YOU know the Union is under threat when Tories are reduced to shrieking about face-coverings. This Great Mask Debate of theirs is what happens when you elect a former used car salesman to lead your party. Little wonder that Adam Tomkins, one of the few Tory MSPs capable of talking and thinking at the same time, has now elected to seek sanctuary in his old university cloisters. Prolonged exposure to this lot can seriously damage your academic reputation. In Tomkins’s case, a single term proved more than he could handle.

It’s not immediately clear what it is about the SNP’s Scottish-themed veneers that upsets them so much. It surely can’t be that the party is making a modest profit from the offending vizards. There was a time when the Tories would have applauded such free-market enterprise. I trust Dominic Cummings and his Downing Street glove puppet will send secret emissaries north to check that this isn’t the first sign of galloping collectivism. Besides, the highwayman’s guise has lately become the Tories’ favoured clothing accessory in financial transactions. How many Government ministers, according to last week’s Russia Report, were the recipients of Russian largesse: 12, 14? You begin to lose count after a while.

Perhaps Jackson Carlaw feels that these masks have become too successful. There was I naively thinking that any incentive to wear a facial covering might actually lead to a reduction in rates of infection. These veils can look a bit bland in simple black or white. I’d have thought that any attempts to make them a little more chi-chi and insouciant will both save lives and maintain our hard-won reputation for haute couture. Not only are the SNP encouraging people to stay safe and act responsibly when visiting the shops, they’re also rubbing salt in the Tories’ wounds by using popular Scottish icons like the Saltire, the Lion Rampant and the Greggs steak bake. Apparently, though, this is nothing more than tribalism. And anyone who manages to avoid catching Covid-19 by using these disreputable masks really ought to be rethinking their priorities. Perhaps the SNP’s marketing chiefs should get some made with a can of Baxters soup and a Tunnock’s caramel wafer.

The Union’s favourite house commentators have observed something even more sinister in these wretched bandannas. By using the Saltire the SNP are claiming ownership of Scotland’s national flag and politicising it. How dare they! In future I expect the plods to stop all members of the Tartan Army seeking ingress to Hampden Park and asking them to fill out a simple questionnaire before they’re allowed to bring in their Saltires. If you can prove you aren’t a supporter of Sottish independence then you’re free to proceed unhindered for thus the flag will be an innocent token of patriotic fervour.

But if it turns out that you’re a pure mad mental Nat then you’ll be required to ditch the flag. In your hands it could be construed as Nasty And Divisive© and a clear breach of the peace. Best to carry a tin of Baxters spicy tomato, rice and Sweetcorn soup or a Tunnock’s teacake, just in case.

The Tories’ mask meltdown happened as they were getting furious at Nicola Sturgeon’s daily coronavirus updates. The First Minister has been accused of shamelessly politicising these broadcasts. In this case, though, I feel the Tories’ pain and that of their Scottish Labour allies.

At first, they could just about stomach the contrast in styles between their sworn political enemy and the UK Prime Minister. There’s Sturgeon with her Christian Louboutins and looking like her hair has recently been washed and combed. And there’s the leader of the UK looking like a bag of washing and sounding like one too. But you could handle that while she was announcing death and sickness rates.

Now that Scotland seems to be getting on top of the virus while England is seeing daily, three-figure death rates, they’re changing their tune. “This is jolly unfair. We can’t have the BBC giving the First Minister a daily platform to tell the country good news.”

There was me innocently believing that we were all in this together and that the Tories – like all other men and women of goodwill – were cheering themselves hoarse with each announcement that there had been no deaths in the preceding 24 hours. But no: all this time they’ve been shouting “Higher! Higher!” in a perverse coronavirus version of Bruce Forsyth’s Play Your Cards Right.

They’ve even written to BBC Scotland, urging the national broadcaster to stop participating in this daily charade of optimism and wellbeing.

“Dear Pacific Quay, it has behoved to our attention that youze have participated in an exercise of naked propaganda in wanting for to show the First Minister of Scotland in a good light day after day.

“While England is still bearing the brunt of this vile epidural it is unseemly to show Sturgeon gloating about our low Covid-19 rates. This is not the act of a good neighbour and is designed to drive a wedge between our two great nations who have stood shoulder to shoulder in previous times of exist-torrential threat.

“We are also deeply concerned about the First Minister’s irresponsible use of profanities before the 7pm watershed. And it has also come to our attention that Frank the Bute House doorman is a valued public servant who deserves better than to be disrespected by the country’s political leader by being asked to fetch her tea at all times of the day.”

And just as we were thinking how odd it was not to have had Ruth Davidson taking umbrage, she came rushing into the fray.

Writing in The Sunday Times, the former Tory leader reflected on the political landscape six years after the first independence referendum: “Mistakes have been made, and one of these was not sticking the boot in after the 2014 referendum.”

Davidson is the honorary colonel in chief of her former Territorial Army Regiment, the 32 Signals, aka the paintball fusiliers.

They’re a cheery bunch, mainly used to running about the Campsie Fells and diving for rubber bricks in their pyjamas at the deep end of the local swimming baths to keep themselves all shipshape and Bristol fashion.

Five years after she claimed her supporters were getting intimidated by those fabled “burly men” at polling stations it’s a bit late now to be talking about putting the boot in.