IT was one of the more colourful headlines ever to appear in the traditionally staid Herald newspaper, and it possibly had a few old school editors birlin’ in their graves: “Anti-Boris Johnson Operation Arse hailed as ‘great success’ by senior Tory insider”.

The unnamed politician told The Herald in February that the Etonian man of the people called Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson – whose four (known) children were christened Lara Lettice, Theodore Apollo, Milo Arthur and Cassia Peaches – had “missed his chance” to become Tory leader. The source also let slip, deliberately of course, that between 2012 and 2014, blundering Boris was ordered by Tory bigwigs to stay well clear of Scotland for fear of blowing the Unionist cause to pieces.

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But then along came last month’s European elections, and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, to knock the Tory Party senseless. So senseless, indeed, that their members are now about to anoint as their saviour a sleazy, duplicitous egomaniac with all the authentic sincerity of Elmer Fudd.

The domestic disturbance at the weekend sheds a bit more light on what many of us had already deduced about Boris’s character.

Far from being the affable buffoon that he likes to play in public, he is an obnoxious posh-boy, an overgrown spoiled brat reeking of privilege and entitlement, ready to turn ugly when he doesn’t get his own way. But none of that stopped Donald Trump.

The political right internationally has long since abandoned some of the virtues it used to call its own. Thrift, caution, restraint, duty, deference to the law and such-like are no longer the defining qualities of conservatism. The right is now turbo-charged with greed, cynicism, contempt and malice. In its desperation to remain dominant, it will stop at nothing.Even the United Kingdom is no longer sacrosanct. Yesterday’s Panelbase opinion poll showing that support for Scottish independence will surge into a six-point lead after Boris Johnson becomes PM will strike fear into the heart of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. But, south of Gretna Green, the true-blue brigade doesn’t care. As the old Vera Lynn song says, There Will Always Be an England.

The full data gathered from the Panelbase poll has not, so far, been published. But what we do know is that, even without the Boris factor, support for independence is now running almost neck and neck with support for the Union.

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We also know that if a General Election is held anytime soon, the number of SNP MPs would rise from 35 to 50, while the Tories would slump from 18 to three in Scotland and Labour from seven to one. And in the next Holyrood election, pro-independence parties are on course to win an outright majority. The future of the Union is looking more and more precarious with every week that passes.

And that’s before Brexit has even been enacted. Some on the Unionist left and centre will no doubt cling to the hope that something might turn up to make life easier. Maybe Brexit could still be halted by Westminster via a second EU referendum? Or by a General Election?

For me, any hope of Westminster stopping Brexit is looking more and more forlorn. Like the process of boiling a frog, the idea of a no-deal Brexit has gone from the unthinkable to the possible and now, perhaps, to the probable. If the Tory membership elects Boris Johnson with a landslide majority, as seems more than likely, any prospective rebellion against a no-deal Brexit by Tory moderates may well just fizzle out.

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Even if that doesn’t happen, and Tory rebels unite with the opposition parties to force an election, will that propel Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street? Could the right-wing vote be split by the rise of the Brexit Party, thus allowing Labour to come through the middle, and form a minority government?

In politics – as we have come to realise over these past few years – nothing can ever be ruled out. But Johnson is more than capable of doing a deal with Nigel Farage to avoid what happened in the recent Peterborough by-election. The

Brexit Party would never touch Theresa May with a bargepole, and vice-versa. But a Johnson-led Tory Party would be a different beast entirely. An electoral pact could be on the cards. And beyond that, don’t rule out a major government role for the King of the Brexiteers himself, Nigel Farage.

The Boris and Nigel show may sound like a living nightmare – but that’s the possible terrain we are now entering. The thought of it makes me feel sorry for the millions of ordinary people in England and Wales who don’t deserve to be afflicted with this deadly twosome. And if it does to come to pass, hopefully it will pave the way at some point in the future for a wholesale swing to the left south of the Border.

But in the meantime, the best thing we could do in Scotland would be to make a clean break with the jumped-up Little Englanders who are rapidly taking over the UK ship. Right now, they might still be back-street drivers but before the summer is out, they may well have grabbed control of the wheel.

The worst thing Scotland could do under these circumstances is wait for things to get better at some indeterminate date in the future. We need to strike out boldly in a different direction, leaving behind us the accumulating mess that is the United Kingdom.

And if we can’t get agreement with Westminster for an independence referendum in 2020, we need to do everything we can to win the strongest possible mandate in the next Holyrood election to move to a new ballot on Scotland’s future no later than September 2021.

And this time round, we will win.