I LIVE in a parallel universe.

In the one I inhabit, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation praised the Scottish Government’s Child Payment, free school meals and better benefits as managing to mitigate the disastrous wave of destitution sweeping Britain, this week. In the mainstream media’s version of reality, that didn’t happen. Or just wasn’t important.

There was no mention in the UK or Scottish media, even during an exhaustive report about destitution on Channel 4 News. Perhaps Scotland’s slight improvement wasn’t significant enough to override the overall gloomy reality. And maybe that’s fair.

Or perhaps Scotland’s slightly better outcome is the ONLY aspect of Rowntree’s report that matters, since it proves well-designed government intervention does actually work.

And since Scotland is the only devolved nation with the power to mitigate Westminster, our outcomes really matter.

The UK Labour leader provides guarded semi-promises of change in years ahead. Scotland provides a real-world alternative to Westminster’s welfare cruelty, right here, right now.

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I’d have thought that would matter. But no. It’s just small beer.

Back in my universe on Tuesday, I heard a powerful speech by Humza Yousaf in the Scottish Parliament on Israel/Gaza. You know, the First Minister of Scotland, speaking about the biggest issue in the world, about which he has a special insight because of his parents-in-law – trapped in Gaza and reduced to eating one packet of cashew nuts so the children in their shelter get fed.

Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but at several points during his 12-minute address to MSPs, I found myself close to tears.

“[Some] say, violence is inevitable, an eternal constant in the human condition. They’re wrong. The capacity to love is far greater.”

Yousaf took time to praise female peacemakers; the Palestinian Women of the Sun and Israeli group Women Wage Peace.

Online videos of their rallies held before the terrible events of October 7 are both impressive and incredibly sad. As they and so many others are trying to say – and as those brought up amid violent conflict know all too well – negotiation and empathy are the only things that ever bring peace.

Yet no one in a position of authority in Britain seems capable of listening.

The National: Keir Starmer's leadership skills have been absent during the Israel-Hamas conflictKeir Starmer's leadership skills have been absent during the Israel-Hamas conflict

Yousaf’s speech contained many well-chosen words – none of them harsh. There could have been righteous anger towards Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer and the media for avoiding all mention of British citizens and thus his own relatives trapped in Gaza. But there wasn’t.

Yousaf’s speech exhibited restraint, emotional intelligence and courage – and that’s what allows him to be heard above the noise of the constitutional divide, by citizens from every background, in Scotland and beyond.

The young Muslim guy in my local post office has finally noticed I write for The National and wanted to talk. He’s not convinced about independence. But he is convinced about Humza Yousaf: “The only person I’ve heard saying the right things in the right way.”

A London-based TV researcher I spoke to this week expressed exactly the same sentiment: “Yousaf is the only leader with the clarity, compassion, connection and courage to call for a ceasefire.”

Somehow, without airtime, since SNP conference coverage was virtually cancelled in the aftermath of the October 7 attacks, Yousaf is managing to reach real people everywhere. But not via the MSM.

His powerful speech in Holyrood appeared on social media, The National and nowhere else. Why?

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Is it unreasonable to expect coverage on network news or BBC Reporting Scotland? Especially when senior rabbis and imams in Scotland signed a joint statement committing themselves, collectively, to stand against any forms of hatred. I’m no religious correspondent but I think that’s unusual. Maybe unique.

But not for the media.

Presumably they regard this as virtue-signalling, parochial or too controversial to cover.

I’d guess these are the kind of words that can lift hearts and hopes at a very dark time.

News is meant to cover what’s different, unusual and important. The Scottish FM’s Holyrood speech qualified on every count.

But didn’t appear.

So, is there now a news veto on anyone who deviates from the Sunak/Starmer line?

Starmer’s failure to defend Palestinians from collective punishment by a wounded and vengeful Israeli premier is shameful. We can all see how far he will go to avoid the slightest possible accusation of antisemitism.

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Yet it’s not just Glasgow Kelvin and Edinburgh Northern and Leith branch members of his party who’ve resigned, not just the Welsh mosque that’s protested about being used in an “embarrassing photo-op” as Starmer sought to row back from stating very clearly on LBC that the Israeli government had the right to cut food, electricity and water to Gaza.

Yesterday at PMQs, the Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi forcefully reminded her own leader that one child is dying every 15 minutes in Gaza. Those children are not sheltering Hamas.

And that – doubtless – is the tip of the iceberg of Labour dissent.

But you won’t read much about the gathering fury over Starmer’s terrible words – given less publicity this week because he chose to crow unconvincingly about Labour’s recent by-election successes at PMQs, leaving the SNP’s Mhairi Black to address the world’s biggest avoidable humanitarian catastrophe.

As Robin McAlpine wrote on the media blackout earlier this week: “There’s been a ground-shaking opinion poll ... a report by the world’s most respected human rights monitoring body … a ruction in the Labour Party every bit as big as Corbyn. And yet you’re not being allowed to know it.”

It’s a familiar pattern.

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The whole of Britain apparently has Bregret – yet mere mention of that fact by SNP politicians prompts theatrical groans of “no, not this again” from politicians who are now quite unrepresentative of public opinion.

Even though Scots and the third party of UK politics consistently opposed Brexit from the start. Now that flip-flopping Starmer is setting the political pace, consistency has just become boring.

The truly scary thing? This lack of proper reporting and this highly selective version of political discourse is just a foretaste of what’s to come.

Of course, the Scottish Government/Scotland/Holyrood and the SNP have always been ignored by the mainstream media – until they have problems. Let’s not be naive.

But since the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, and the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon, the media seems to have bought Labour’s line that the electorate want to reject two tired governments, deciding SNP support is umbilically linked to Tory rule at Westminster and both are on their way out.

The media door is closing – even though broadcasters are obliged to operate in the here and now and neither anticipate nor help precipitate electoral change.

And even though it’s the Scottish Parliament, not just the SNP they are snubbing.

This airbrushing of debate is a snapshot of what’s to come if Scottish Labour “win” the next General Election.

Scotland will return to being an unimportant “regional player” in the eyes of Westminster parties, international opinion and the UK media – and devolution governance in all three Celtic nations will be hopelessly downgraded.

For those of us who remember the “bad old days”, that’s intolerable.

The next General Election may be a year away – but there’s a heck of a lot at stake.