THERE has never been a time in the history of the Scottish Parliament when the principles of devolution have been so recklessly under threat.

It’s overly simplistic to just say the Tories hate the very concept of devolution, though they clearly do. Under Boris Johnson’s authoritarian-lite leadership, the Conservative government has become the most singularly hostile organisation toward devolution in the UK, even if it tends to couch its disdain in more politically veiled language than others who wear their zealotry for Britain more openly.

With the Tories, it’s less “we should repeal the Scottish Parliament” and more “we regret that the Scottish Government has chosen not to engage in a meaningful way” in response to any opposition to bulldozing Westminster’s plans through in Scotland without our consent.

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And with the news of further forays into devolved areas in both Scotland and Wales, any pretence that Westminster had a shred of respect left for the UK’s devolved administrations has been promptly discarded.

Whether on the issue of freeports or the Good Friday Agreement, the UK Government has made clear that existing legislation and understandings are to be viewed merely as a nuisance or unpleasant obstacle on the path to enforcing its will on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But with the potential dissolution of the UK on the horizon, and relationships between our four nations already so fragile, what option do Johnson and his enforcers retain to ensure they have their cake and eat it too? Just one: brute force.

The National: Jack McConnell

Former Scottish first minister Jack McConnell (above) recently noted that young people in Scotland now would struggle to say what the purpose of the United Kingdom was, having grown up entirely under the remit of the Scottish Parliament. It’s a sentiment I agree with, though McConnell meant it more as a warning to the British Government, rather than it being a clear indicator of Scotland having outgrown its current relationship with the rest of the UK.

I count myself among the generation which has never really known a Scotland that did not have its own Parliament and government, and I’d be lying if I said that hadn’t shaped my feelings toward the UK’s constitutional settlement – although I think it’s untrue that my generation and those coming after could really say that they haven’t felt the presence of Westminster in their lives. Anyone who has had to engage with the UK’s abysmal welfare system, or its dehumanising immigration process, is very aware of the stilted grip Britain’s institutions still have on Scots – not to mention having been dragged into the occasional illegal war.

Since the start of devolution, Westminster has broadly had an out of sight, out of mind approach to how Scotland chose to use the powers it had – and that’s really as it should have been.

With devolution, we had the option for more localised decision-making and the opportunity to take the first steps on a diverging path from England – a road that Scotland has been itching to step along since 1955, the last time we voted to elect a Conservative government at Westminster. The future of the UK only started to become shaky when, rather than faltering under the weight of making our own decisions, we flourished. That’s where Westminster’s real ire comes from; not that we took a different path, but that we were successful in doing so.

And now, like the middle manager who has just been casually asked what exactly it is they do around here, the Brits have started scrambling to justify their salary.

In theory, the Tories’ new community ownership fund is a great initiative – a programme that will supposedly help local groups take ownership of struggling pubs and community centres. But behind the faux concern for disappearing social spaces lies a more insidious purpose.

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Under the spirit of devolution, this money should come through the Scottish Government to distribute in line with its own ambitions. Instead, the Tories plan to step around our elected Parliament and award these funds themselves, a decision that, if recent reports are anything to go by, isn’t something we should trust to them to do fairly.

So desperate are the Tories to remind us all that they are still relevant in Scotland that they are willing to trample over devolution to make sure we all know just how much they care – and that’s what makes them so dangerous.

THIS is a desperate act from a government that has realised Scotland doesn’t want the ideology it is selling, so has no other option but to start forcing its way back into our communities. And this won’t come without a price to pay either.

This isn’t really about “levelling up” the UK at all. It’s a branding exercise. You can be sure any project that receives funds won’t escape the propaganda machine – and you only need to look to the eight-storey-tall Union flag being forced on Cardiff to see just how ugly it can be when Johnson (below) starts wielding the branding iron.

The National: Boris Johnson

Living under a combination of devolution and the boot of right-wing politics in Whitehall, young Scots today can only ever have really known the UK Government as either absent or oppressor. It’s no wonder that support for independence is so much higher among Scotland’s youth.

The Tories won’t be changing their stances on immigration, welfare or any other reserved matters any time soon either. Not while they have a phoney culture war to rage for the benefit of Middle England.

So that leaves them just one option to justify the role they have taken in our lives – continue treating devolution with all the contempt that British exceptionalism can provide.

Like the Internal Markets Act that came before it, this community fund is another advance of the assault on devolution, and while Johnson may be too afraid to formally park his tanks on the lawn of the Scottish Parliament for now, I am left wondering what will come next as he continues to test the waters of autocracy.