I DON’T often agree with Andy Maciver – the former Conservative staffer who now, among other things, writes a column for The Herald – but he is right to express considerable scepticism about the current feeding frenzy concerning Michael Matheson’s parliamentary iPad.

Maciver is far from alone in that view and the disproportionate nature of this Tory-inspired attack can be seen in the over-the-top media headlines that, on every single day in the last week, have wiped out most other Scottish political news.

No matter that the Scottish Parliament was considering serious issues of policy and delivery, the reality is that almost all of the available bandwidth has been devoted to an internet bill that Matheson has now agreed to pay himself. Yet this very destructive way of doing politics is not an accidental aberration.

For example, just the week before, matters of vital import to every Scottish citizen such as a new mental health plan, far-reaching education reform and a positive and largely consensual approach to CashBack for Communities received virtually no attention whilst reams of frenzied coverage were devoted to angry accusations about the withholding of information from the Covid inquiry – without a shred of actual evidence that this had taken place.

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Of course ministers should be kept to – and first of all keep themselves to – the highest of standards. In addition, when problems are looming ahead it is essential to make full disclosure at the earliest opportunity. Things that are wrong must always be put right speedily and parliamentary scrutiny is a key part of that process.

But Scotland’s health service will be not a jot better off if the current Cabinet Secretary decides to call it a day, harried out of office by a combination of circumstances that look very like what was once called “a muddle not a fiddle” and moreover one that has clearly caused real domestic pain Having myself been the subject of a couple of such pile-ons, I can testify to the fact that they are deeply unpleasant.

The constant journalistic search for any and every means to keep the story going makes the victim fear each new day, which will inevitably bring more wild assertions and lurid speculations even if – especially if – he or she simply has made a mistake rather than deliberately transgressed.

The technique that is the most wearing and wounding is that which sees every volunteered fact as merely an opportunity for yet another set of unanswerable questions.

Not even the Archangel Gabriel, flourishing the truth etched in fiery letters on tablets of stone, could satisfy such implacable and remorseless ultimatums.

Eventually, this constant gaslighting makes you doubt everything. Guilt takes hold of even the guiltless. Resignation begins to look like the only way to escape but even without that final step the effect is long lasting and the memory painful. Some never fully recover from the ordeal.

Of course, political and media feeding frenzies are nothing new. Regrettably, all parties have initiated them and most journalists, scenting blood, have pursued them. Politics can be bruising and sometimes the heat in the kitchen does become intolerable.

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What we are seeing now, however, goes beyond such old-fashioned cliches. It is a conscious political determination to undermine not just individuals nor even a whole government, but devolution itself.

Character assassination by means of spurious motions of no confidence, the abuse of FMQs and the manipulation of parliamentary procedure is unfortunately becoming the norm in the Scottish Parliament.

Back in August 2020, when Douglas Ross was imposed as Scottish Tory leader by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove – there was no contest – it was in response to what was seen as the weakness of Jackson Carlaw in opposing Nicola Sturgeon.

Carlaw had rightly put the need to have a cross-party approach to the pandemic ahead of everything else, but as we now know, even while Covid was still raging, Johnson was determined to put the then first minister, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament, back in their subordinate boxes.

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The quality in Ross that appealed to Johnson and Gove was neither competence nor vision, still less a desire to secure a more effective Scottish administration. What Ross brought to the table was a disdain for Holyrood, which he had just left to go to Westminster, and a hostility to all but the most toothless type of devolved Parliament .

Once in charge, Ross started to remake the Scottish Tory Party by surrounding himself with those who saw Scottish politics in the same way. They have deliberately reduced, not raised, expectations and undermined every thing that is rooted in, and focused on, making a better Scotland.

So while Holyrood is denuded of resources and powers by the Tories at Westminster – a task undertaken with relish by the Secretary of State against Scotland Alister Jack – north of the Border there is an unremitting calculated insider attack on ambition and aspiration.

That is why every announcement is disparaged and demeaned, every policy misrepresented, every success sneered at and every individual in government pressed and probed in the hope of revealing a new weakness that can be exploited.

Labour should be careful about going along with that, though Jackie Baillie’s hatred of the SNP is as ever clouding her judgement.

What will be left, if Ross gets his way, is a political desert, in which the reputation of Scottish political decision-making has been smashed into such tiny pieces that even current powers will be rendered useless while any idea of moving on to greater things – to the full normality of independence – will be discredited for a generation or more.

That is their intention. Their methodology is clear.

Behind a smokescreen called “holding to account” they are attempting to dismantle Scottish democracy.

To counter that we must observe the highest of standards in all that we do.

But we must also tell the truth about the wilful damage the Tories are doing to the less-than-complete Parliament we presently have.