HAVE THE SNP SHOT THEIR OWN FOX?

Well yes of course it was satisfying to see the Tories scurry off tae think again, twice in the same week. No vote on EVEL till the Autumn, and perhaps no vote at all on relaxing the hunting ban. And doubtless the SNP group basked in the praise of all the pressure groups and assorted celebs who turned out to try and stop the Conservatives revive one of the most sickening "traditions"  in which the UK recently  indulged.

But I wonder about the price paid.  The self denying ordinance that the SNP would never vote on items which specifically and only applied to England and Wales gave them a firm foothold on the moral high ground - and a more than useful bargaining chip in the negotiations over English votes for English laws.  Whilst they held to that stance they could be accused of neither hypocrisy or naked opportunism.

The reasons Nicola Sturgeon offered on the airwaves as to the change of policy were threefold. That an SNP challenge over fox hunting would illustrate the fragility of his majority was no less than self evident. That it would do no harm to remind the PM that two can play hardball has a superficial political attraction. But that the decision to vote on English fox hunting might help review and revise the already different Scottish law sounded more than a little disingenuous. Not least since the Scottish minister in question had indicated that no such review or change was on the cards.

Now, as it happens, I think the English law - allowing only two hounds rather than a pack - provides greater safeguards against animal cruelty than our own. And were we do tighten up our own regulations it would be a fine step in a more compassionate direction. But the idea that the SNP parliamentary group was going to cast their votes because of a possible revision of Scots law sometime in the yet to be defined future, allowed their opponents to mock the enterprise from a great height.

These are early days in the new parliament. There will be many opportunities to prove that a majority of 12 is on the anorexic side of slimline. And when the SNP rightly gets stuck into government arrogance over amendments to the Scotland Bill, or wants to demonstrate how few pieces of legislation will not have some collateral effect on Scotland and or its budget they should want to do so from a position of maximum parliamentary credibility.

Of course fox hunting is an anachronistic abomination. Of course you don't need a mounted fancy dress party to pursue pest control. Of course the people who bray support do not represent those millions of rural dwellers who recognise hypocrisy most especially clad in a red coat. 

And of course all parties at the sharp end of politics indulge in naked opportunism from time to time.

But it is that latter trait which so disappoints the electorate.  Hordes of people plighted their troth to the SNP at the last UK election because they wanted something different. Something removed from the normal cynicism of yah boo politics. Something visionary.   The maiden speech of young Mhairi Black reminds us all what effortless integrity sounds like.

She doesn't have to negotiate the darker corners of Westminster like her leaders. She doesn't carry the same responsibilities nor suffer the intense 24/7 scrutiny they do.  She hasn't had to learn the hard art of compromise.

But she is a breath of very fresh air...an increasingly rare commodity in that forum.  And she reminds us that principles are also a precious commodity which wouldn't ever be abandoned in a perfect world - but even in our imperfect one, shouldn't be jettisoned for short term gain.