SEEING Boris Johnson, our titular Prime Minister, landing in Orkney then zipping over to Moray for a flurry of soundbites and media moments was a highlight of an admittedly low-key summer. We have been, collectively, facing large-scale death, so these little moments of joy are important to cherish. Johnson has been hustled north to “Save the Union” (again) with an offer of describing our helplessness and permanent mendicant status. It’s meant to be a show of strength. We’re supposed to be grateful.

Jackson Carlaw (he’s the Conservative leader in Scotland) and Boris Johnson were photographed “elbow bumping” in expensive suits before Carlaw tweeted: “Great to join the PM in Moray today – hugely productive visit. Thanks to the more than 700 members who participated in the Zoom conference. PM answered questions on the future of fishing, trade and jobs. Resolute on our United Kingdom.”

I have questions.

I understand the mood music being created here. Boris was visiting Baxters Food Group, a brand literally draped in tartan. The equation is meant to be this: Comfort Food plus Tradition equals the Union. The photograph outside the soup factory (with seven men and one unfortunate gal) was (I suppose) to evoke power stances and being “resolute about the Union” (or something). Instead it looked like there was a queue for the lavvy.

But why is this a moment of joy?

Well because we are used to the Conservatives choreographing closed-doors events, members-only happenings and generally keeping as far away from the vile “public” as is physically possible. But this was different. The calibre of Johnson’s acolytes and toadies is low, some would say grimly so, his offer of plastering Union Jacks all over dubious infrastructure projects is laughable and his inability to communicate is extraordinary. His bluff blitzkrieg of classical references, factoids and dad jokes wore thin a long time ago. His henchmen of Alister Jack and Jackson Carlaw don’t have any credibility at all outside their immediate family and they have become a tiny sect talking endlessly, and exclusively, to themselves. The idea of 700 of them on one Zoom call is enough to make you shudder.

A long time ago on Bella we were sent a photograph from within a Conservative party conference. On the screens and beamed back to your sofas were the images of power, raw power. Ministers sat on expensive chairs swaggering as they were soft-bowled easy questions from a pliant host. With the right camera framing, this did the job: confident men reeking of authority and confidence laughing down the camera at you. The images were intended to intimidate and impress. Unfortunately, a sharp-eyed reader took a snap from the back of the stalls and the image looked very different. The hall was almost empty and those that were attending were in advanced years. Instead of being the presentation of state power it was the spectacle of a faded, failed ideology.

I remembered this image as I looked at the Baxters Soup photos.

Three white men huddled together around a business table at the centre of which were three carefully placed Baxters mugs. This can really just write itself. On Douglas Ross’s left is some hand-sanitiser. In front of Jackson’s expensively cufflinked wrists are an assortment of other Baxters goods (I suspect a pickle but it’s indistinct).

Behind these three great and resolute men are pinned three flags. On the right is the ancient saltire of Scotland, symbolising “we’re completely Scotch we are, innit”. On the left is the Union Jack proudly representing the “Fab Four” our “Family of Nations” and “Partnership of Equals”. But right in the middle was the proud flag of Baxters Soupland (established 1898).

My point is this. These people are not powerful. They do not have agency or credibility in your country. They do not have strategic or media intelligence. Their propaganda attempts to retain or “save” the Union are laughable. Stop being intimidated by these awful people. Their time is up, they have no story left.

The relentless story I’m hearing is that Boris “will never agree to a Section 30 Order” and if you think he will you are the spawn of Satan. It’s a demoralisingly stupid idea coughed up without explanation like a nationalist furball. Johnson doesn’t know what he’s doing.

The Conservative and Unionists are terrified of what Covid has exposed: two really simple lessons. First, that small nations can cope and innovate and thrive in emergencies. The world is replete with examples. Second, that four-nation Britain has plenty of room for divergent policies and devolved plans. Both are intolerable and so we have to indulge in Johnson’s Trumpesque delusions. It’s not really sustainable.

Evidence of this terror is everywhere. Try the formerly progressive New Statesman where Helen Thompson shrieks: “Months upon end in which the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish executives have exercised devolved powers in health and education, as Westminster ministers are forced to act as England’s government while still retaining UK-wide authority in other contested areas, has convinced ever more people that the Union should end.”

It’s almost as if these were devolved powers.

Thompson continues: “During this emergency, the Conservative government has found it harder to disguise its increasingly visceral dislike of the devolution settlement. This is partly circumstantial since the existing inter-governmental committees, conceived at the time of Scottish and Welsh devolution, have unsurprisingly proved inadequate for co-ordinated emergency decision-making. But ministers also palpably resent the reality that it is ­easier for politicians in power in Edinburgh and Cardiff to make political capital out of the Union’s troubles than it is for those in London.”

Now this really is quite a problem. Watching this channeled through the incoherent prism of the New Statesman rather than the Daily Mail Zone is clarifying, like egg white in a consommé.

My point is this. If you have been fighting for self-determination for years – and want to create a better Scotland – do not at this crucial stage be intimidated by these people. They do not control you. They cannot contain you. They are a thick broth of political failure.