Pete Wishart is the kind of phoney nationalist that blights the independence cause.
Loyalty to the SNP above honesty may make for a media-proof political party but it doesn’t make for an intelligent contribution to your nation.
Mr Wishart became an MP in 2001 and since then has been impeccably loyal to the party machine.
Had HQ told him the moon was made of cheese, then he’d have gone out on social media and yelled cheddar lunacy to the world.
This must have seemed enjoyable when the party was on the rise but at the last election he kept his seat by only 21 votes, a shock which seems to have awoken a chromosome of doubt.
Last autumn he noticed that the public had become weary of constitutional talk.
Last week he wrote the party needed to admit to mistakes and ask itself hard questions, and called for that beloved option of undecided, or troublesome, politicians – a debate.
Mr Wishart used his privileged position as MP, on a big salary, and as a party grandee, to question precisely nothing of what the leadership told him in the past.
In never questioning, he is as responsible for what he calls the “outdated” white paper as anyone else in the SNP.
He and the ranks of obedient servants are responsible, among other factors, for losing the 2014 referendum.
Their lack of curiosity about the details of what they proposed led to a party woefully inept in its independence pitch.
We shouldn’t dwell on Mr Wishart, a man who has suddenly decided that an original voice might be a good way to win dull office (the depute leader of the SNP) because there are other runners in this field.
James Dornan MSP says he’d make a good deputy because Indyref2 must be held soon, and the party should be ready – presumably implying that without his acute analysis, the party would miss the moment.
Does he really think Indyref2 is close? That alone should disqualify him from any office.
If the evidence isn’t there in a slowly sliding support for Indy and the huge wave of voter horror at snake-oil-selling politicians, then it should be writ large in the behaviour of the disciplined team who got him, and so many, to the first referendum. The team have quit.
The reason there is a race for deputy leader is because Angus Robertson has resigned, some months after losing his seat.
If he thought Indyref2 was close or winnable, would he have done that?
What about the two sharp lads from HQ in 1997 – Kevin Pringle and Andrew Wilson?
Mr Pringle works for Mr Wilson’s PR company, and Mr Wilson is made to delay a year before he can publish his economic analysis of Scotland.
These people aren’t yet 50, but they are not desperate to stay on the Indy bus they did so much to build.
Meanwhile the exiled king, Alex Salmond, is in the pay of a Russian cable TV channel – a career choice unlikely to endear him to swithering voters in Scotland.
Mr Wishart’s concern for questions and debate should have been there 20 years ago, when he first stood for the party. Had he been curious then, the white paper might have been a lot better.
He should have asked about the true economic status of Scotland.
He should have questioned the weirdly counter-factual line about seamlessly remaining in the EU after Scottish independence.
And if he hadn’t spent his time on these questions, he might at least have given the Scottish people – those very people whose lives he wanted to change profoundly – a sense of why he thought that change was good.
If Pete Wishart wants a real debate, I’ll happily have it with him.
We can tease out what option he thinks is best for the currency, what the budget deficit will be in Year One of independence, or how the NHS will be better after independence.
Though the SNP are content to think any critic is simply a unionist in disguise, I make this offer in the genuine attempt to let Scots into the debate about our nation’s future.
The people are locked out when the debate consists of rival lines of spin or the loyal recitation of fanciful ‘facts’.
It’s hard enough to understand modern politics, so dominated as it is by economics, but harder still when the SNP, like Brexiteers, refuse to engage in reasonable discussion.
If he doesn’t fancy a chat, then Mr Wishart might want to start his new career as the honest broker of the SNP by drawing up a Year One budget for an independent Scotland.
He has all the resources to hand, as chairman of the Scottish Affairs Committee, it won’t cost him a penny.
It will show in stark numbers the issue is not the legitimacy of Scotland as a nation or the incompetence of Westminster, but the complexity of improving Scotland while operating with substantially less money, and the challenge of finding a workable currency option.
Admit to that Pete, and you deserve to call yourself a real nationalist.
Alex Bell is a former head of SNP policy and speechwriter to Alex Salmond