WILLIE Collum and his wife’s Christmas shopping trip lasted only five minutes because of verbal abuse aimed at him almost the moment they he got out of his car.

His ‘crime’ was to be a referee in Scottish football and these mouth-breather believed Collum to be fair game.

John Beaton the other day revealed he felt his life had been changed forever – and not in a good way - after an Old Firm game. Online death threats do have that affect.

Bobby Madden has had more than his fair share of grief. Hugh Dallas’s windows were broken. Assistant referees, or linesmen in pounds, shillings and pence, have to put up with horrific stuff shouted at them while hoping the coins and occasional bottle thrown from behind misses their head.

I could go on. And on. And on.

The treatment of referees in Scotland is a disgrace. Reading the interview with Beaton and listening to Collum in recent days, has been a reminder of how badly these people are treated by supporters, the players of course, and the clubs themselves.

Celtic and Rangers are the worst for this, although other clubs ought to be ashamed.

Statements have been put out by both demanding an explanation as to why a certain decision in over an hour and a half of football went against them. Apparently, the fact life isn’t perfect and sometimes a ref makes a mistake isn ‘t good enough. They want answers and to play up to their most base of base supporters.

And we in the media, I very much include myself here, have hardly helped down the years.

Referees get abuse all over the world. But it’s different here. Many of us remain obsessed about what school someone went to. The clubs, let’s be honest, do next to nothing to play down accusations that a certain ref used to go to a certain stadium and therefore is biased.

A few days ago, Collum said: “Anybody who thinks we are out to deceive a team are kidding themselves on. We don't work hard all week, make the sacrifices we do, to try and make a deliberate decision against someone.

"A mistake can then lead it to being blown out of proportion in the media. We are under pressure and we are trying our very best.

Of course, this isn’t good enough for some because if they accepted that referees and assistants are not biased but only human, then their own lives and twisted belief system would make less sense. Too many walk among us who see the world through their own bigotry and stupidity. They think everyone is like them, which is full of hate.

A few years back, Beaton refereed an Old Firm game and had a bad day. Rangers won, they were by far the better team, but on the day, Alfredo Morelos should have been sent off.

Later that night, a photo appeared on social media of Beaton having a pint in a Rangers pub. That the picture was an old one and that the pub in question could no way be described as a football bar, it was easy to see it for what it was; a heap of nonsense used to destroy a man’s reputation.

Of course, many jumped on the picture as being real because they need it to be real. Otherwise their pig-headed conspiracy theories would be proven to be utter garbage.

Beaton was badly shaken in the aftermath and thought about quitting. Collum as well almost gave in. There won’t be a senior ref in Scotland who won’t have at least considered retiring after lies had been spread about him.

Managers can’t go through a month without having a right go at a referee backed up by their clubs. The way some players talk to bloke with the whistle during a game is shameful. He is doing his job That is all.

Referees start at school level, then youths, amateur, non-league, Juniors and then after a lot of work and sacrifice, begin to work their way up the senior leagues. It takes years to make it which begs the question: why would anyone go through all of that in the hope that one day he could award a dodgy penalty for the team they watched as a kid?

Lots of football supporters sincerely believe their team is treated differently. They are wrong. It’s time our refs got some public backing.

For far too long, Scottish football – and I mean all involved - has not looked after, not protected, the officials.

Going back to the clubs, especially our big two, we could do without the finger-pointing, the less than subtle insinuations, on the back of a refereeing performance which wasn’t to their liking. We could do without any more ill-judged statements which play their part in these men being unable to go shopping with the missus.

Collum said: “He said: "There needs to be an acceptance that we are ordinary people, with families. It worries me when I see referees receiving threats.

"Some of the abuse we are subjected to in stadiums isn't right. When it becomes personal it's a worry.

No wonder Collum and the rest want VAR even if deep down it doesn’t sit right with them. It might just keep the death threats to a minimum and their windows unbroken.