IT is gratifying to see other columnists, pundits and assorted oracles, pick up on points first made in this column. Regular readers will recall we forecast last year that 2020 would be the year of the constitution.

How right we were.

Nowadays, it is well-nigh impossible to avoid daily references to some constitutional outrage or crisis. Granted, some of these comments can be safely ignored as they often spring from a glorious yet unrecognised well of ignorance of the subject. Boris Johnson, I am looking at you.

Indeed, in his case one might emerge better informed consulting the musings of Mystic Meg, or any other soothsayer that takes your fancy. This column has warned that Johnson, free of any effective constraint, will now remake the British constitution in his image. Using the populist handbook, he will treat parliament and others with contempt.

Tories presently baying at SNP MPs who have the temerity to speak up for their constituents may soon find themselves on the receiving end of Johnson’s bad behaviour.

They should be warned that his treatment of Scots is a dry run ... as they will shortly discover when he abandons commitments made to secure their election and they face the wrath of their constituents.

Today democracy is a delicate plant. It is being crushed by authoritarian behaviour across the world.

The difference in the UK is that it is so much easier to demolish democracy in a state without a written, codified constitution.

And what are the four signs of authoritarian behaviour to look out for, according to the book How Democracies Die? (Mentioned in last week’s column): Rejection of democratic rules of the game; denial of legitimacy of opponents; toleration or encouragement of violence and readiness to curtail civil liberties of opponents.

Look at these in turn and you will quickly see how it works in Scotland. First, rejection of democratic rules. I give you the dismissal of the Sewel Convention, and the use of EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) to deny Scots MPs a voice over NHS spending.

Second, denial of legitimacy of political opponents. We have heard the siren cry of “you do not have a mandate” so many times. It seems what was a mandate before has changed. And a mandate in Scotland is not the same as a mandate for Westminster, no matter what the numbers say.

Toleration of violence. The incidence of racist attacks in parts of the UK is on the increase. Happily, less so in Scotland – but we have our nutters, too.

They are encouraged by the language used at the top, together with a lack of censure. As the old saying goes: “A fish rots from the head down.”

Readiness to curtail civil liberties of opponents. And not just opponents, to this list we could add the vulnerable.

Witness this obscenity. The new daily allowance for simply turning up at the House of Lords is £323; compared to a roughly similar sum as the monthly allowance for a single person over 25 on Universal Credit.

And to get that Universal Credit means waiting up to six weeks. By that time, the potential Lords pay-out is £323, times five days a week, for six weeks and comes to almost £10,000 – tax free.

Little wonder Tories are queuing up to stick their noses in this trough. Remember too, that many of these snouts belong to those who have flopped in their positions.

In the UK , it is entirely possible to fail upwards.

Be aware, there will be no official announcements to herald this death of democracy. It will happen insidiously. For example, while many were exercised over a “Boris Bridge” between Scotland and Ireland, and with much less fanfare, Michael Gove announced enormous trade restrictions lie ahead. Now this is the precise opposite of what was claimed during the Brexit campaign. Did you see much criticism in the public prints over this reversal?

In Scotland, subverting democracy is even easier than elsewhere, thanks to our media (with the notable exceptions of the Sunday National and the National).

While the Scottish Government beavers away addressing the everyday needs of Scots, a stream of press releases from its opponents are given headline treatment.

Despite the fact that these releases often contain half-digested vapourings and are sometimes fact-free, their prominence is assured.

Anyone witnessing the extraordinary attempts to blame a bridge closure on government ineptitude could be confused for thinking the Scottish Government is in a parlous position. Yet, according to Lord Ashcroft’s analysis of the last General Election released this week the SNP vote is the firmest in the whole of the UK.

This analysis showed that a whacking 87% of its voters would have voted for the party regardless of Brexit.

All roads lead to the constitution. Crucially, an effective constitution can be a real bulwark against authoritarian behaviour. What a pity in 2020 we do not have one.

This column welcomes questions from readers