AWAY from the Grand Guignol of the SNP leadership debate, I have been keeping a checklist of the ways that politicians and senior industry leaders avoid media scrutiny.

In the midst of Tim Davie’s ­bungled ­defence of the BBC’s impartiality ­guidelines, the beleaguered director ­general resorted to one of the oldest tricks in the well-worn manual of political interviews – when in doubt, delay or deflect.

When asked to explain what might ­happen to a BBC presenter if they were to fall foul of the BBC’s tattered guidelines on social media he responded like a rattled government minister, saying: “I don’t want to debate hypotheticals, let’s see how things play out.”

Not discussing hypotheticals is a sure starter in my personal top 10 of political deflections. There are many more, some of them will be among your personal ­favourites too. So, in the spirit of the old charts ­countdown, here are mine.

In at Number 10 is the legal wriggle when the politician says something like: “My understanding is that that issue is at the heart of a live legal case, so it would be prudent not to talk about it”.

This deflection is usually trotted out when there is even the vaguest prospect of legal action, and whilst only ­obliquely ­related to the question, there is just enough overlap to allow the squirming politician or company executive to escape further interrogation.

Up to Number 9 is a reissue of an old chart classic: “We don’t discuss ­individual cases”. Watch out for this one, especially during an industrial accident when a worker has been skewered to death by malfunctioning machinery.

You would hope that the ­company in question, would have a basic ­level of ­decency, take full ­responsibility, and ­instigate a widespread review of ­equipment and ensure that the surviving family are front of mind and looked after. But fearing an extortionate compensation claim, executives often hide behind the ­arras of deflection, and argue that to ­discuss individual cases would not be helpful.

The National: Boris Johnson

At Number 8 is another personal ­favourite – “the investigation is ongoing”. This is a catch-all escape clause for tricky questions about widespread misdemeanours that are now the subject of review, so step forward the Metropolitan Police, Sue Gray, the BBC Board of Governors and numerous fiddles at the “business-end” of Fifa.

The room for deflection and ­delaying tactics is endless in modern media ­management.

At Number 7 is the sleeky cop-out. “I’d be happy to address that question when the report concludes but it would be ­premature to comment further.”

In at Number 6: “I have no ­desire to influence the outcome of the ­inquiry with baseless speculation.”

Try to ­imagine a deflated leather football, a patch of long grass, and see yourself as a beleaguered cynic, your role is to blooter the ball ­towards in the direction of the undergrowth, where it should settle for the foreseeable future. Answering the question truthfully is not an option, not even close.

At Number 5 is “I’m not willing to ­discuss a colleague’s private business”. This is trotted out at the height of a sexual or financial scandal when one of the tribe has been caught with his hands down a ­researcher’s knickers or in the till, or both.

At Number 4 is the affected tiredness of the politician who has seen it all. “I have answered that a hundred times and nothing has changed.” This is used when the seemingly exhausted politician thinks they have answered a question but wider society thinks otherwise.

Hanging on to its place at Number 3 is another variation on the delaying tactic – “We will agree the way forward at our ­national conference that’s all I can say right now”.

At Number 2, knocking on the door of the top spot is a devious tactic. “It’s not an issue I’m hearing on the doorsteps”.

This remark is virtually impossible to disprove, unless you have been on the same doorsteps, on the same day and ­burdened with the same willingness to evade democracy.

And so, for the fifth week running at Number 1 is the age-old political ­classic – “I have referred myself to the ­ethics ­committee and I’m confident of the ­outcome will fully exonerate me. Beyond that, I’ve nothing more to say.”

This always makes me smile, whether it’s a corrupt Tory grifter, a misunderstood Labour slogger or even Nicola Sturgeon when she refered herself to a standards panel to investigate whether she breached the ministerial code.

The National:

We know that most politicians go on media training courses run by retired presenters and vaguely known faces from the past, where they are charged vulgar sums of money to be told tired old rules, and put through exercises rooted in conventional television and often ill-suited to the days of social media.

Uncomfortable questions are an ­industrial hazard in politics and avoiding them a survival mechanism. In the minds of the most adept politicians, negotiating media interviews can be elevated into an art form. But there are also some ­basic tenets that audiences have now come to expect, and top among them are ­honesty and integrity.

There are a hundred ways to wriggle but audiences can see the seams – and in an increasingly media-savvy era, often come to resent duplicitous answers to simple questions.

We also know from television in ­Scotland that viewers are increasingly tired and resentful of old school ­practices. There are too many television journalists that cling to the myths of dogged and ­intrepid ­journalism, and imagine that by persistently interrupting, hectoring and in many cases mansplaining to the ­interviewee, that they are enlightening the audience. Gotcha journalism belongs in the ark.

Politicians, like the media that pursue them, need to up their game too, and not settle for hiding behind glip and contrived get-out clauses.

One of the clever approaches that ­Stephen Flynn, the Westminster leader of the SNP, has taken is the art of the double-bluff, where the object of his ­question is lured into either a false sense of security or does not see the second punch coming.

Flynn’s bald, cadaverous appearance and his slow and precise delivery give him a menacing aura, more like a movie ­villain than a politician.

My favourite thus far was when Flynn asked Rishi Sunak if he was concerned that Labour’s Keir Starmer (below) was a more committed Brexiteer than he was?

The National: Sir Keir Starmer will visit Edinburgh on Thursday (Jonathan Brady/PA)

It was brilliant swordsmanship, ­scything two reputations at the same time, ­leaving Sunak to worry that the ghost of Brexit past was still haunting his house, whilst simultaneously undermining the Labour Party for running an ­ideological strategy that clings too closely to Tory ideals.

The question I currently enjoy is the indy conundrum – if the Union is ­voluntary, what is the mechanism for leaving it?

It’s a crafty old question, designed to sucker punch the politician, answer yes and you are obliged to explain the ­mechanism for leaving, Answer no and you have invoked a breach of ­international laws and opened a writhing can of ­constitutional worms.

I have yet to hear an honest and ­dignified answer. Most responses are no better than huffy diffidence and ­sometimes baffled disbelief.

How I yearn for the Old Viceroy, Alister Jack to stand up in the House of Commons and provide a credible and unambiguous answer – “Of course it’s a voluntary union you just have to win all the votes in the next Romanian ­elections, leave a substantial cash deposit at Lidl, and solve the Rubik’s cube in under 10 ­seconds. it’s that simple”.

If only it were that simple.