DURING the second Iraq War the only moments of humour, grim as they were, came when Saddam Hussein’s information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf gave televised briefings. These led to him being nicknamed “Comical Ali” as they were farcically distant from the truth. On one occasion he asserted, volubly and dogmatically, that there were no American troops in Baghdad when their tanks could actually be heard in the background rumbling through the streets.

I get little amusement from my work with the UK Government these days, but I did laugh out loud at a Radio Scotland interview with the UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma on Thursday morning when, in trying to justify what he called the “internal market” that the UK needed to guarantee after Brexit, he asserted that there were at least 100 “new powers” coming to the Scottish Parliament after Brexit and called in evidence a list that was attached to a press release from his government, entitled, in best Orwellian prose, “Government acts to protect jobs in every part of the UK”.

The kindest thing that can be said about this Comical Ali moment was that Sharma didn’t yet realise how badly he had been set up by his colleague Michael Gove, who is the UK’s constitutional minister, and his former SPAD Dominic Cummings.

Gove’s and Cummings’s fingerprints are all over this planted fiction. It is a blatant attempt to mislead journalists and the public by using false information in order to hide a single true fact – that the Tory UK Government intends to remove significant powers from the devolved administrations by means of Westminster legislation. The list is actually a mish-mash of things we already have, things we won’t have (because of the frameworks already voluntarily agreed as the means for preserving internal trade) and things that will be over-ridden by the UK’s decision to undermine the high standards we presently observe.

READ MORE: Ruth Davidson backs UK Government's Brexit power grab on Scotland

In the first category lie subjects such as flood management, animal welfare, forestry and EU voting rights. Those are not only matters with which the Scottish Parliament currently deals, they are ones on which we have actually legislated.

Frameworks covering areas where we accept that we would benefit from voluntary cohesion are already either in place or being developed. The UK knows this because, by law, it is Gove himself who has to report on these matters once every three months to Westminster.

Moreover, the principles that underpin the frameworks were agreed last year and they include an absolute commitment to respect the devolved settlement and not alter the powers of the devolved parliaments’ powers without their agreement.

That is now being ignored and if the Tories get their way on imposing what they call, in their deceitful way, “mutual recognition” and “non discrimination” then any and all existing powers can be over-ruled on a Whitehall whim.

There isn’t the slightest doubt, as confirmed by the Labour First Minister of Wales on Wednesday night, that this is a major power grab designed to undermine the existing devolution settlement and devised by those who want to disable devolution.

However, the UK Government knows that a frontal assault would not succeed so that is why their press release was couched in the most dishonest of terms and why they are attempting to keep the issue as far away from the constitutional debate as possible. Sharma proved that on Thursday by firstly asking for a call with the economy ministers of the two countries to talk about the so-called internal market, and then cancelling the one to Scotland when he was told he would have to discuss it with me, as it was a constitutional issue.

But the ever compliant placemen who are the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales are already ringing round businesses assuring them that the devolved governments are making a fuss about nothing, and that all that they are proposing is a means to ensure certainty and profitability.

Neither, of course, is true because in reality this power grab will ultimately be very bad not just for individuals but also for hard-pressed Scottish business.

The fact is that in order to compensate in even the smallest of ways for the inevitable Brexit recession, the UK must secure any trade deal they can, no matter how bad, even if it will result in a relentless drive to the bottom in terms of food and product standards, terms and conditions of employment and environmental protections .

Unfortunately many Scottish companies will be undercut and ruined by such a process. Add that to the effects of the Covid recession and there are grim times ahead.

That is why it is so important to stand against this deceitful and dishonest coup and to tell the truth about the nonsense of the UK Tory position – and the supine Scottish Tory one – because its basic contention is as flawed as its operation.

For if they really think that the type of conformity they are trying to impose on all the nations of these islands is essential, why are they leaving the EU single market? Are they, by doing so, not putting at risk the almost 50% of trade that the UK does with the EU, worth almost £300 billion a year?

In reality a degree of variance is not only acceptable, it provides for a richer set of markets and a more diverse competitive environment. The EU provides a level playing field for fair competition, not a sterile desert. The only people who think trade will die unless it is given rigid, imposed homogeneity are those without imagination or aspiration.

Some of those are actually in or around the UK Government, of course, and this week they exposed their intolerance and their deviousness for all to see.

It wasn’t a pretty sight but it was a revealing one ... a warning of what is to come unless we stand firm, resist now and and step out of this Union as soon as we can.