BORIS Johnson’s “devolution disaster” is the festive gift that keeps on giving.

Not just did it coincide perfectly with a brief lull in every other major story, thus attracting the attention of every newsdesk from London to Lerwick, but the PM’s panicked lieutenants have devised excuses that are more revealing and toe-curling than the original gaffe itself.

There’s an adage in politics – it’s not the crime, but the cover-up that gets you. Let’s adapt that for Boris – it’s not the blurt but the botched explanation that totally gives the game away.

Take Sir Malcolm Rifkind. He tried to shrug off the Prime Minister’s naked disdain for the Scottish Parliament on Radio Four by outlining what a “flippant” Boris Johnson should have said: “Devolution has become a disaster because the SNP Government are using the Scottish Parliament to try and destroy the UK.’

Ah right, that’s OK then.

Statements by the British Prime Minister are potentially meaningless (or maybe just statements about Scotland) and may be rewritten after the event through psychic contact, since Sir Malcolm presumably has little regular access with the Tory leader.

In case you’ve forgotten, Malkie was forced to quit as a Tory MP and chair of the Commons intelligence and security committee five years ago when Channel Four’s Dispatches secretly filmed him (and Labour’s Jack Straw) discussing a price for providing “useful access” to British ambassadors.

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Rifkind – MP for Kensington at the time – was heard saying; “You’d be surprised how much free time I have. I am self-employed. So nobody pays me a salary, I have to earn my income, but when I’m not doing something, I can do what I like.”

He had previously claimed his £67,000 MP’s salary was not enough to live on, which presumably explained why he billed taxpayers 5p for paper clips, 49p for a pint of milk, 70p for sticky yellow notes and 55p for superglue.

But of course, when forced out because of the woeful shortcomings in his own behaviour, Oor Malc tried to blame everyone else instead. Channel Four’s allegations were “contemptible”. No apology. No admission of fault. No contrition. I’m sure he still thinks everyone else was wrong.

But bygones.

Sir Malcolm was once Secretary of State for Scotland, so the BBC decided he was just the person to unravel the words of serial liar Boris Johnson. And what Rifkind said was hugely revealing: “The creation of the Scottish Assembly was meant to lead to the end of the SNP and the end of nationalism.”

Hang on a minute – whit?

Humble voters presumed the creation of Holyrood (and it’s a Parliament these days, Malc) was Westminster’s response to demand for self-government by Scots – but now, it seems, we were just naive.

Even though it was another political party that did the dirty deed and delivered devolution, Sir Malcolm’s psychic powers evidently allow unparalleled access to the mind of Tony Blair in 1997. So, he knows different.

Malky knows that Unionists – of every stripe – expected the pretendy parliament to end the SNP and the possibility of further constitutional change because they had designed it that way.

A more fiercely anti-democratic statement I have rarely heard.

Now maybe Sir Malcolm is o’er reaching himself in speaking for New Labour. Or maybe his statement fits perfectly with others by Labour’s George Robertson to confirm that the devolved parliament in Edinburgh was set up to stop the long slow shift towards home rule.

If you had any kind of political antennae that still registered political opinion in Scotland, you would know that’s something you can never ever admit – out loud.

How could any self-respecting politician admit to permanently fixing the outcome of another parliament’s elections?

DOES no-one in the Tory party realise it looks bad to trash a democratic system just because it keeps coming up with the “wrong” electoral results? Of course, Malcolm watched that very approach at close quarters in the 1980s when his boss Margaret Thatcher abolished the big metropolitan councils in England for electing left-wingers who stood up to her privatisation agenda.

Since that open attack on democratic rivals, the Tories have learned to act furtively, not brazenly, against institutions that won’t knuckle down. Until now.

As the disarmingly straight-speaking former Tory spin doctor Andy Maciver observes: “Even if you do think devolution is a problem, all you have to do is look at the polling evidence and realise you have to keep that to yourself … there is zero future in the devo-sceptic, abolitionist position.”

Not in Scotland there isn’t.

But then Boris isn’t in Scotland.

Not physically, temperamentally or politically. And – since he isn’t blessed with Sir Malcolm’s special powers – not psychically either.

Instead, Boris is a man in a political hole, trying to curry favour with Red Wall Tory MPs who’ve watched Labour surge since Andy Burnham’s stand against a cut-price lockdown in the North. So, he couldn’t resist telling them what he secretly believes but dare not say in public. Lieutenants like Sir Malcolm, though, have no such qualms.

Thanks to the former Scottish Secretary, having the courage to boldly and unflinchingly tell it like it is in Tory Britain, the cat is well and truly out of the bag.

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If a devolved institution is run by the wrong (democratically elected) people, its validity and its future are fair game. This isn’t a mistake, it’s not a blurt, it doesn’t need reinterpretation.

It’s a mindset thing and the Tory mindset will never change on the dangers of losing control – which is how they have always seen devolution. Whether they promise a “Union task force” to boost the social and cultural case for the UK, consisting of Tory MPs or televised press briefings, featuring the new press secretary Allegra Stratton, broadcast from – wait for it – devolved nations.

Or that other bright idea from a senior Scottish Tory MP: “Every policy needs to have a Union Jack emblazoned on it.”

Wow. It may be a kinda old one, but still wow!

It’s easy to mock – really easy. But this lame offering is proof positive.

The Tories have lost Scotland.

They don’t get this country, they don’t get the different type of state Scots want to create and they won’t allow space within the UK for that different state to develop.

Dismiss that blurt as they will, the Tories are in trouble and they know it.

Maybe someone should tell Boris’s defenders.

When you’re in a hole of Boris Johnson’s creation, stop digging.