I AM sorry to have to disagree with the Parliament’s Presiding Officer, Alison Johnstone, whom I like, but although stopping protests in the public galleries by bans and fines is a necessary step, it won’t be a sufficient one to prevent the bad behaviour at Holyrood.

That’s because the person whose example encourages those who see the Parliament as merely a publicised backdrop for their shouting and stunts is none other than Douglas Ross.

He has wilfully and deliberately engaged in a clear and persistent attempt to delegitimise the institution and the concept of independence by means of gratuitous insult and sneering ridicule cheered on by raucous, rude aggressive heckling from some – though it is very noticeably not all – of his own Tory MSPs.

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Moreover, he is upping the ante on each occasion, in the hope that the Presiding Officer herself will have to intervene, thus allowing him to claim that he is being silenced by a Scottish lefty woke mafia. Not for nothing was he the personal choice of Johnson and Gove to lead their northern branch office.

There will always be passion at FMQs and a tendency towards bad behaviour as the atmosphere warms.

Past leaders have never been saints, on any side. and I accept that Iain Gray and Johann Lamont were also unpleasant in their approach. Even Donald Dewar could be testy (I recall him furiously snapping at me) and Alex Salmond once memorably turned the words “Happy Christmas” into a snarled threat when dealing with a pre-festive season FMQs attack from Nicol Stephen.

But Ross revels in the worst, most unpleasant approach he can dredge out of himself. Lacking in democratic legitimacy and political sense, he deploys personal venom with more and more aggression, piling up the insults and being egged on by an unsavoury group of extremist supporters like the bawling loudmouth Stephen Kerr, the sneakily sinister Russell Findlay and the increasingly frustrated Murdo Fraser.

The National:

This deliberate Tory tactic of delegitimisation is being practised by their fans in the media too and an example is the extraordinary exploitative fuss made of Kate Forbes’s decision not to take a portfolio in the new government.

Neither Jeremy Hunt nor Rishi Sunak took positions when defeated for the Tory leadership. There is no recent record of such contests resulting in the key finance brief being given to the person who did not win and generously, Kate was at the time, and has continued to be, explicit that she is fully in support of Humza Yousaf and the occupant of her previous job.

She has also made it clear that as a Highland MSP, she knows that the rural affairs portfolio is vitally important. it may be sneered at those that have never lived more than half an hour from a coin-operated laundrette but it is literally meat and drink to her constituents.

It may be that she thinks the arrangement with the Greens will be detrimental to those policies and that would indeed be grounds for refusing. I understand that view but I would disagree with it, as would the bulk of the SNP who voted very decisively to support a Green presence in government when it was formed.

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In fact, there should be no conflict between a strong focus on conservation and flourishing rural industries. There need to be practical means to deliver both and she could have very effectively brought such solutions to the Cabinet table.

In addition, Kate expressed a desire to be out of government for family reasons yet her decision was reported alongside hysterical anti-Humza and anti-SNP assumptions made and disseminated without any evidence and linked to contemptuous and insulting attacks on those good and talented people who did want to serve.

Of course, such Unionist hostility would have come to the fore even if the Archangel Gabriel had taken up a place at the Cabinet table but what is really regrettable is the way in which it was used even by some independence supporters to try and alienate those who had backed Kate. The aim of both sides of that unholy pincer movement was the same – to weaken the SNP.

There needs to be a robust response to such challenges from wherever they come. The fact that there are things that need changed in the SNP should be freely acknowledged but so should the good things that need built on. And that is the most positive and fascinating thing to have come out of this whole difficult period. The result sent a message of wisdom from the membership to the leadership, as internal SNP elections over the years have often done.

Members want, as we all want often in our own lives, a combination of change and continuity. They want the good things preserved – like the work being done to create a fairer, more equal society – alongside a renewed focus on independence and a strengthening of our party democracy. They want party unity, internal transparency and vigour in rebutting the lies and nonsense of all our external opponents.

And they want common cause made with other independence supporters, so that we can finish the job, but always on the basis of mutual respect, not personal hatred.

There is a talented new team leading the SNP now which is fully capable of taking those messages on board and making them happen. Indeed, everyone’s effort during the last six weeks places an obligation on them to do so with humility, urgency and imagination.

It is the likelihood that they will succeed which strikes fear into the hearts of those who have much to lose.

They know they can’t win at the ballot box, so they are instead trying disruption and destruction but poisoning the well of democracy is a dangerous business because we all need to drink from it.

The effects of such a damaging strategy can be seen at each FMQs, but not just in the public gallery.

It is time to call it out and stamp it out.