AS you know, gentle reader, we like to challenge you in this column. Here’s a question for you. How old is this quote? “More and more the House of Commons tends to become a putrid mass of corruption, a quagmire of sordid madness, a conglomeration of mercenary, spiritless hacks, dead alike to honour and self-respect.”

In fact, Keir Hardie wrote this well over a century ago. Yet, it could so easily have been penned today.

The UK state is in a weaker condition to face the “perfect storm” that awaits than at any time in its history.

On the immediate horizon a tsunami looms. It is a combination of the pandemic, Brexit and the very strong likelihood of a financial crash. Just one of these calamities would tax the most competent administration, and the UK Government is way short of that.

Of course, the people who really control the state, couldn’t care less. Why? Because they’re betting on it to fail.

The Byline Times reveals: “Currently £4.6 billion of aggregate short positions on a No-Deal Brexit have been taken out by hedge funds that directly or indirectly bankrolled Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign.”

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And: “Another £3.7 billion of these positions have been taken out by firms that donated to Vote Leave campaign but not directly to the Johnson leadership campaign.” For these speculators, at least £8.3bn hinges on Brexit happening. In other news, the Good Law Group is suing the UK Government over its decision to grant a £108 million contract for the supply of PPE to Crisp Websites Ltd.

Since the start of the pandemic, the UK has signed more than 100 contracts – worth in total nearly £350m – for the supply of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. Of that total, around a third was tied up in one contract with one company – Crisp Websites Ltd, trading as Pestfix.

The number of bidders who competed for the contract was precisely one. At the time the UK Government issued the purchase order, Crisp Websites Ltd’s last reported net assets amounted to a mere £18,047.

As the Good Law Group points out, this raises a number of questions. These include: where was the contract advertised? If it was not advertised, how and why was Crisp Websites Ltd chosen?

Why did the Government not publish the notice announcing the award of the contract within the required 30 days?

It is now two months after the contract concluded. Why has the Government not published the contract – the recommendation is that it do so within 20 days?

As the Good Law group points out. “The bare facts beggar belief. They involve large sums of public money – about the same as what the Government planned to save by scrapping free school meal vouchers in England.”

Turning closer to home, the term “ambulance chasing” comes from the stereotype of lawyers that follow ambulances to a hospital emergency room to solicit clients.

Sadly, Scotland has its fair share of ambulance chasers. Found at the site of every crisis, they can be recognised by their fulminations against any attempt by the Scottish Government to aid its citizens.

Ambulance chasers like to associate with others of a similar stripe. In their zeal to exploit a crisis they are happy to manufacture one, if circumstances fail to provide a suitable casualty.

Ambulance chasers are deeply embedded in Unionist parties and frequent familiar habitats. The BBC Scotland news studio always provides a particularly warm welcome for them. While Unionists bite at the Scottish Government’s ankles, they pay no heed to very real dangers ahead.

Did you think bankers had learned from the last financial crash? Nope. The Atlantic magazine warns of a very real threat to the world economy. The peril lies on the balance sheets of US and other banks, and “it could be cataclysmic”.

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The Atlantic says: “We could be on the precipice of another crash, but this one could be worse than 2008.” The problem lies with so-called CLOs - collateralised loan obligations.

Similar to the now-banned mortgage-based CDOs, these are loans to businesses that have maxed out their borrowing and can no longer sell bonds directly to investors or qualify for a traditional bank loan. Wells Fargo bank alone has $29.7bn in CLOs on its books.

As The Atlantic says: “It is a massive number; and it is inside the bank.”

To deal with this looming three-fold tsunami Scotland needs to get its house in order – fast. When all else falls apart, we will depend on our shared values. Let’s get our constitution in place soonest so that we have a bulwark of common purpose to shelter us against the gathering storm.

This column welcomes questions from readers