BUFFOON or fiendishly clever? Folk in the know have warned against underestimating Boris Johnson, after his serial success in winning the Tory party leadership and then the General Election. But now, it’s starting to look like the Tory leader’s buffoon credentials might have the edge.

Less than four working weeks into his new premiership, the Prime Minister seems to be running into the sand accompanied by his (supposedly) brilliant strategist, Dominic Cummings. Suddenly, the disruptive strategies that worked so well in opposition, aren’t working in Government. Quelle Surprise.

The National: Donald Trump speaking at an election rally

In just one week, Boris has discovered that copying Donald Trump to intimidate the media doesn’t work, relabelling No Deal as “the Australia deal” doesn’t work, cosying up to Sir David Attenborough while the gloriously outspoken Claire Perry O’Neill is ripping your green credentials to pieces doesn’t work, asking your one-time homies David Cameron and William Hague to step into the breach doesn’t work and denying the Scottish Government’s clear mandate for a second independence referendum also doesn’t work.

Boris’s tough “Just Say No” approach has worked so well north of the Border that support for independence is now at an all-time high. Thanks, man. Indeed, the revelation that 52% of Scots would now vote Yes was described by ITV’s Robert Peston as the “first serious setback” for the Prime Minister.

Praise indeed, given the long list of howlers whose collective importance it’s effortlessly exceeded.

But Boris isn’t learning.

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This week SNP MPs were excluded from a vote on health spending thanks to Cameron’s post-indyref wheeze EVEL, or English Votes for English Laws. The Tories tried to dismiss this as a fuss over nothing by a party which controls a devolved government but greedily wants Commons clout as well. Really. Scottish voters are nae daft. We know that levels of health spending in England are part of a complex equation that dictates spending levels for the Scottish Government. So, it was absolutely legitimate for SNP MPs to want to vote. In fact, they don’t generally bulldoze into English issues. SNP MPs were voluntarily abstaining from votes on purely English matters years before Cameron’s English-Tory-pleasing EVEL regulations came in.

The National: Boris Johnson

Boris may not think we know all this. But we do.

Thanks to the awakening of the indyref, Scots are extremely savvy about the weird machinery of governance in Britain, and understand that a democratic share of power and control is far more valuable than dodgy, reversible, conditional offers of dosh. But that doesn’t mean Boris won’t compound all his current mistakes by giving bribery and propaganda a try.

More on the love-bomb soon.

But first, there’s the Budget. Boris doesn’t care that devolved governments – including Scotland – are having to guess, not plan, their own spending plans in advance of the UK Budget. Why? Because Holyrood and Scottish councils are legally bound to play it by the book, while Boris can make it up as he goes along. I’d guess anyone interested in fair play and responsible governance will remember this total abdication of fiscal responsibility the next time Scottish Tories start throwing mud at the Scottish Government.

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There’s also the new danger of friendly fire. Now that Brexit has finally united the Tories over Europe, some restless Tory MPs are looking for other fish to fry. During Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris was pressed by former first secretary of state Damian Green, and former Brexit secretary David Davis, to promise he’d find an alternative 5G provider to Huawei, so the UK can stop using the controversial Chinese firm as soon as possible. Boris declined to give such a promise, prompting audible grumbling from his own ranks. With so many bristling, snubbed ex-ministers on his own backbenches, perhaps Boris will soon be feeling sympathy for Jeremy Corbyn. Aye, maybe not.

The National: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn

BUT Boris faces another big decision that’s bound to annoy some fellow Conservatives. The high-speed rail project HS2 will either get the go-ahead, infuriating opponents like Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy no less, or will be rejected without any alternative. Either way, Boris will lose friends. Hell hath no fury like a recent northern convert to Conserv-atism scorned. With a total waste of the eyewatering £7.5 billion spent by the UK Government so far, cancellation will make it even harder for Scottish Tories to claim the Scottish Government’s wasting any money with modest preparations for indyref2.

Still, all these gaffes may fade into insignificance if Boris brings the UK Cabinet north as promised, for a meeting so well guarded against intervention by actual Scots it will make Theresa May’s hermetically sealed leather factory visit look like a “come all ye” ceilidh.

Boris has announced his intention to brave the weather and the pelters several times already but hasn’t given a date, leading to speculation that’ll be timed to coincide with the £5 million love-bomb of cinema ads, spending announcements and billboard propaganda directed at Scots and expected on Valentine’s Day. For the loveless amongst you, that’s next week.

Now maybe a love-bomb can be prepared in 10 days. Maybe they’ve been working on it for a wee while. Or maybe the distinctive scent of very bad vibes has been wafting southwards on the Brexit air, alerting even the special ones in Downing Street to the possibility that wadges of dodgy propaganda followed by a “special visit” north could be a recipe for PR disaster. The SNP seems peculiarly averse to using its own considerable resources to organise significant protest events (like January 31), but the activist wings of the Yes movement will happily organise another gig that lets Scots tell the media what we can’t tell “our” Prime Minister face to face. It’s Scotland’s right to choose.

Now admittedly, Boris doesn’t appear to give a toss.

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He’s telling UK ambassadors not to sit beside their EU counterparts at meetings, as if Europeanism is suddenly some scabby contagious disease. A Prime Minister this petty and obtuse is really not going to worry about offending Scots.

The National: Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to the King's College London Mathematics School

But Boris beware.

Soon the number of groups offended will exceed the numbers bribed to stay onside. Astonishingly, Boris has succeeded in creating a very select and well populated “Salon de Refusés”– the radical and mutually supportive group of artists and free-thinkers who created their own “salon” after rejection by the official Paris Salon in the mid-19th century.

The UK media have unquestion-ably “got” the democratic deficit in Scotland thanks to Brexit – now even indy-sceptic titles are more likely to feel common cause with the “revolting” Scots, since their own inexplicable exclusion from a civil service press conference earlier this week. Not only did Boris’s people ban selected leftie titles, but also excluded the “regional press”, including the main Unionist papers in Scotland, which provoked a walk-out by the “acceptable” media, including Laura Kuenssberg from the BBC.

Boris and his unfair exclusions have created some unlikely bedfellows and generated a feeling of common cause and mutual sympathy amongst the very disparate groups elbowed out by Number 10 – and no-one’s been more elbowed than the long-suffering Scots.

And all of this before the Prime Minister’s even begun his unachievable 11-month dash to clinch an EU trade deal.

If Boris is starting as he means to finish, Yessers should start limbering up now.

The swing in the polls needed to trigger indyref2 might come far faster than any of the doubters imagine.