DOES any Scots lawyer care so little for their reputation that they’ll step forward to replace Lord Keen as Advocate General for Scotland?

I hope not.

It was only a matter of time before this high-ranking legal adviser (and former chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party) resigned. You can be the lackey of a government brazenly preparing to break international law – or you can be a lawyer. You cannae be both.

It took longer for that penny to drop with Richard Keen than Sir Jonathan Jones, permanent secretary of the British Government’s Legal Department who quit last week.

But once Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis clarified that he spoke for the British Government when he warned the new Internal Market Bill might “break international law in a specific and limited way,” Richard Keen’s resignation was inevitable. Boris Johnson tried to keep him in post.

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But with Labour’s shadow attorney general Charlie Falconer and the SNP’s Joanna Cherry attacking his position as untenable, it seemed inconceivable that he could be persuaded to stay, unless perhaps the Government were to allow MPs a final vote on overriding the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Even then, his Lordship’s reputation in Scottish legal circles would have been trashed. It may seem surprising that Boris was busting a gut to keep a Scots legal adviser few voters will recognise. But it’s what flows from Lord Keen’s resignation that matters.

The Number 10 plan to break international law doesn’t involve some abstruse, arcane bit of policy. No, it involves the daddy of them all – the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. You remember – the legislation that formalised Boris’s “negotiating triumph”, became the centre-piece of his manifesto and the reason he won a landslide victory in the December 2019 election.

It’s his own deal he’s breaking.

Clearly, Boris thinks he can return a jacket to M&S with the label cut off and crab-meat on the cuffs, cos Dominic thinks it disnae suit him. That may have seemed like admirable chutzpah once. Now it just looks dangerously wrong.

Whether he disowns it or not, the Withdrawal Agreement is still the lynchpin of Johnson’s wobbly premiership and he needs the hard-won consensus around it to stay in place, as the good ship Britannia sways and tilts in the murky waters of No-Deal Brexit under his hesitant command.

Instead, his lieutenants are suddenly falling like bewigged dominoes. Jones has managed to unsettle Keen and if the former attorney general Geoffrey Cox keeps bellowing and Sajid Javid keeps whining, they might yet rattle Attorney General Suella Braverman and Solicitor General Michael Ellis.

To lose one law lord might be regarded as a misfortune. To lose four plus the support of two former Conservative attorneys general, five former prime ministers – and let’s not forget that partridge in the pear tree – looks like sheer wanton carelessness.

Still, it’s one thing to flout the law if you are Boris – the man who may wind up as the shortest-serving Prime Minister in recent centuries.

It’s entirely another to be a lawyer.

As Joanna Cherry MP and QC observed yesterday, “I imagine the UK Government will find it hard to find any member of the Scottish Bar to replace Lord Keen as Advocate General as long as the Tories are intent on breaking international law”. Wouldn’t it be a fabulous statement about the professionalism of the Scots legal profession if they resisted temptation and forced the post to be left vacant or filled by a suitably pliant, biddable, buyable someone from the ranks of the English legal profession or the House of Lords?

Someone like Baroness Davidson perhaps?

Holding the line and resisting personal preferment would be a great symbolic statement by members of the Scottish Bar.

Sic a parcel of rogues in another nation.

Sic a group of unlikely role models in our own.

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AND such a boost to our national confidence would be well-timed, because clearly the British Government’s willingness to break international agreements has ramifications far beyond Brexit and peace in Northern Ireland – serious though these issues are.

George Peretz QC tweeted the day after Brandon Lewis’s “specific and limited” revelation: “It is hard to think of a better argument for Scottish independence that a UK Government prepared to use Westminster’s unconstrained sovereignty to override a binding treaty commitment it entered into less than 12 months ago. What price any commitments or statutory promises on devolution now? I say this as someone who would regard the breakup of the Union as a tragedy.”

That is an extraordinary and generous observation from a leading English QC and self-described Unionist. George is clearly a fair-minded man, whose faith in the bona fides of this British Government has been shattered.

That faith went long ago for Yes voters who witnessed the failure of multiple commitments by Prime Ministers and leaders of the opposition since September 18, 2014.

Like the bit when Gordon Brown promised Scots a deal as close as possible to federalism if they voted No – when the Vow signatories promised “extensive new powers” for Holyrood and David Cameron promised we’d remain in the European Union.

All we got was the power to mitigate some of the cruellest benefit “reforms” in history and English Votes for English Laws.

So, we don’t need more lessons. Scots already have undelivered commitments on devolution aplenty – albeit nothing formal or binding. The old Tories weren’t brazen enough to make formal, written agreements they knew they would break. The new Tories don’t care.

I should thank Boris Johnson for his contribution at PMQs yesterday, when he demonstrated all this publicly and powerfully.

In response to a question from Ian Blackford, Boris insisted that the Scottish people had the opportunity to vote for increased powers in the 2014 indyref but had rejected this option. That’s not how most folk here saw it. They saw an opinion poll lead for Yes turn into a win for No, after leaders of the Unionist parties promised an expansion of devolved powers.

So much for that, then. Clearly, the Vow wasn’t worth the paper it wasn’t written on.

What a very bad time, then, for Reform Scotland founder and Devo Plus backer Ben Thomson to argue that “a second referendum on Scottish independence would be poorer without an alternative to leaving the UK or the status quo”.

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Ben believes that most Scots back home rule which can be achieved without formal independence by more powerful devolution. A very long time ago, I probably thought the same. No more.

Sorry Ben.

Home rule now MEANS independence.

Events at Westminster over the last seven days demonstrate how quickly an agreement drawn up by the British Government can be cast aside when the going gets rough.

Experience in Scotland since 2014 demonstrates how easily devolution is undermined and how completely promises of federal-style arrangements are forgotten and re-written by Labour.

We’ve learned.

Anything short of full constitutional sovereignty for Scotland is not home rule.