IN the short history of devolution, Scotland has not been a country where the spouses of its political leaders have typically been household names with their own public agendas.

There is something to be said for this approach because it should not be a requirement for someone to enter the highest political office that their entire family consent to being public figures. The people who marry politicians are whole human beings with their own lives, and should be allowed to be so.

However, in a case like Nadia El-Nakla’s – the wife of First Minister Humza Yousaf (below) – her life as an SNP councillor and fierce advocate of Palestinian liberation has proven to be a great asset to her husband’s leadership.

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Scarcely could there have been a more poignant confluence of events than for Scotland to see its first Muslim leader, married to a woman of proud Palestinian heritage, elected just months before an unprecedented surge in violence by Israeli forces against Gaza began.

From her decision to wear a traditional Palestinian thobe to the Scottish Parliament on the day her husband was sworn in, to the stirring speech she made at the October SNP conference while her own parents were trapped in Gaza, El-Nakla has become a powerful voice for Palestine.

And that, perhaps, is why she is regarded as so threatening by some in the British – and Scottish – establishment.

From the right-wing press to social media, there has been an emergence of disparaging commentary about the Dundee councillor, much of it focused on her advocacy for a resettlement scheme for Palestinian refugees – including her own brother – and on her alleged influence on the First Minister.

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A Scottish Conservative councillor tweeted this week that “Nadia is the real first minister and Humza is her useful idiot”, whilst insinuating that the Scottish Government’s provision of £750,000 in humanitarian aid in Gaza was given in exchange for El-Nakla’s family’s safe passage to Turkey.

It seems to me that it ought to go without saying that Yousaf would and should be agitating for an end to the atrocities in Gaza and lending support to its victims regardless of his familial connections, but I don’t think the fact that it’s personal lessens the worth of his position.

On the contrary, the closeness-to-home of seeing our own First Minister palpably anxious as he spoke of his family’s plight in TV interviews was incredibly moving and undoubtedly helped more people in Scotland to recognise Palestinians as people just like them.

And who with an ounce of humanity within them could turn away when El-Nakla told a hall full of SNP members: “Every person in Gaza is waiting to die ... We have dreams and we have goals. So, I ask: let us survive”?

Often we speak of the importance of representation in politics but rarely do we see such a powerful example of what that means in practice.

It’s not that it’s a given that belonging to a particular group or sharing a specific experience equates to solidarity. It’s that, when a person with experience of marginalisation is able to use a position of prominence to raise those issues, it resonates that much more deeply.

At a time when the UK Government is following the lead of the White House in its efforts to strip Palestinians of their humanity – to will us to avert our eyes to the mass murder of civilians and to the destruction of hospitals, schools, homes – this kind of representation is unspeakably dangerous.

It’s dangerous, in the eyes of the UK Government and the many mainstream voices still defending these injustices, to remind people in Scotland and across the UK of the inhumanity unfolding before us because we might actually force them to do something about it.

Not only this, but for the First Minister and his spouse speak out so strongly and consistently on a globally significant crisis, this puts Scotland firmly on the map and strengthens its image amongst the many United Nations members which share its commitment to peace.

While the UK continues to use its position in the UN General Assembly to block any calls for a ceasefire in Gaza in spite of widespread support from other states, it is all too convenient for our focus to be on what or to whom the First Minister’s wife should or shouldn’t be saying about it.

While the UK Government vociferously opposes the case before the International Court of Justice which could see the situation in Gaza officially labelled as a genocide, they can sleep restfully while the scrutiny is placed on a woman seeking safety for her imperilled family members.

There are few causes that have been subject to more thorough campaigns of silencing and distortion than that of Palestinian liberation, so it is no surprise that any spouse of a Western world leader to take a strong stance on the issue would face hostility.

There is, though, something particularly embarrassing and parochial about the way in which political discussion in Scotland so easily and quickly descends into pettiness and personal attacks when the issue at hand is far more important than any of this.

It’s all in good fun, I’m sure, to ask whether the First Minister takes his orders from his missus (a sprinkling of not-so-underlying misogyny is to be expected, of course).

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Meanwhile, according to Oxfam, 250 Palestinians are dying every day as a direct consequence of Israeli violence, with many more dying a slow and agonising death from starvation or disease.

Action Aid UK reported just last week that essential aid is being blocked from Gaza, leaving 2.3 million people at risk.

To allow the furore about El-Nakla to distract from these bleak facts – the very ones she has been trying to shine a light on in her newfound position of prominence – would be a grave error and a disservice to the Palestinian people who need our support more than ever.