By Rab Bruce’s Spider

There’s a scene in a book by the late, great Terry Pratchett where his fictional city of Ankh Morpork is being overrun by a plague of rats. In an effort to solve this, the City Council offers to pay a bounty for each rat that is killed. People can claim their reward by bringing a rat’s tail to the Council as proof. Despite this, the plague becomes even worse. In desperation, people turn to a man famous for his wisdom and political insight, and he provides an answer.

"Tax the rat farms."

As usual with Pratchett, he uses his fictional world to highlight human nature. In this case, it is to demonstrate that, whatever human system is put in place, some people will seek to find a way to take advantage for their own personal benefit.

Look around and you’ll see examples of this everywhere. Whether it be scammers phoning you pretending to be from Amazon, or emails threatening to cut off your internet service unless you click a link, there are scams everywhere.

And then, of course, we have politicians. Here I give you the House of Lords, and offshore bank accounts as examples. You can add to that the contracts handed out to pals of Cabinet Ministers and unelected Personal Advisers without any proper tendering or competition because speed is required to tackle the Covid19 pandemic. That’s a convenient smoke screen which allows rules to be ignored in order to benefit those in power.

In normal times, of course, such actions would be exposed by the media and pressure would be applied by the public, forcing the guilty party to resign. These days, the political system has been infiltrated by self-serving extremists to such an extent that they are able to brazen out any such issues. The Tories have well and truly taken advantage of the system, and even though more and more people are starting to realise just how dreadful the consequences will be for the majority of people in the UK, it is now too late to do anything about it.

And when it comes to people taking advantage of a system, no matter how good the intentions behind that system may be, I cannot ignore the Gender Recognition Act. It’s a topic I have largely avoided because, as a heterosexual white male of mature years, I do not feel qualified to make much of a contribution to the debate. There are only two things I feel I ought to say. The first is that most people I’ve discussed this with in private have no issues at all with Trans people being treated with equality and fairness. What they do have a problem with is legislation which some individuals will be able to take advantage of for their own personal gratification. Raising the status of one group should not adversely impact the status of another.

The second thing is more of a question. Given our media’s propensity for leaping on any topic which might paint the SNP in a bad light, why is the GRA not receiving condemnation from Unionist politicians and the press? I shall leave that for others to puzzle over.

As for the wider point, it is clear that democracy is in grave jeopardy. Autocratic rulers are cropping up everywhere, pushing the limits of what they can get away with. And it is in those supposed bastions of democracy, the UK and the USA, where things are worst.

As for Scotland, we face a stark choice. Becoming a normal, self-governing country won’t be easy, but plenty of other countries have managed it. Yes, there will be some individuals who will seek to use independence for their own advantage, but that is no reason we should deny ourselves the opportunity of taking our place on the world stage. If we had a normal media covering a normal country’s normal politics, any such abuses could be highlighted, and the people could hold those in authority to account. That’s what should happen in a normal country, but the UK is very far from normal, and the sooner we can escape its clutches, the better.