WHO doesn’t love a good conspiracy? Other than the minority groups who are inevitably blamed for whatever fictional atrocities spark them, of course...

But putting that glaring issue aside, it’s quite entertaining to occasionally jump into the alternative theories of the fringe.

From suspicions that King Charles is a vampire (a parasite, certainly, but a vampire?) to the moon landings being a hoax, there’s any number of broadly innocuous conspiracies that, while wrong, are at least fun to spend 20 minutes diving into on Wikipedia.

Personally, my favourite is the theory that every celebrity and politician is secretly transgender; wherein a group of dedicated “transvestigators” regularly scrutinise the bodies of well-kent public figures to declare their jawlines too “masculine” or hands too “feminine”.

But there is, of course, a deeply dark side to conspiratorial thinking. The Jewish community are regularly accused of being part of a shadowy cabal that runs the world; the “Great Replacement” theory is a catalyst to all manner of racism and bigotry; and then there was Pizzagate, when a man opened fire in a Washington DC restaurant in an attempt to save the trafficked children being held in the basement. But there were no kids. There wasn’t even a basement.

Conspiracy theories have been around forever, but the ease and speed with which misinformation proliferates on social media now is an entirely different beast – one that has created fertile ground for spreading vast, all-consuming tales of subterfuge that have poisoned entire communities.

Pizzagate was in many ways a precursor to America’s QAnon movement; a Frankenstein’s monster mishmash of schemes and plots from across the spectrum of conspiratorial thinking. Driven by the enigmatic informant “Q”, it spun an elaborate fiction of Satanic, cannibalistic sex traffickers at the heart of the US Government, promising always that a storm was coming and mass arrests were just around the corner.

QAnon conspiracists inhabit an imaginary reality where Joe Biden rots in jail, Donald Trump is still secretly president and we’re only ever a week away from everything, finally, at last, being revealed to the world, if you all could just wait a little longer. Frankly, it reads more like wish fulfilment than whistleblowing – so it has been quite unsettling to see the SNP leadership campaign hit with similar claims and language.

Apparently, “The Murrells” – the misogynistic shorthand for Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell that denies the First Minister agency to exist outwith her husband’s surname – are soon for the courts. Secret crimes have been committed. Resignations are coming. The biggest scandal in the history of Scottish politics is just around the corner.

It all sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it? And if the claims of a coming storm and impending arrests in the SNP hierarchy weren’t similar enough to QAnon to raise heads, it’s also mostly coming from an anonymous source on a website’s comments section. And none of that would matter, if not for the fact that some in the Yes movement already appear to believe it.

There’s always been a part of the Yes movement beholden to conspiratorial thinking – the belief that the referendum was rigged and stolen ballots were being dumped by public bins, or that key players in the Yes movement (usually women advocating for inclusion) are covertly bringing down the cause from within.

Heck, I’ve been the subject of some myself. While I am a freelance writer for The National, I haven’t worked for the paper since 2020. Yet accusations of my insidious influence as a trans person in Scotland’s pro-independence newspaper abound.

More recent commentary, however, smacks of a much darker strain of conspiratorial thinking than the boys’ club getting upset yet again because the Yes movement doesn’t belong exclusively to them.

There are accusations of internal vote rigging in the SNP. Tales of collusion between leadership hopeful Humza Yousaf and party HQ, wherein Yousaf has apparently been exclusively fed live data of the vote despite it being handled by an independent, third party.

Yes activist Craig Murray went as far as claiming that Yousaf had already been told by party high heid yins that he’d won, and would be having a secret drinks reception in celebration rather than appearing at a hustings in Inverness. Shockingly, that turned out to be total nonsense. Murray shrugged it off as if it was as inconsequential as forgetting where he parked the car.

The issue, though, the real beating heart of it all, is that leadership candidates Kate Forbes and Ash Regan seem happy to entertain the conspiracy, calling the voting process into question and so a Southampton-based e-voting platform to boot. They’ve taken a fringe conspiracy and brought it wholesale into the leadership campaign with, as far as I can see, zero evidence to suggest any form of interference in the vote.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t real concerns about the party’s structures. That the SNP apparently lied about membership numbers will not be forgotten anytime soon, nor should it be. But vote fixing? That’s quite a leap, even if Humza Yousaf is clearly the preferred candidate of the party’s establishment.

Forbes and Regan should have a compelling reason for even having brought it into the campaign – and no doubt they’ll be ready to reveal it all soon. Honestly, the truth is coming. Next week, maybe. Or the week after that. Just keep waiting. It’s definitely coming.