GEORGE Galloway continues to enliven this repetitious Holyrood election by trying to out-parody himself. His TV party-political broadcast last week saw him pontificate from behind an ornate desk in some baronial setting, complete with a framed picture of an imperialist Winston Churchill on the mantelpiece.

Naturally, Mr Galloway kept on his trademark homburg hat. Watching, I was easily distracted from his exaggerated delivery – every word separated from the next by a weird pause – by the thought that he keeps on the hat in bed while making love.

However, we should not completely dismiss the eccentric Mr Galloway. On a good day he can be an effective demagogue. His role in this election is to say what the main Unionist leaders are unwilling or afraid to say for themselves in public. Unless you count grumpy Adam Tomkins’s call for Scotland to be held in the Union by “something more robust” than mere democratic consent. Together, Mr Galloway and Professor Tomkins represent a darker side of a Unionism that knows Scotland is leaving but has no political answer what to do about it.

Which may explain why Il Duce Galloway has recently uttered the word “partition” in reference to Scottish independence. According to The Hat, dissenting parts of Scotland should be able to remain in the United Kingdom, after a successful pro-independence referendum.

There would be border polls to allow regions such as Dumfries and Galloway (pun intended?), Orkney and Shetland, and even “Edinburgh and the financial sector” to remain with England. The vision of an enclave of Unionist bankers in Charlotte Square – like West Berlin during the Cold War – comes to mind, complete with its own Checkpoint Charlie.

According to Mr Galloway: “I know in Dumfries and Galloway where the great majority, more than two-thirds, oppose separatism, the demand to remain in Britain would probably become the settled will of the people there … it would be an extraordinary irony if the break-up of Britain gave birth to forces which then began to break up Scotland.”

One might consider Galloway’s Le Carré-esque fantasy of a wall around the New Town as simply a bid to win newspaper column inches. Ditto his plan for a version of a Northern Ireland statelet in the Scottish Borders could simply be a way of garnering scarce votes for himself from the local aristocracy. But therein lies the problem. Galloway has become the first politician to utter the dangerous word “partition” in the context of Scottish independence.

For my mother’s generation in Ulster the word Partition always came with a capital P and meant only one thing: the British Partition of the island of Ireland in 1921. My mother’s earliest childhood memory is being pressed to the ground by a relative as the IRA and Protestant B Specials shot it out in York Street Station, in Belfast. Her uncle always kept a loaded gun at the door of his Monaghan farm, lest the IRA pay a call.

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Partition comes laden with the idea of separating two warring tribes for their own good. It is anything but that. In the 20th century, the crafty rulers of a decaying British empire invented partition as a method of divide and rule – the better to hold on to some of what they controlled.

Partition was first invented in Ireland itself. In 1918, the people of Ireland voted overwhelmingly in a UK General Election for an independent state and seceded peacefully. True to form, the imperial Brits sent in a paramilitary, fascist band nicknamed the “Black and Tans” (for their half-military, half-civilian police uniform) and began a repressive war against the citizens of Ireland.

This coercive conflict forced the Irish into accepting a temporary border between the new Irish Free State and a largely-Protestant enclave in the north of the island, which technically would be self-governing but remain part of the UK state.

AN Anglo-Irish Treaty provided for a Boundary Commission to draw up a permanent border. In the Free State, most people assumed the Commission would agree to transfer back the largely Catholic areas retained by the North. This, however, would have made the Protestant statelet unviable economically.

So the Brits reneged on re-drawing the border and kept Northern Ireland’s Catholic community hostage and effectively disenfranchised till the 1970s civil rights movement. Instead, the British Cabinet browbeat the Free State into acquiescing to the “temporary” ceasefire border, in return for not pressing Ireland to pay its supposed share of the UK National Debt (Scotland please note regarding Trident bases).

In other words, partition was not an amicable peace settlement but a way to divide the Catholic community, empower irridentist Protestant extremists and maintain British economic influence over the whole island.

This device proved so successful that the Brits used it again in Palestine, creating Jewish and Arab enclaves – a move later embraced by the infant United Nations. Far from leading to harmony, this artificial split has enshrined decades of conflict. Ditto with the British partition of India.

So when George “The Hat” Galloway raises the political ghost of partition in the Scottish context, he is deliberately weaponising social divisions that otherwise can be managed easily within a functioning independent democracy. And he is doing so in a demagogic manner that will only exacerbate post-independence community tensions.

Fortunately, Gorgeous George is far from the levers of power. Alas, the same can’t be said for foot-in-the-mouth Boris Johnson. Speaking recently on the centenary of the partition of Ireland, Johnson vouchsafed that he does not expect a border poll in Northern Ireland for “a very, very long time to come”. He went on to tell BBC Northern Ireland that as “a proud Unionist” he is happily celebrating the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Northern Ireland Protestant Bantustan.

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Possibly silly Boris has no idea of the incendiary impact such a statement has in the North. And very possibly his ignorance of the Good Friday Agreement is such that he is unaware that international treaty gives the citizens of Northern Ireland the right to hold a border poll whenever a majority demand it – no Section 30 order required here, Mr Prime Minister.

A poll published last week in the North showed that a majority believe a border poll should be held within or after five years. Only 32% are opposed to a border poll.

Paradoxically, one of the supporters of a re-united Ireland is a certain George Galloway. Last year he told a Daily Express podcast on Brexit that he was a lifelong supporter of a united Ireland and that he thought the North leaving the UK would be “marvellous”. Such are the contradictions of Mr Galloway – contradictions which must surely be lost on his newfound Tory acolytes in the Borders.

Meanwhile, how should a Scottish state relate to No voters after independence? Answer: with the maximum of internal devolution. I see no reason why Orkney and Shetland can’t be self-governing. I want Holyrood to transfer more powers (especially over finance) to our towns and cities – a long lost SNP policy.

Above all, indy Scotland needs a written constitution that will enshrine democratic decision-making at the lowest possible level. That is the only “partition” worth its salt.