THE stories we tell ourselves about our world aren’t really working anymore. “We live in a democracy, we live in a world of press freedom, we live in a union made up of differing countries pooling resources for a common purpose.” Until recently all of these stories could be retold with some confidence and credibility by large sections of Scottish voters. This week that no longer seems viable.

As the Prime Minister toured her United Kingdom, the level of estrangement, disaffection and political bad feeling is unparalleled.

In banning a newspaper they didn’t like, The National, No 10’s press team was caught this week operating like a Sarah Huckabee Sanders tribute act.

It provoked statements of solidarity from a diverse group of journalists including Paul Mason, Paul Hutcheon, David Leask and Stephen Daisley, and MPs including the LibDem’s Christine Jardine, who compared it to both Donald Trump revoking the White House press pass of CNN’s Jim Acosta and Alex Salmond’s decision to ban journalists from The Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Daily Express from his resignation press conference after the 2014 referendum on independence.

The media ban even provoked an exchange on Sky News in which seasoned media commentators intoned that this was indeed a terrible mistake of judgement – and that “if the National reporters were going to protest then fair enough but...”

The misjudgement would – we were told – result in the story being played badly for the PM on every radio and TV station.

Two things are worth noting. The first is that the idea The National reporters were going to “protest” is both laughable and insulting to the professionalism of The National team and shows the chasm in understanding between some sectors of Scottish and English political media, and second the idea that this story will be “all over” the Scottish media shows a very feeble understanding of the media landscape in Scotland. But that’s no surprise.

What the action does tell us is that certain areas of our supposed United Kingdom are considered so “other”, so alien, that normal principles of democracy and media are suspended.

This in a state where Scottish Government modelling shows even a free trade agreement will mean by 2030, Scottish GDP £1600 less per head compared with EU membership.

This in a state where 62% of people voted against cultural exclusion and economic breakdown. This in a state where at least half the population want to exercise their right to self-determination.

What the press ban tells us is more than the No 10 press office being “feart” or “incompetent”, it tells us a deeper story about British politics and the profoundly damaging impact of the nationalist fervour that has created the Brexit crisis, a crisis which is partly the culmination of a deep and long-running crisis of English identity and partly the impact of forces wanting to create a different model of economic policy, for whom even the captured and hollowed-out British system was inadequate for their extractive aims.

Way back in 2012 Theresa May (then Home Secretary peddling hate vans around London) visited Troon and produced a typically sclerotic speech mouthing nonsense. She started off with the observation that: “It’s a real privilege to be here in Troon today. What a beautiful town it is. So typically Scottish: the stunning coast line, friendly people and of course the famous golf course.”

She continued: “I want Scotland to be part of the United Kingdom. Because ladies and gentleman, I believe in the Union. A shared past. Centuries of being together.

“The Union, for all its history of ups and downs, is to be cherished. I have no doubt that Scotland could survive outside the United Kingdom. But together we are stronger. Stronger on the world stage. Stronger in protecting our sovereignty in Europe.”

The idea of the Union as a sort of sacred, quasi-mystical thing to be “cherished” despite its “ups and downs” isn’t something you hear much about these days. It’s almost quaint to recall the framing used in the past.

IT’S a vision of unity and our place in Europe that is darkly comic now, as we stand on the brink of economic uncertainty and potential catastrophe wrought by English nationalism and xenophobia and the power plays within the Conservative party of a handful of public schoolboys.

That vision of Britain as an outward-looking entity through which we stepped into the world in a strengthened state is completely shattered by the Brexit phenomenon, and it’s a political argument that can’t be re-invented or restored.

So too is the notion of equal partners with which May ended her speech in 2012: “I’m pleased to have this opportunity to talk to you about a future in which Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England continue to flourish side-by-side as equal partners. Different and proud to be so.”

That fantasy from the Magical Kingdom is gone now. In the end days of Brexit Britain it seems positively utopian to re-read May’s words. Scotland and England and Britain and the United Kingdom are divided internally in multiple ways: across class and race and gender and nationality, and perhaps more than anything across age.

If the treatment of the National threw up issues of press freedom and a strange transient consensus about quaint perceived notions of democracy and media, it also shone a light on the mutual incomprehension of the British political and media elite with large sections of Scottish society.

For some the very idea that you might want to break with British rule puts you so at odds with the world that you are probably a “protester”.

May’s stage-managed tour of Britain to put the case for her doomed Brexit deal looked like a latter-day colonial visit to the regions. It’s a deal that the public can’t vote on but must “understand” and “support” (presumably through osmosis).

Her increasingly desperate pleas are for MPs to support her deal through patriotism and through the latent threat of, variously, a calamitous no-deal crash or, worse for some, the spectre of a Corbyn government.

The threat of a no-deal scenario is not over-played, while the terrors of a Corbyn government tell us far more about the horrors of Middle England than we need to know.

But this is a doomed strategy from a doomed Prime Minister, “in office but not in power”, to resurrect an old phrase, and only nominally in charge of a party that is so broken and divided it, ironically, for the first time ever, reflects the country it seeks to rule.

There seems to be multiple route maps out of this hell, including: asserting the sovereignty of Holyrood by running the next Scottish election on the constitutional question and using any resulting mandate to leverage power; or to do the same via a UK general election and negotiate terms for a Section 30 order with an incoming non-Tory government of whatever make-up.

Useful variants and combinations exist, but like streams running downhill there is only one destination.

None of this was inevitable nor even necessary. But the treatment of Scotland, and connectedly Ireland, has been both appalling and revealing.

There is no going back from this contempt, rooted as it is in a rich brew of ignorance and self-entitlement.

But for now and from now on we will no longer hear the story of a “Partnership of Equals”.