I’VE just seen a wonderful late night show at the Edinburgh Fringe — The Toxic Avenger, if you must know. Also, I’m half way into writing a new book on Catalonia’s struggle for independence. Plus helping my Bosnian director friend, Samir Mehanovic, on his new film documentary about the west’s utter failure to understand the Syrian refugee crisis.

Then there’s coping in the garden, which is groaning with this season’s veg and fruit — my fingernails haven’t been this dirty for three years. Many friends, colleagues and former constituents have been in touch to offer a compensatory lunch or dinner, then enlist my support in urgent projects. And the cats have begun to remember who I am. Yes folks, I’ve got my life back after two years in the Palace of Westminster salt mines as an MP.

The transition from MP to civilian is just as brutal as getting the job in the first place. When you’re elected, the returning officer hands you a big brown envelope with your parliamentary marching orders. Wham! Bam! You’re in the Commons the following Monday, handed your expensive parliamentary iPad and off hiring staff, finding a constituency office, locating a (ludicrously expensive) London flat, and learning the arcane parliamentary procedures in Erskine May. While simultaneously juggling family, constituency and party commitments and commuting weekly to London. Forget sleep, you are an MP now.

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But lose an election, and everything goes into reverse in a flash. The parliamentary IT people want their iPad back pronto and your MP’s £74,000 annual pay stops at midnight on Election Day. Fortunately, I’d committed to keeping personally only a sum equivalent to the median wage (£27,000) so the financial transition hasn’t been as tough as for some others. The real losers are my hard-working parliamentary team, who are out on their ear with me for no fault of their own. Very fortunately, I hired them very soon after I was elected, so they just met the two-year qualification for redundancy pay.

The first few weeks after the election I spent disposing of my London flat and its contents, winding down and shutting the constituency office, and writing letters urging all and sundry to take on my now redundant staff. There was a lot of spare IT stuff plus a gigantic printer to find a home for — God knows where all these computer cables belong! Plus I had to transfer back to Scotland all the books I had unwisely acquired in London — I’ll miss getting first dibs on those eccentric tomes thrown out weekly by the overcrowded Commons Library.

Mind you, I was fairly lucky in this transition. I had an excellent London landlord and we parted on good terms — we even had a final Chinese together. But one departing SNP colleague has been stuck with a bill for £12,500 for alleged “damage” to his London flat. This is a try-on from a landlord smelling cash. The MP involved is the last person to trash his dwelling place. Unfortunately, this sort of predatory personal financial claim against an outgoing MP is not funded by parliament, so my colleague is on his own.

While all this is going on, you are left trying to explain to anguished former constituents that you can no longer help them directly. It is expressly verboten for the former MP’s office staff to continue with cases, even if supremely tempted. Aside from the pain of seeing my team members out of a job, the worst thing about being a former MP is realising you are no longer in a position to help folk struggling with, say, the calculated indignity that is the Universal Benefits system. Nor have you a public platform to defend people, say, those mis-sold by arrogant big banks like RBS.

One former MP (not SNP) told me she was clinically depressed for a time after losing her seat. I can see that the sudden loss of parliamentary colleagues, loss of perceived influence and status (such as it is), and simple loss of contact with the insider political gossip can make a former member feel… well, almost bereaved. The exiting process is indeed rough, especially given that several tens of thousands of one’s fellow citizens have trooped into the voting booths to get rid of one personally.

Of course, to be depressed at leaving the Westminster madhouse — even unexpectedly — requires one to believe that being there is the acme of achievement, personally and politically. For myself, and hopefully most SNP MPs, it was neither. OK, after trying so many times, it was satisfying to finally sit on the sticky green benches. As a journalist and amateur historian, it is fascinating to see how the egregiously mis-named Mother of Parliaments actually ticks from the inside.

I will miss the gossip — especially from indiscreet Tories or from Corbyn lefties who think Scottish Labour a reactionary shower.

All that said, a less democratic elected forum than the House of Commons is hard to find in the western world. For starters, all that guff about the Mother of Parliaments is sheer propaganda.

The first parliament elected by universal suffrage was the French National Convention of 1792, which parliamentary body had the added novelty of letting ordinary voters address the assembly directly. This may explain why British MPs in a reactionary House of Commons led a 23-year war to crush the French Revolution.

Architecturally, socially and culturally, the UK Parliament is a convincing variation on Hogwarts. If you’ve been to prep school, public school and Oxbridge, arriving in the shabby, mice-ridden corridors of the House of Commons must feel like being home. You are constantly addressed as “sir” and treated with unmerited deference. Despite there being a very thin legislative agenda, MPs are locked up in the House four days a week, 40 weeks a year. The nature of the parliamentary day means you rarely get out of the building, except to sit on the terrace and booze. The only folk you have for company are literally hundreds of well-paid lobbyists ever ready to buy you lunch or dinner.

The way Westminster works — or rather doesn’t work — is a primary reason why Scotland needs independence and a political system that is more responsive to the nation and its people. For starters, I think the Scottish Parliament should be elected on a two-year cycle like the US House of Representatives, to keep it accountable. All lobbying on the premises should be outlawed. I’m even tempted to say there should be term limits on how long any individual can remain a member. I also like an innovation I saw in the Catalan Parliament. Catalan MPs alternate between being in parliament in Barcelona for a week and being in their constituencies the next week. That way they stay in touch better with their constituents.

For the record, I was very proud to represent the good people of East Lothian and to serve as one of the famous “Fifty Six” SNP MPs elected in the class of 2015. Our loss of 21 MPs took out some of the best parliamentarians of any party. But when people ask me if I miss Westminster I can’t help smiling. I think I escaped just in time.