our Parliament must make that happen.