"YOU might very well think that. I couldn’t possibly comment.” The phrase has entered the political lexicon – and no wonder. In the winter of 1990, the BBC first broadcast House of Cards. Quite by accident, the series coincided with the Tory leadership election which evicted Margaret Thatcher from Downing Street and brought John Major to power.

It had already been a good decade for quality British political drama and comedy. Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister ran between 1980 and 1984. In 1988, Ray McAnally played left-wing Prime Minister Harry Perkins in A Very British Coup.

House of Cards was an instant classic. Adapted by Andrew Davies from Michael Dobbs’s almost unreadable novel of the same name, the series follows the lies, rise and masterly manipulations of Tory chief whip Francis Urquhart, played with compelling malice by Edinburgh-born Ian Richardson. This week, I noticed that the first series has reappeared on the BBC iPlayer and I felt a gush of nostalgia for one of my all-time favourite political thrillers.

The dialogue is taut, the characterisations neat, the ensemble casting epic. The fourth wall is regularly broken. These monologues might have seemed schlocky or pretentious. But like the best interpretations of Shakespeare’s villains, Francis Urquhart’s soliloquies have a winning intimacy to them. They’re indispensable to the structure of the drama.

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Urquhart may lie to his colleagues, lie to the public, lie to journalists – but he doesn’t lie to his audience. Urquhart addresses us, recruits us, implicates us – and the magic of Davies’s script and Richardson’s performance – is that you want to be recruited.

Like Richard III, Urquhart manipulates, he lies, he kills. He visits ruin on essentially good and well-meaning people. Unlike the pantomime villains of our own politics – the Mandelsons and the Osbornes who seem to relish public reputations of being scheming bastards – FU knows the true Machiavel seems a saint when most he plays the devil.

And despite knowing all this, despite knowing that Urquhart’s faithfulness is all humbug and his humanity is all play – you’re for him. You’re of the devil’s party without knowing it.

Although Richardson is the mesmerising villain-protagonist of the piece, the late eighties Tory world in Westminster and Whitehall is realised meticulously through inspired casting. Miles Anderson’s cocaine-addicted publicity director Roger O’Neill has terrible, antic pathos to it. The late Nicholas Shelby’s eyebrows do a completely credible turn as Teddy Billsborough, the party chairman. Kenny Ireland is a Trumpy newspaper proprietor complete with pan-loaf coiffure.

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Colin Jeavons – a reformed kids show presenter who resembles the Child Catcher’s understudy – is Tim Stamper, the hard-right MP for Shotover and FU’s depute in the whips’ office. In a bare smattering of dialogue, Jeavons sketches Stamper as a pinstriped political sadist, a real bottled spider of a man. I could go on. Like the other great dramatic ensembles of the decade – like Alec Guinness’s (1979) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – it’s a team game.

But revisiting this old political favourite this week made me think about the state of Scottish political drama – which is to say, the complete absence of Scottish political drama almost two decades into devolution.

Well, unless you include the tortured magic realism of Professor Tom Gallagher’s Flight of Evil: A North British Intrigue. Published in 2018, the arch-Unionist’s political thriller includes a scene in which the pro-independence party leader, Clova Bruce, goes extra-marital bonking in Linn Park on “a mild February evening with the temperature hovering around 8 degrees centigrade”. Linn Park, as the professor helpfully outlines in one of his characteristically pedantic, breeze-block sentences, comprises of “52 hectares in the southern outskirts of the city”. The sex is, as you might anticipate from the retired academic’s finnicky geographic sensibility, hardly electric. I may never recover from reading the phrase “she induced the second arousal”.

But I do catch myself wondering if there’s more to the dearth of Scottish political drama. Is Holyrood still too new to fill up with anything but dull reality? How many real-world first ministers do you require, before being able to assemble a fictional political Frankenstein? Has the real-life drama which has characterised the last decade in Scottish politics been too dull to conjure up our own Francis Urquharts? Maybe. But I defy anyone to argue eye-popping, mostly unpublished civic politics of Glasgow couldn’t be colourfully dramatised. So why don’t we?

I’m reminded of one of my favourite quotes from Alastair Gray’s Lanark. It’s an exchange about place in art, and in stories between Thaw and McAlpin. “Glasgow is a magnificent city,” said McAlpin. “Why do we hardly ever notice that?”

“Because nobody imagines living here,” said Thaw. McAlpine lit a cigarette and said: “If you want to explain that I’ll certainly listen.”

And Thaw explained. Think of the great cities of the world, he said. New York. Paris. London. “Nobody visiting them for the first time is a stranger because he’s already visited them in paintings, novels, history books and films. But if a city hasn’t been used by an artist not even the inhabitants live there imaginatively.” That might sound a bit froufrou. But it’s a profound thought.

Thaw continues: “What is Glasgow to most of us? A house, the place we work, a football park or golf course, some pubs and connecting streets. That’s all. No, I’m wrong, there’s also the cinema and the library. And when our imagination needs exercise we use these to visit London, Paris, Rome under the Caesars, the American West at the turn of the century, anywhere but here and now.”

Of course, there will be more mundane reasons why the here and now of Scottish politics still defies dramatic representation. Commercial reasons. Budgetary reasons. Who wants to see a show about a regional parliament? What’s the audience for this? What’s the costed case? Where’s the script?

But I wonder if Gray’s logic isn’t also quietly at play in how hard you still have to squint, even to imagine a Scottish political drama set in the upturned concrete hulls of Holyrood. It seems like it’ll be some time yet, till we build our House of Cards.