AFTER a period of silence, our Secretary of State for Scotland has re-emerged from his dug-out at the Scottish Office to downplay an “almost inevitable” challenge to the emergency Scottish Continuity Bill at the Supreme Court this month.

In an interview at the start of the week, the Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell insisted that it was just a “process thing” for UK Government law officers to ask the Supreme Court to dismiss Holyrood’s bid to protect devolution from a Brexit power grab.

Mundell argues that this unusual legal challenge is “no big deal” during “an evolving constitutional process”, making light of Westminster’s attempts to defy Holyrood and the democratic wishes of the Scottish people.

This is surely a massive understatement. The UK Government taking Holyrood to court could spark a major constitutional crisis and yet the man with a responsibility to defend Scotland’s best interests is just shrugging it off as merely part of the process, whatever that might mean.

This lack of concern is worrying but hardly surprising given the catalogue of ineptitude by Mundell and his Scottish Office since the whole Brexit debacle began.

After all, it was Mundell along with his 12 Scottish Tory MP colleagues in Westminster who failed to act on protecting devolved powers when they missed the deadline for challenging the EU Withdrawal Bill at Parliament, a blatant abdication of duty. And it was four of his Scottish Tory MPs who put their names to the hard Brexit stance taken by the Rees-Mogg faction of London Tories, despite the wishes of their constituents to Remain, and in open defiance of their Scottish leader Ruth Davidson, who has been as quiet as a mouse on the matter. Just look at the betrayal of the Scottish fishing community by the MPs and government they voted for; they were sold Brexit as an opportunity to gain back control of their waters, instead they’ve been double-crossed and once again treated as “expendable” by the very party they’d entrusted with their future. This betrayal highlights the danger on key sectors such as fishing, farming, food standards and the environment that are under threat from a Tory power grab. These areas are at the very heart of the devolution settlement.

It is this instability brought on by the UK Government’s mishandling of Brexit that Michael Russell, Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, hopes to counter with the EU Continuity Bill. This Bill, deemed legally competent by Scotland’s top law officer, the Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC – despite Holyrood’s Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh expressing doubts – seeks to protect existing devolved powers staying in Scotland after Brexit. At present, through the UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill, all devolved powers will be repatriated from Brussels to Westminster after March 29 next year. Although Theresa May and her Cabinet ministers have promised this “holding” of devolved powers will be a temporary measure before their return to Scotland, Holyrood is wary of accepting such a pledge, given the current government’s lack of clarity on the Brexit process. Indeed, Nicola Sturgeon has said that no First Minister “worth their salt” would agree to support the EU Withdrawal Bill in its current form. As we already know, the Welsh National Assembly thinks the same, having passed their own Continuity Bill, in agreement with their Presiding Officer, who found no legal problem with these proposals.

This is the first time ever that the Scottish Parliament has proceeded against the advice of a Presiding Officer. But when the Scottish Government’s senior law officer states that the Bill is within the legislative competence of the Parliament, and the Presiding Officer in Wales has supported a similar bill, it seems impolitic to involve the Supreme Court. Indeed, if the Scottish Continuity Bill is incompatible with EU Law as Ken McIntosh suggests, then it could be argued that so too is the UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill. And that’s a whole other ball game that I’m guessing the Secretary of State for Scotland would rather not talk about.

So, no matter how much Mundell trivialises his party’s attempts to overturn the Continuity Bill, Scots should have their eyes open. Mundell has promised businesses and organisations that opportunities will flow from Brexit but we know the reality will be a world away from his wishy-washy assurances. After all, both the Scottish Parliament and Mundell’s own UK Government’s Brexit analysis reveal the devastating impact on Scotland of leaving the EU. The threat to our economy is a real and present danger, and the threat to the very foundation stone of our devolved Parliament is even greater.

The UK Government has until April 18 to decide its legal course of action on the Continuity Bills from Scotland and Wales. For all Mundell’s insouciance, he’s not fooling anyone. He’s a duck on the water but his legs are paddling like mad underneath all that fake, relaxed patter.

A constitutional crisis is a big deal, another big deal piled on the many that face his party over their botched handling of leaving the EU. And it might be the one that breaks the Brexit bourach once and for all.