TWO images from a week where the COP26 summit is coming along like a train, supply chains for myriad goods and services are in sloth mode and a report on pandemic handling in England suggests it has been a public health disaster.

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the (still) (just) United Kingdom is posed in front of an easel trying his hand at ­painting al fresco in a luxury villa in Marbella – ­London can have such beastly weather in October.

Somewhere in his bizarre belief that he is a latter-day Churchill, he has remembered that the wartime PM, the subject of his own much-derided biography, was a celebrated dauber.

Besides, a sun-kissed week is the least he could expect in return for popping the villa’s owner into the Lords after a nasty accident with the electorate. But hey, the newly ennobled one in question has long been interested in matters environmental, so that’s OK then.

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Meantime Nicola Sturgeon, First ­Minister of Scotland, fresh from giving a Ted talk about Scotland’s commitment to ­renewables, is in Iceland at Arctic Circle Assembly where she is speaking and having bilaterals with the heads of other northern nations.

She has apparently used the ­opportunity to network with a range of leaders and ­foreign secretaries discussing the on-

rushing climate change disasters and how they may most effectively be combatted.

Yet how much does the voting ­public ­appear to care that in Sturgeon and, for that matter, Wales’s Drakeford, they have two ­serious politicians committed to their ­respective nations, whilst ­Johnson is ­content to advertise his legendary ­indolence?

The more he embarrasses us and himself, the better the PM’s party seems to do in the polls. He is a latter-day Dr Teflon somehow managing to convey the impression that crisis after crisis is “nothing to do with

me guv!”.

Taking the current crises in turn, the ­bureaucratic bourach of Brexit is ­apparently nothing to do with the fact that he fought and won an election on a promise to deliver a divorce from our allies which was widely predicted to be an economic disaster.

This is an area where the PM has ­displayed a positively Trumpian ability to be more than a little economical with the actualité.

Despite footage of his assuring ­Northern Ireland business folk that there would absolutely no customs border in the Irish Sea, that any demands for ­paperwork could be binned or sent to him for incineration, he continues to ­assert that the NI Protocol at the heart of the current row has nothing to do with the fact that his lackey designed it and he signed it.

Small wonder that the EU thinks a ­solemn promise from Number 10 has the shelf life of a chocolate fireguard.

As for that irritating report on the ­pandemic suggesting that his ­administration spaffed some £37 ­billion up a wall on a failed track and trace ­system, that he dodged most of the ­urgent Cobra meetings, that his refusal to ­implement both the spring and autumn lockdowns timeously proved criminally negligent – well who’s going to care by the time the proper inquiry gets under way? Whenever that might be. Spring is such an elastic term, is it not?

The mantra of choice that the PM and his ministers always “followed the ­science” turns out to be self-serving mince. There is particularly unsavoury footage going the rounds of Johnson ­gleefully bragging about shaking hands with Covid patients and milling around a mask-free rugby match.

It seems that while the British ­public was prepared to make all manner of ­personal sacrifices, the man to whom they looked for guidance was ignoring the very safe behaviours he was supposed to be promoting.

The First Minister’s track record over the same period has provoked external admiration, yet internal bickering. Even as Johnson’s former and present ­ministers whisper in private about the ­impossibility of working with him, there is still a ­stalwart united front in public.

Is it because they still believe he’s a ­winner as well as a w***er? Is it because they care more about their careers than their country? Who knows? Somehow they contrive to sell themselves as ­upright fire prevention officers as the building ­behind them goes up in flames. And, gawd help us, their electorate still gives them a healthy polling lead.

The situation in Scotland is no less ­perplexing. The more energy the First Minister expends on political initiatives,

the more some men – always men – ­contrive to persuade the electorate that she is completely knackered and looking for an escape tunnel.

There is another factor. The level of ­hostility towards her on social ­media is ­often at its most vitriolic among ­supporters of Scottish independence. This has been exacerbated, though not initiated, by the arrival of Alba and the looming presence of her immediate predecessor.

The charge sheet concerns the tactics deployed to gain another referendum and ultimately the independent nation state to which we are all committed. Her most stringent critics want her swept out of ­office for lack of urgency in this ­regard. The Albanites want to replace Ms ­Caution with Mr Buccaneer.

Time, I think, for a wee reality check. As many folks will know I am amongst those impatient for campaigning to begin in earnest and heavy-duty research done in-depth into those questions which will come back to taunt us from the usual ­suspects. Let’s please get some of our ­retaliation in first! Yet let’s also take a hard look at our ­options.

If we are impatient for change then waiting for another election and the king over the water to row to our aid with his new party doesn’t seem in any way logical. For one thing it shrieks of more postponement, and for another Alex Salmond – for all his qualities, he is in no position to rally the electorate to his flag.

He has done much for Scotland and a great deal for the indy movement. Like it or not, for the general public he is ­yesterday’s man. Not electable.

Similarly, if we examine the ranks of ­possible successors to Nicola ­Sturgeon none has her visibility or public ­stature. I disagree with her on many ­issues, ­referendum chronology and GRA ­being two, which doesn’t prevent my ­recognising that she is the only realistic indy game in town. Bringing her down, would be the fastest route to jeopardising the entire independence movement. How will that advance our cause?

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THE political map of Scotland, as ­Scottish Labour has cause to rue, is not ­inured to change. And a party ­divided is never one likely to win long-term ­popularity at the polls. The SNP’s good fortune is that at the moment ­neither of the leaders of the main Scottish ­opposition parties are saleable ­commodities as first minister.

In Anas Sarwar’s case because of low mileage and the perceived lack of a ­credible alternative ministerial team. In Douglas Ross’s case – well how long have you got? And, however much he struts his shrinking stage, Alex Cole-Hamilton only leads a gang of four.

I doubt the sentimental essays in favour of “this precious Union” curated by eager beaver Andrew Bowie MP will matter a hill of beans come the tussles ahead. Not least because whatever else the voters are reading to stave off insomnia it won’t be this tome. (Though frankly insomniacs could do worse!)

In short we are a movement in ­danger of giving ferrets in a sack a run for their money, whilst facing an ­intransigent ­Westminster making a ­decent fist of ­presenting a united front in favour of ­preserving the Union. We are a ­nation with a grown-up leader and an ­international reputation for seriousness of purpose, ­facing a man in danger of becoming a global joke. Let’s get real.