WHEN I wrote in my column last week about Keir Starmer’s many failings, I could hardly have known how significantly the much-lauded Labour revival in Scotland would unravel as the week progressed.

At the centre of the Labour backlash was Starmer’s insistence to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg that his party now has no intention of scrapping the immoral and vile legislation which restricts benefit payments to two children per family unless a woman can show that a third pregnancy was the result of a rape.

The Tory cap has come to represent everything hateful about the party’s current direction. That moral bankruptcy is surely reviled by every right-thinking person in the country – yet is now shared by Labour. No wonder the question on so many lips this week has been “If Labour refuse to repeal this legislation if they win the next General Election then what in god’s name are the party for?”

READ MORE: This map shows the areas of Scotland hit hardest by two-child cap

Of course, there have been some pathetic attempts at damage limitation by senior Labour figures north of the Border. The party’s leader in Scotland Anas Sarwar began by expressing his view that the party should scrap the benefits limit but then settled on a nonsensical argument that the financial markets would be thrown into a panic if the Tory legislation were rescinded.

If that were indeed the reaction to any move that moves the political climate closer to reflecting basic humanity then we would need to take a long, hard look at the values which govern the way our economy functions. If the markets can dictate that legislation so widely reviled remains in place then the markets surely need to be either reformed or torn down.

It’s simply inconceivable that Starmer's (below) Labour Party are prepared to pander so spinelessly to forces which support the continuation of rules which leave 250,000 living in poverty. Except it’s not inconceivable. It’s just another – albeit the worst – example of Labour’s refusal to act to protect those who at one time relied on them to act in their best interests.

The National: Keir Starmer has been challenged on his claims about Labour's history on LGBT rights

There has never been a time when Scotland so desperately needed an alternative to the Tories’ malice and Labour’s cowardice. There has never been a time when Scotland needed more resolve to grasp its independence.

Yet, paradoxically, the biggest and most powerful pro-independence party are currently engulfed by a crisis mainly prompted by a protracted police investigation, the reporting of which should be restricted by contempt of court law but continually hits the headlines because of developments revealed at regular intervals by the police.

It’s time to challenge the supine acceptance of a narrative that somehow the SNP are a busted flush. There is as yet no evidence showing any wrongdoing whatsoever by party leaders. To suggest otherwise is to accept the entirely baseless suggestion that there is no smoke without fire.

In this case the “fire” is entirely the result of careful media manipulation. The truth is that although Operation Branchform has been rifling through “evidence” for months so far not one single shred of proof of anything untoward has been put into the public domain.

And don’t give me that crap about contempt of court laws limiting what can be revealed. There’s a mountain of disclosures being leaked into the pages and websites of the national media, all of it designed to convince the public that something major is on the brink of being disclosed.

The National: Police at the house dshared by Peter Murrell and Nicola Sturgeon

Three major figures in the party have been very publicly arrested but all have been released without charge – although that fact has been accompanied in reports with what can only be considered a dire threat that those releases are “pending further investigation”.

In other words, the public are led to believe that the releases – despite hours of presumably intensive questioning – should absolutely not be viewed as an indication that this matter is anything like closed, or that those arrested can in any sense be regarded as having been cleared.

This week’s interview with Sir Iain Livingstone, Police Scotland’s chief constable, who is retiring later this summer, was a masterclass in suggesting major crimes have still be to uncovered without presenting any proof that they exist. That was followed up by a suggestion that if any such proof did exist, contempt of court rules would prevent it being referred to in any case.

Doesn’t anyone else find it strange that the risk of contempt of court can be dismissed if the chief constable decides to give an interview on circumstances around an ongoing live investigation?

During the interview, the chief constable had the gall to urge politicians and the public not to speculate on the probe – although during the interview he himself goes out of his way to provoke exactly that speculation.

READ MORE: SNP MP says forensic tent outside Nicola Sturgeon home unusual

We learned, for instance, that part of the investigation into the SNP finances had “moved beyond” initial reports. Which in effect means nothing and reveals nothing.

We don’t know exactly what those initial reports were, or specifics of other matters that have fallen under the remit of the operation. To reveal such details would, of course, be contempt of court.

So instead of anything meaningful, we were treated to headlines such as “Police investigation into SNP finances ‘moved beyond the initial reports’ according to chief” (The Scotsman) which do nothing other than encourage speculation.

It also allowed Scottish Conservative party chairman Craig Hoy to claim, without the smallest detail to justify it, that the inclusion of unexplained and unspecified other matters in the operation “only highlights the seriousness of this investigation”. And Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie (below) claims there are now “multiple lines of inquiry” and that “a can of worms has opened up”.

The National: Labour’s Jackie Baillie said her party is confident of success in Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

Possibly it suggests only that the initial complaint had to be replaced by other suggestions because after months of searching no actual evidence could be found to back it up. Who knows?

Certainly not Hoy or Baillie.

By “speculation”, I guess Livingstone meant suggestions that the forensic tent erected outside Nicola Sturgeon’s home was a hysterical, over-the-top trick to indicate that this operation was up there with a murder inquiry in terms of importance.

Such “speculation” was countered by the chief constable when he described police tactics as “proportionate and necessary”.

That’s us told, and in a way that brooks no argument.

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But then, the media and the public can only speculate, while Livingstone is allowed to know the facts, even if he can’t reveal it to the likes of us. “I know the full circumstances of the case,” he said, before assuring anyone “speculating” otherwise that the tent “was a proportionate and necessary step”. So that’s all right then.

Then there are all those other details so cunningly appearing to cast shade on the party without ever explaining how they fit into the narrative that something is up.

Take, for example, the infamous £110,000 “luxury motorhome” parked outside the home of former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell’s mother. What exactly is supposed to be the relevance of this vehicle? We’re simply left to “speculate”.

Call me crazy but if the motorhome was bought with money donated to fund independence campaigning wouldn’t that be an efficient way to transport campaigners and campaign materials around the country without bus hiring and hotel costs?

And really, if you don’t want people speculating about possible evidence, don’t tell the media about the possible evidence.

Simple really.

The National: Sir Iain Livingstone is stepping down after six years as chief constable (Jane Barlow/PA)

Livingstone (above) is keen to point out that the investigation has a “dedicated team of specialists … who are working with our prosecutors – the Crown Office in Scotland – in terms of the steps that are taken”. Which makes it all the more strange that after all this time no actual prosecutions are in sight.

Look, I know journalists are supposed to hold government power to account rather than being sceptical about an official police investigation. And honestly, I’m as much of a sucker as anybody for the image of passionate, dedicated reporters taking on the might of the dastardly authorities.

But the current situation, annoyingly for some, doesn’t conform to this narrative. On the one hand, we’ve got two establishment political parties with their sights on dismantling the rights and hard-won support systems for the most vulnerable people in society. On the other, the only party offering the people of Scotland a realistic alternative finds itself constantly accused of unspecified wrongdoings in the court of public opinion with no end in sight.

Livingstone may consider his force’s investigation “prudent, thorough and proportionate”.

I think it’s a farce.