THE SNP leadership contest has been an incredibly difficult watch, at times it’s been plain painful.

A party that, through its progressive and outward-looking approach, has ­remained unbeaten in consecutive ­elections for over a decade, being fed to the dogs by its own people. Remarkably ­­self-destructive stuff, albeit from a very ­select few with what one could assume to be nefarious intentions.

Any party with this level of continued electoral success should be committed deeply to its baseline strategy – a strategy that, rooted in fairness and belief in our own prosperity, has clearly worked for the people of Scotland for a record amount of time. Continuity, it seems, absolutely does cut it.

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Yet, the SNP finds itself in the ­incredible position where a serving cabinet ­minister felt empowered to rain down on her own record on national television. A couple of short weeks later, we’re now amidst a ­bizarre attack on an election process that has been part and parcel of the SNP for years, indeed an election process that aided the selection of the very candidates now purportedly suspicious of its ­integrity. The kind of antics that wouldn’t have been out of place in 2016 American ­political ­discourse.

Apparently, the initial ill-advised strategy of feeding our opponents attack lines for years to come didn’t go down well with the voter base. Who could’ve guessed. I think I can say with confidence that this one will go down in a similar fashion – but I digress.

Frankly, the last few weeks have been an insult to the hard-working members and activists on the ground that keep the SNP afloat – and as a long-time voter and party member, it’s been painful and unsettling to watch the party I’ve called home since I was 16 being ripped to shreds by people not only outside of our walls but, incredibly, within them.

One of the most hideous aspects of this contest has of course been the continuous insult to marginalised communities. You’d be forgiven for thinking that in 2023, it is somewhat outrageous that a candidate who opposes equal marriage is anywhere near the highest office in the land – let alone ­supported quite substantially in her ­ambition to do so.

The National: Kate Forbes took aim at the record of her rival in the SNP leadership race (Jane Barlow/PA)

Kate Forbes has long made no secret of these views, and of course, in her ­personal life is free to hold the beliefs she wishes. She has, however, no ­business ­inserting them in our parliament. A ­parliament that is renowned worldwide for the ­progressive legislation that has passed through it. A parliament of ­elected ­members, elected by the people of ­Scotland who quite ­evidently believe in progression and equality en-masse. A parliament she only sits in after being elected on a socially progressive manifesto.

I’m not going to humour the views that have been circulated and I’m not going to sit here and explain to Kate Forbes and her supporters why it’s so ­monumentally insulting that they are even the ­central point of any leadership campaign. ­Honestly, I’m not sure they are really that interested, but above that – over-explaining this point is insulting to ­marginalised communities in itself.

The overarching observation I’ve made, and that inspired my column this week, is this. If you are able to occupy a position in this leadership election that is ­grounded in utter indifference to the threat towards hard-won human rights, you are deeply and undeniably viewing it through a lens shrouded in privilege.

To be able to not only go to bed at night monumentally unbothered by human rights issues, but to actually stand up and put the full weight of your word and for some, your career – behind an outward threat to the progression of human rights, you are steeped in a privilege that the marginalised communities you chastise can only dream of.

Progress globally is starkly under threat – to be able to vote in this election without having to consider whether or not the new political power might roll back or indeed pause all progress on your equal access to society, is an enviable position.

The trouble is, in order to really ­protect and advance human rights meaningfully, it’s not only the marginalised that need to take a stand against any threat. ­Progress would simply not be possible without the meaningful allyship and the ­wilful ­resignation of the privilege held that ­stifles the progress we deserve.

And in a somewhat unsurprising and yet nevertheless disheartening ­reality – privileged men are lining up behind Kate Forbes.

Why? Truthfully, human rights aren’t a red line for them because they don’t have to be. Whether Kate Forbes wins or not, their reproductive health is not up for ­debate and for those who are straight and cisgender, neither is their right to marry who they love or simply be who they are. So, supporting her is of ­virtually no ­consequence. They can afford to look past it – a price simply unaffordable to many.

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That is privilege in action – it is the very essence of it and a perfect example of how harmful systemic structures are preserved and upheld by those they benefit. Whilst it may not matter to you whether or not women have access to abortion free from intimidation, by not utilising your privilege to stand against it, you are actively responsible for the continuation of the systems that ensure the fragility of those rights. Rights that were fought and won with great difficulty and which – as we’ve seen the world over – require to be fiercely defended.

Even worse, putting your weight – and in some of these examples, your career and influence – behind these views shows that you are not only indifferent to them, you’re quite happy to legitimise them and don’t really care about the communities you’re trampling on to make your point. Even worse, you’re then digging your heels in when the decision is met with criticism. The sheer arrogance of it is mind-numbing.

Whilst you continue to go about your life unaffected by the consequences of your decision, the women in your life now know the value you place on their rights. The LGBT people in your life now know that you don’t care enough to fight for them. In fact, you are so committed to your indifference that you’ll take the time to publicly make a statement ­getting ­behind a candidate that has openly ­spoken against the rights of those people in your life and even worse – you want to encourage others to take your lead.

The National:

And for what? To back a candidate that, if I’m being brutally honest, has displayed a spectacular political incompetence in the last few weeks. Yes, Kate Forbes delivered a budget under pressure in 2020, but there’s far more to political competence than being able to draft a budget with an extensive team of civil servant support.

I’m not for a second suggesting that no one has a right to back Kate Forbes’s bid for leadership, as is the wonderful ­nature of politics and democracy we are ­diverse beings with differing priorities and ­measures of competence – but if you are someone perhaps indifferent to the issue of human rights, if it isn’t a red line for you, reflect on why that might be difficult for those of us which are forced by sheer circumstance to view this as a red line.

I for one am tired of having to explain to privileged men who cannot relate to the fear amongst these communities why this is so deeply out of tune and insulting. For once, perhaps take this opportunity to humble yourself. To understand the weight of your words and actions and why they’re being met with such hostility.

This isn’t about how competent you or I think Forbes is – she could be the most competent individual in the world – but if she poses a threat to the progression of human rights in any way, she is not fit to govern for the diverse population she would represent. And I would argue that actually, in a modern society, posing a threat to that progression is itself incompetence.

If you are a straight, white, cisgender, middle-class, able-bodied man, ­regardless of who is elected leader, I can guarantee your rights will not be a concern when this horror show of an election is over. In the spirit of doing the absolute bare ­minimum, try to show up for those of us who don’t have the luxury of indifference.