BORIS Johnson has recently taken to making public utterances which are simultaneously gob-smackingly dumb, and jaw-droppingly stupid.

He’s been doing this sort of thing for a while. Boris has in fact built his career on carefully calibrated idiocy as a substitute for substance. However over the past few weeks it’s become increasingly clear that his latest productions in this oeuvre are barely disguised attempts to get Theresa May to sack him, so that he can adopt the role of the Not So Young Pretender and tell everyone in the Tory party “I told you so” when Brexit does an impression of a dead goldfish, otherwise known as Michael Gove. Then Boris will be best placed to take the crown of Tory leadership, which is all that he’s been interested in all along.

Likewise, the posher than the royals schtick of the resolutely middle class Jacob Rees-Mogg is also a carefully contrived act. Where other young people of Jacob’s age saw The Clash, the Ramones, or Iggy Pop as role models, young Jacob chanced upon a book about Queen Victoria’s funeral director and decided that was the gig for him. It’s an act that goes down inexplicably well with a certain type of Conservative. But then these are also people who think Jim Davidson is funny, which explains a lot. Jacob’s act has achieved him a public position that other Conservative back-benchers can only envy.

At least we have some sort of coherent explanation for the clownish idiocy of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

With Scottish Conservative MP Ross Thomson there is nothing that approaches coherence and all we are left with is the clownishness. Ross is one of those clowns that you get in the high street, playing with balloons. That high-pitched hissing noise you hear isn’t a balloon with a leak, it’s the closest that Ross gets to making a sensible public statement.

Ross’s latest intervention was to send a letter to Nicola Sturgeon complaining that a Scottish public information video was too Scottish. The video was produced by the We Are Scotland campaign, and was aimed at showing the diversity of the people of Scotland. The message of the video was that it doesn’t matter where you come from, by living in Scotland and making your life here, you too are Scottish, and that is something to celebrate.

If the video had been presented by someone with an accent that makes Jacob Rees-Mogg sound like he’s from the Calton, and the entire thing was draped in red, white and blue hues while officials from the Home Office deported some asylum seekers, Ross Thomson would have been quite happy. Because that’s the kind of Scotland that Ross stands for – a Scotland that’s invisible, quiet, and which knows its place.

All Ross managed to do however was to draw attention to his own cringe, which is as wide and deep as the Grand Canyon, and to expose his own ignorance of matters linguistic. Ross was upset because the video included examples of Scottish “slang”. Slang is a term which has a precise definition if you’re a linguist, which Ross clearly isn’t. Slang refers to a set of vocabulary used by subgroups within a society. So for example there is drug users’ slang, or army slang, or indeed Scottish Conservative politicians’ slang, the last of which consists mainly of repeating “Scotland doesn’t want another referendum” as the answer to just about any question you care to think of.

But this video didn’t include any slang. It did, however, use some words and phrases from the Scots language.

The Scots language is not slang, and if you don’t know the difference between a non-standardised language and slang then you really ought to refrain from commenting on either. That doesn’t stop Ross, though, because if Ross wasn’t allowed to comment on things that he didn’t know anything about then he wouldn’t be allowed to comment on anything at all. And what a happy world that would be. Unfortunately we can’t just tell Ross to wheesht, because he thinks that’s slang.

Gaelic comes in for attacks from many in Scotland who object to the existence of a minoritised language in this country. Scots is equally a victim of abuse and attacks from the English monoglot establishment. However whereas the status of Gaelic as a language can hardly be denied, the attacks upon Scots usually centre on the claim that it’s not really a language at all. There is indeed a serious and proper linguistic discussion to be had about whether the collection of dialects known as Scots do in fact constitute a distinct language in its own right, or whether they are an extremely well defined and distinctive set of dialects of English. There is no hard-and-fast rule for determining such matters, but most who specialise in the subject regard Scots as falling on the language side of the language/dialect divide.

However what is beyond dispute is that whatever precisely Scots might be, it’s not slang. Slang is a term used by the linguistically naive to refer to any speech variety other than standard English, a term which comes loaded with subjective value judgements and which implies that the non-standard variety is something to be disapproved of. That’s neither helpful nor illuminating, other than to shine a light on the prejudices of the person using the term. With Ross, we don’t merely have a display of linguistic snobbery founded in ignorance, we also have a phobia of Scottish distinctiveness. There’s a certain kind of Scottish Conservative who lives in terror that other Scottish people might realise that we do actually have a culture and identity of our own.

What they most certainly dislike is the idea that Scotland might be more welcoming and tolerant place than the UK Home Office would prefer, and that the xenophobia which drove the Brexit vote has no acceptance in Scotland. The message of the We Are Scotland video was that Scotland has an identity and culture of its own, and that it strives to be a welcoming place which accepts people from all over the world. That in itself is not a pro-independence message, but given the direction in which the Conservative Government in Westminster seeks to take the UK, you can understand why Ross is terrified by it. Puir wee glaikit sowel, on the wrang side o history.