The National:

AS icy blizzards hit Scotland this week, there’s nothing warms the cockles quite like the Tories all a-fluster about the end of the United Kingdom.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minster’s press secretary confirmed that Number 10’s “Union Unit” chief Luke Graham was a “very, very, very valued member of staff” — the political equivalent of a football club board being at pains to stress that they have confidence in an ailing manager.

Yesterday, Graham got his jotters, in the wake of a “brutal row” following Boris Johnson’s latest day trip to Scotland. Suffice to say, the PM’s visit achieved little aside from deserved criticism for his non-essential travel. It having now been established that he undertook his PR jaunt to a Scottish vaccine production site in the aware that it was tackling a full-blown Covid outbreak, Mr Johnson demonstrated once again the recklessness which has defined his leadership through this pandemic.

READ MORE: Only Scot on Boris Johnson's Union Unit is sacked over indyref2 dispute

While 20 back-to-back polls now show the balance has tipped in favour of independence, the Conservative and Unionist Party has good cause to be worried.

The Union Unit now enters its fifth iteration in just 16th months.

In October 2019, it was announced that “to strengthen the Union and Scotland’s place in the UK, the Government has established a Union Unit within Downing Street. The unit is tasked with reviewing the impact of all policy proposals on the Union, ensuring all nations and regions are taken into consideration”.

Just nine months later we heard “a new Cabinet group has been set up to promote Boris Johnson’s agenda and devise policies that will enhance the UK Government’s standing in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”.

In October last year it was trumpeted that “Michael Gove has ordered the creation of a unit to fight Scottish independence as concern grows that the Government is failing to defend the Union”.

The National:

By November, Boris Johnson was said to have taken charge of the “union task force to boost the social and cultural case for the UK”.

These reinventions prove to some degree that Downing Street has recognised what we already knew: the Holyrood Tories don’t hold much sway, Douglas Ross lacks any authority and the Scotland Office is an irrelevance.

And now, with Luke Graham out the door, Oliver Lewis of Vote Leave infamy takes charge of a new “beefed-up union unit”. I misread that as a new bridie factory opening in Whitehall.

How this fifth-version, London-based, Brexiteer-led, taxypayer-funded political campaign operation will work it remains to be seen. I expect we will see much effort and resource ploughed into putting the frighteners on pensioners. The SNP need to be robust in calling those tactics out for what they are, but more important still will be going into May’s election with the refreshed case for independence to the fore.

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Scottish voters are a thrawn and savvy bunch. We’ve had plenty of practice at this thing called democracy in the past few years, we’re wise to Oliver Lewis’s brand of deceit learnt at the knee of Dominic Cummings and we’ve become increasingly sceptical of the Project Fear routine.

More and more Scots believe that our future should be ours – and ours alone – to determine. We should have the right to make our own decisions, for good or for ill.

And that future becomes all the more important to fight for, to keep focus upon and to avoid falling into the traps that our opponents set for us. The Union Unit has briefed that a core pillar of their strategy is to sit back and watch the independence movement squabble amongst ourselves. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Don’t play into their hands.

May’s election is about democracy, and these shadowy figures in Downing Street trying to determine the fate of our nation wish to deny us that. They are already briefing heavily what they plan to do with the powers they’ve grabbed from our parliament, reversing the gains of devolution.

For now, it seems the Union Unit is about as beefed-up as a cold plate of veggie stovies. But keep an eye on them. This lot know how to play dirty.