I’VE long thought that one of the least considered aspects of the electoral success the SNP has had in recent years has been that we’re blessed in our opponents – and at some point surely they have to wise up. Little sign of it lately, I have to say.

The news that the UK Government is taking the Scottish Parliament to court over the incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law is staggering, even after the last few years of jaw-dropping moments. The issue is actually quite straightforward: under the current constitutional arrangements Holyrood can only act within the powers granted to it by the Scotland Act and the UK Government thinks that Holyrood has legislated beyond its powers so is looking for a court to strike down the law.

The UK Tories have decided to bring this forward in the middle of an election campaign, and despite the fact the Scottish Tories in Holyrood voted for the bill. It has the unanimous support of MSPs, the Children’s Commissioner, charities and other stakeholders. It is a good thing. It is worth looking at the bill itself.

It directly incorporates the UNCRC as far as possible within the powers of the Scottish Parliament, makes it unlawful for public authorities and anyone undertaking functions or providing services to children with public money to act incompatibly with the incorporated UNCRC requirements, gives power to the Children’s Commissioner to take legal action in relation to children’s rights and requires ministers to produce a Children’s Rights Scheme setting out how they comply with children’s rights and to report annually. It also requires listed public authorities to report every three years on how they comply with children’s rights and gives children, young people and their representatives the right to go to court to enforce their rights, if necessary.

And the SNP Government has given it teeth: a £2.1 million programme over three years will help public authorities implement the legislation. This will include funding for guidance and training to help public authorities prepare for implementation. Work will also be done to empower children to claim their rights.

It is a real step shift in attitudes across our public services, a real push back against the stifling Scottish officialdom culture Lesley Riddoch so memorably described as “stand still while we fix you”.

The bill will ensure that there is a proactive culture of everyday accountability for children’s rights across public services in Scotland. This will mean that children, young people and their families will experience public bodies consistently acting to uphold the rights of all children in Scotland.

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There is nothing here to dislike. Everyone agrees. So why in the name of the wee man are the UK Tories trying to shut it down? And why, also in the name of the wee man, are they doing it now not waiting a few weeks until the election is over?

I don’t know, but I think it hints at where the actual dividing lines in Scottish politics are and where the future arguments will be fought. I have seen in Stirling at close hands the evolution of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, and it is a trend that is now clear nationwide. Even amongst the Scottish Tories there are plenty folk who are not greatly exercised by the constitution, are on the right of politics and want to get on in Holyrood by making government work and passing laws to make the place better. They are in the minority and the people who are these days in charge of the Tories are Unionists who look and sound more like the DUP than any one-nation Conservative of yore.

For them Holyrood is a thing to be contained and kept strictly within its lane. It must not, at any time under any circumstances, be allowed to get above itself. There’s elements of this attitude in the Labour Party too of course, like George Foulkes’s outrage that not only is the SNP Government trying to make Scotland better, “they’re doing it on purpose!”

There’s more rows like this to come because the SNP (and, to be fair, other parties) will not be cowed and will not self-censor. In our world view it is not Westminster that is sovereign, it is the people of Scotland as represented by our national Parliament in Edinburgh.

Devolution was always a halfway house and it is under unprecedented attack precisely because Westminster and Whitehall cannot fathom sharing power – and the Tories want to shut down anything they don’t control because they’re still too busy negotiating with themselves over what Brexit means. The UK Internal Market Act makes explicit that each and every power Holyrood and all public bodies in Scotland have is subject to the gainsay of the UK Government. This is a clear sign to officials that they should self-censor or there’ll be trouble.

And this is a dilemma I and SNP colleagues have as members of the Westminster Parliament on a daily basis. I have to strike a balance between respecting how the UK wants to run itself and making sure Scotland has the freedom to make other choices. The UK has incorporated the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but since has hardly done much on it.

That is a legitimate choice of the UK Government, but Scotland wants to go further. It is a mean-spirited, jealous apparatus that would step on that desire. But that is exactly the politics we are dealing with, and precisely why we need independence. There’s a lot at stake in this election, now’s not the time to gamble with Scotland’s future.