‘CRUCIALLY, they wanted something to vote for,” Rob Shorthouse, Better Together’s communications director, told a campaigners’ conference months after the referendum result.

The promise of change to come, further devolution, was vital to people who were against full independence, he claimed. Throughout that long campaign, "more powers" became a vital part of the mood music. It was an attempt to conjure the belief that Scotland could have change without risk.

Tomorrow Kezia Dugdale will try banging that old drum in London – hoping to inspire constitutional reform across the UK. Few actions could make the case for independence stronger.

While two years ago – amongst the fervour and last-minute campaign jitters – wild promises made many stop and think, the same trust no longer applies. There was the dramatic proclamation of "The Vow". There was Gordon Brown’s chest-thumping claims that the UK would be transformed.

“We’re going to be, within a year or two, as close to a federal state as you can be,” he said 28 months ago. Time’s well and truly up for that approach.

When Dugdale and others promote a "UK federal" response to the movement for independence or Brexit, they are denying the entrenched will of the British political system. The case relies on an apathetic audience descending into amnesia – forgetting that we’ve been round this path again and again.

Surely the public haven’t forgotten the damp squib of the Smith Commission? Months after promises of change were all the rage, as little as possible was done to devolve power from Westminster to Scotland.

The majority of tax and welfare powers were reserved – alongside crucial economic powers like the minimum wage and employment law. The process was met with begrudging contempt from bitter Tories and moaning Lords, who complained at even the minor accommodation of Scottish interests. Almost every single amendment from a Scottish MP was rejected.

Gary Gibson reported how “late in the day, Whitehall started a push-back” to dilute the proposals at the last minute. Among those who stifled devolution? The now Prime Minister Theresa May.

Yet this is only the most recent episode. Older heads will remember the infamous "40 per cent rule" that blocked a Scottish Assembly in 1979 – even when devolution won the referendum. The resulting squabble brought the government down – leading to a generation of Tory intransigence to devolution.

Even after the Scottish Parliament was established, the snail’s-pace approach to power-sharing continued. The Calman Commission was launched following the SNP’s 2007 victory – but only proposed the meekest of financial transitions.

Calman, like every round of devolution so far, was overtaken by events. In that case it was the 2011 SNP majority and the coming referendum. At that stage the trumpeting of a "new historic deal" quickly faded when wiser Unionists realised it wasn’t good enough to sell to the UK. Sound familiar?

Here we are again back at square one. Just as Devolution MkIII begins, Dugdale calls for another review, commission, or trickle of powers – alongside the forlorn hope that the rest of the UK will move at the same pace.

Since devolved assemblies for the north of England were rejected in 2004, that hasn’t been a goer. Tory and Labour MPs opposed greater devolution to Scotland. Even the LibDems, now far less relevant, hardly utter a serious word about "federalism" any more.

It’s become a Unionist safety blanket – something to cling to when times are tough, allowing politicians to daydream of an outbreak of constitutional reform from Westminster. Rather than reform, the Tories are currently trying to use powers designed for ancient monarchies to ram through Brexit.

Will anyone in Scotland really give Dugdale’s hopes of federalism or future promises of "more powers" a second glance? When a fresh independence referendum comes, that hand will have already been dealt. Gordon Brown screamed promises of change from the rooftops. As it never materialised, that’s Unionism’s burden to bear.

As promises of change were vital last time around, that could yet prove too heavy a load to carry.

Scottish Diplomacy in Dublin ... one bar at the time

I VISITED Dublin last week to cover the First Minister’s visit, but one night I tried to escape politics in one of the city’s bars. I met a group of folk in their early twenties, celebrating away after one too many.

“We were at Bipa!”, they exclaimed, expecting some natural confusion. Out of all the strangers I could have met, I’d bumped into the Irish youth delegation back from the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly.

They’d been campaigning for action on homophobic bullying and sexual equality in school education – the very same issues highlighted by the Time for Inclusive Education group in Scotland.

Unavoidably pulled back into politics by the coincidence, we swapped details and I’ve tried to put them in touch with each other.

It was a rare triumph of bar-room diplomacy.