IT is traditionally said that the first sighting of a cuckoo heralds the arrival of spring. It is becoming equally traditional that the sighting of some cuckoo British nationalist politician wittering on about federalism heralds the arrival of British panic about the rise in support for independence.

We’re used to the regular “Broonterventions” during which the North British former prime minister paces up and down while setting out the urgent need to introduce full-fat federalism and a root-and-branch reform of what passes for a British constitution. A need which apparently wasn’t quite so urgent a few years ago during the last weeks of the independence referendum campaign of 2014. That was when he vowed that he personally was going to hold the feet of the Westminster party leaders to the fire in order to ensure that Scotland got “devo max” and the nearest thing possible to federalism in a UK where 85% of the population live in one of the constituent nations.

Although, as we all know, the second that the No vote was delivered Gordie decided that what was really urgent was to bugger off to the lucrative lecture circuit and disappeared from public view. Now he’s popping up to throw shade on everyone else for not listening when he wasn’t even listening to himself. Even the BBC is getting fed up with Gordie’s cuckoo cry now. Which is a bit like the Pope getting fed up with all this chat about Jesus.

It has been said that the Tories’ decision to replace Jackson Carlaw with Ruth Davidson’s sock puppet Douglas Ross – because the former had failed to make an impact on the public – has been a failure because Douglas hasn’t made much of an impact either, but that is not entirely true.

Douglas Ross has really hit that sweet spot in the public consciousness where you don’t have to look at why he’s trending on Twitter to know that it’s because he’s been a hypocritical wee nyaff again. You know, if Douglas Ross and Aberdeenshire smug boy Andrew Bowie are interested in putting out some tweets that won’t infuriate everyone with their glib hypocrisy – while the government that they represent spaffs millions in public money on lucrative contracts for the friends of Conservative MPs – I know a Spanish middleman who will do the job for £21 million.

It is said that Douglas is very comfortable in his new role as the face of the Johnson Government in Scotland, so much so that he reportedly sleeps like a baby, in that he wakes up every four hours and bursts into tears.

But back to the cuckoos. This week, it was the turn of former Thatcher secretary of state for the North British colony, Malcolm Rifkind, to announce his conversion to the cause of federalism. That would be the Malcolm who spent the 1980s refusing to heed the growing clamour from Scotland for devolution.

He was happy to defend the imposition of the Poll Tax on Scotland on the grounds that it was a decision made by the UK Parliament, just as he’s happy to insist that Scotland must endure the self-harm of Brexit because it was a UK decision.

Now however, Malcolm is a convert to the cause of federalism, in a way that’s not cynical and opportunistic at all, and he even proffered his newfound view without needing an undercover reporter from Channel 4 to get him to – allegedly – offer his services for a cash payment.

This week of course the Conservatives are desperately trying to reverse ferret Johnson’s remarks that devolution has been a disaster and was Tony Blair’s biggest mistake. They are doing so by insisting that what he really meant was that it’s the SNP administration at Holyrood which has been a disaster, an explanation which comes as a surprise to everyone who didn’t realise that Tony Blair was an SNP first minister.

Since the Conservatives are currently hell-bent on the imposition of their Internal Market Bill, which undermines and traduces the existing devolution settlement, no-one is disposed to believe their protestations that devolution is safe in their hands – and far less are we about to believe the assertions of a former Thatcher minister that the Tories are now a party of federalism.

Not that the Scottish media is subjecting the Conservatives to rigorous questioning. Douglas Ross was given yet another softball interview on BBC Scotland on Sunday during which he said that he couldn’t comment on Priti Patel’s bullying behaviour because he hadn’t seen the report.

Neither have I, but I have access to the news and the internet on the result of the independent inquiry. Which is how I know that she was found guilty of bullying but that Boris Johnson decided to give her a free pass, just like he gave Dominic Cummings a free pass for breaking lockdown rules.

But Douglas can’t comment and the BBC can’t press him on it because the purpose of a BBC Scotland interview with Douglas Ross is not to hold him to account but rather to give him a platform for listing all the ways in which he thinks the SNP is very bad – very, very bad.

In his latest BBC outing, the corporation allowed Douglas to pontificate about fairer funding for local authorities – because SNPbad – but didn’t think we’d be interested in knowing that Douglas Ross previously voted for a 28% cut to local authority funding. This is not at all unlike his call for free school meals and then abstaining when it came to a vote in the Commons. With Douglas and his Conservative friends, hypocrisy is not a bug, it’s a feature.

The truth is that proposals for federalism are only ever a panicked response to increasing support for independence. It is equally true that the second that the Conservatives think that the threat of independence is receding, they will get back to their all-out assault on devolution.

In any case half-hearted proposals to reform the UK are too little too late and we recognise them for what they are: a diversionary tactic, not a serious plan. There’s only one way to be sure that Scotland gets the powers that it needs to protect itself from Westminster and that’s with independence.