THERE are innumerable dystopian skits where towns, cities, or even entire countries have been "sealed off". Pandemics, wars and even zombies are your usual suspects. From big class domes to electrified walls, every conceivable human misery has been met with the question: "What would the government actually do?"

So when Jacob Rees-Mogg accused Nicola Sturgeon of trying to build a wall, it has broader imagery. The question is less about how great our imagination is and more a genuine fear over the powers and limits of the state. Scotland's right to erect a cordon sanitaire is a rational decision given that health is a devolved area. The legalities might be messy, but so has everything else from Brexit to Covid in the last five years. 

The visceral reaction Mogg and other UK Government officials have triggered is rooted in a very palpable and driving fear of many in Scotland - does the Scottish Parliament exist at the pleasure of Westminster

READ MORE: Rees-Mogg’s gaslighting of Sturgeon borders on the ridiculous

Ian Blackford, Mhairi Black and Nicola Sturgeon herself have all made this point. The British constitution rests on parliamentary sovereignty as well as convention. This is a political, not a legal constitution - Westminster absolutely can shut down Holyrood

As sure as we can imagine giant domes in our science-fiction, we can predict the en masse protesting if the idea was ever even flirted with. But political suicide aside, the last decade has confirmed anything is possible constitutionally. 

This isn't to hammer home a scaremongering argument. It's an honest appraisal of what is a legal fact if not a political likelihood. Boris Johnson created and installed himself as "Minister for the Union" (with a budget of £10 million). It remains unclear precisely what the role entails, especially given portfolios exist for the home nations (bar England), anyway.

Dual portfolios can often be emblematic, but for the Prime Minister, one would expect something of a more practical remit. Winston Churchill created and held the post of Minister for Defence in the Second World War but that decision was to direct a war effort. 

READ MORE: Jacob Rees-Mogg claims Scotland is just a 'district or area'

Just this week to the Dunlop Review leak - held in the prime minister's drawer for eight months - which allegedly calls for a Union Tsar. There will come a point when you cannot create role upon role to tackle longstanding malfunctions in the United Kingdom. 

There is some irony that a Union Tsar should, in practice, be the Secretary of State for Scotland. The position is all but a technicality now with none of the policymaking powers it had in days of old when the Scottish Office was established in 1885.

For most of the Union's history, Scotland's institutions have remained distinct, including education, law and health. But in a globalised, interconnected world, the paternalist, night watchman apparatus of the Union's first three centuries is long over. There must be a clear, understandable stratification that is obvious to every citizen. At the moment, there is a maze, and it inevitably leads to conflicts both real and avoidable. 

READ MORE: Dunlop Review calls for ‘Union tsar’, leaked report reveals

If a radical change is to be made, if the British constitution is as flexible to (theoretically) close a parliament, there should be a way for Holyrood to nominate a Scottish Secretary from Scottish MPs elected to Westminster. The role could be non-partisan, like the presiding officer. But the scale of lateral thinking required, including adopting a federal structure, makes it unlikely if not impossible. There's a contradiction in a system that is meant to adapt, yet holds its constituent parliaments under a Sword of Damocles with no imaginative recourse. 

Brexit is a case and point. It is impossible to truly untangle where reserved, and devolved matters begin and end with such a massive event. The Sewel Convention (where the Scottish Parliament has to ascent to any UK legislation that impinges on a devolved area), almost seems like a joke when EU citizens in Scotland have been living in fear for four years.

Placebo portfolios are not enough to plaster over the very serious cracks in the supposed adaptability of the UK constitution. If it can at once, even, in theory, vote the Scottish Parliament out of existence, surely it should be able to offer Scotland a new bargain in the Union? A Scottish Secretary proposed to Number 10 by Holyrood is no less absurd than a "Minister for the Union" offering no tangible change. 

It is worth in closing, reflecting that a wall works both ways - to keep people in, as well as keep others out. In this, it is a question of the eye of the beholder. A giant cordon sanitaire might be established for health reasons, but it was also the term for ideological restraining the spread of communism in the 20th century. 

It cannot be healthy for the UK Government to turn Scotland's legitimate remit into a "Bordergate". A decent into such imagery on par with an Iron Curtain does nothing to advance the Union, nor does it display any respect for Scotland's policymaking powers. 

Every book and every theory on rights and duties understands you cannot have one without the other. And yet there is a rhetoric of passive-aggressiveness towards Scotland that expects participation in the United Kingdom, without radical reform, new precedents and new thinking. 

If there's going to be any wall, it can be no higher than the one that already blocks the way to new ideas. 

Alastair Stewart is a public affairs consultant with Orbit Communications. He regularly writes about politics and history with a particular interest in the life of Winston Churchill. Follow him on Twitter at @agjstewart