YOU can’t deny the fun to be had at the prospect of English people being stopped at the Scottish Border lest they threaten the health of Scots. Isn’t this a delicious metaphor for the entire constitutional debate?

Jackson Carlaw, never slow to open his mouth without first engaging his brain, produced a predictably irascible response to the possibility of quarantine rules being imposed on people visiting from the rest of the UK. Nicola Sturgeon said she wasn’t planning such a move but, understandably, didn’t rule it out. Her careful navigation of the coronavirus pandemic has brought us to the point where it is almost under control. This doesn’t mean it has been defeated, simply that if we continue to be cautious in our behaviours we can be reasonably sure about getting ahead of it.

Carlaw, though, fell back on the tired fiction that has characterised the Scottish Tories’ entire political strategy for much of the last decade. He said his party accepts that “localised lockdowns” may be necessary, but tweeted “this does not justify arbitrary measures driving a wedge between Scotland and England”.

Carlaw’s juvenile attempt to make Scotland’s coronavirus strategy a constitutional outrage came a day after Sturgeon was pictured wearing a rather fetching, tartan face mask. This, too, elicited fury among some Unionist commentators. They felt this was too Scottish and thus embarrassing. Being a man who’s right into my couture here’s me thinking the First Minister’s chi-chi face mask choice would dovetail rather pleasingly with those elegant tartan Louboutins she occasionally sports at SNP conferences.

READ MORE: Lack of local Covid-19 data from PHE is exposed by Leicester spike

I become queasy when Holyrood politicians promote a sense of Scottish exceptionalism in setting goals. Too often they speak of a desire to be the world’s best when most of us are merely seeking proof of competency. But when you get embarrassed by a Scottish leader choosing to sport a recognisably Scottish motif it might be time for you to address your own feelings of deep insecurity. This isn’t a healthy response and could be indicative of underlying Freudian issues.

Others have accused Scottish nationalists of being gleeful at the prospect of English people being made to shut themselves away for a couple of weeks after stepping into Scotland, or worse being turned back and facing the prospect of driving through Leicester. This betrays another fiction spin by Unionists: that favouring Scottish self-determination is of itself anti-English.

More than 400,000 English people live in Scotland, the overwhelming majority of whom voted No in 2014. It was a major factor in the triumph of the Better Together side. Yet, there has never been any serious attempt – before or since – to restrict a future referendum vote to those with a Scottish bloodline. Morally, this is beyond argument but it makes sense strategically too. For, if the SNP were ever seriously to countenance excluding English voters from a future referendum, then many of us would simply refuse to participate in it.

READ MORE: English independence: 49% of Tory voters in England back idea

If an independent Scotland is to be healthy and successful then we’ll need even more talented and gifted English people making a contribution. Their presence here in such numbers is something of which we should be proud. We should also be grateful that so many exceptional English people, having been educated and raised south of the Border, are happy to put their training and skills at the disposal of civic Scotland. I’ve never once encountered an English person in my personal or professional life that hasn’t enhanced it.

And besides, few of us Scots don’t experience a wee frisson when we see one of our own making it in England. On BBC Breakfast news earlier this month I observed three Scots, each of them a regional director of public health in England’s NHS, speak eloquently about how they were managing the pandemic. The cross-border exchange of talent and ideas will continue unabated after independence, and each of our countries will be the better for it.

IT would be naïve, though, to regard such interaction as indicative of the overall health of England’s political relationship with Scotland. Such respect that exists between Scots and their English friends and neighbours scarcely exists at a political level. No matter how reasonably the case for independence is made, it meets with a hysterical response from the faction that now controls this Conservative Government.

The experience of Holyrood ministers before and after Brexit is a wretched one, characterised by arrogance and antipathy from the UK Government. This is now embedded in the DNA of UK ministers and led to Nicola Sturgeon expressing her frustration this week that the UK Government’s announcement on air bridges had been made without prior consultation with the Scottish Government. Respect is a two-way street and Scottish ministers have seen little of it from their Westminster counterparts over the past five years.

Nor do I think Scotland has changed its attitude to Westminster. But this Tory administration’s attitude to Scotland belies Boris Johnson’s absurdly optimistic words about the state of the Union yesterday.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson spokesman 'laughed' when asked about cash for Scotland

In every sphere of political, cultural and civic life Scotland and England have never been further apart in my lifetime. Indeed the cult that now controls the UK Conservatives has probably never been further apart from many of its own rank-and-file MPs. What we are seeing operating at the top of the UK Government are the dregs of this party.

Many of those holding ministerial positions are there only because of their slavish devotion to a hard Brexit. They may believe that their cabinet position gives them influence, but they are merely Dominic Cummings’s footstools, serving only at his pleasure. The real talent in the UK Conservative party are all in exile, having not been considered sufficiently doctrinally pure by Boris Johnson’s Rose-garden Rasputin.

It’s Britain’s tragic misfortune that the first test of Johnson’s Stepford cabinet was a global pandemic. If this had been a normal challenge their inadequacy might have carried the usual consequences of Tory power: lost jobs, poorer communities and a widening of the poverty gap. In the past few months, though, Britain has paid with thousands of lives and our public humiliation on the global stage.

Under the Brexiteers, Britain is a country that has begun to seal itself off for a generation, like some jungle civilisation overtaken by a suicide cult and left to crumble before its ruins are discovered by explorers many centuries later. That is England’s sorry business but Scotland must have no part in it.

And if Nicola Sturgeon believes that imposing border restrictions is one way of halting the madness at Scotland’s Border then English people should know who to blame.