T’WAS the week before Christmas and all through the house, politicians searched Covid regs, ready to pounce.

Ok, it doesn’t scan.

Or rhyme.

But maybe you get the jist.

The restrictions just announced by Nicola Sturgeon prove she’s still the most consistent adult in the room of British politics – willing to embrace and manage Scotland’s Omicron challenge instead of trying to shy away from harsh realities a la Boris.

And that leaves Holyrood’s opposition parties in a very awkward position.

READ MORE: Omicron proves devolved governments need furlough powers, economists say

Do they oppose her Boxing Day restrictions – y’know the ones scientists recommend? The ones that prompted St Andrews University behavioural scientist Prof Stephen Reicher to tweet: “Thank God someone is listening to the science and has the moral courage to say the things all of us wish weren’t true, do the things all of us wish didn’t need to be done, but which have to be done in order to avoid much worse.”

Do they aim for temporary plaudits from the groups bitterly hacked off by curbs on footie, Hogmanay and other large gatherings after Boxing Day?

Or realise that token opposition won’t look too smart if Omicron follows the grim trajectory anticipated by Sage advisers, not the fingers-crossed sunny scenario envisioned by Boris?

Should Scottish Labour and the Tories applaud or criticise the higher level of financial support Nicola Sturgeon’s offered businesses in Scotland? Tricky – especially when such generosity doesn’t cover a day’s wages for some of the biggest hospitality firms. It’s crystal clear to everyone else that the Scottish Government has done all it can do – now the Treasury must wake up and shell out. But that’s not the message we’re been hearing from Anas Sarwar or Douglas Ross.

Just as Downing Street is “paralysed by internal division” – as Mark Drakeford put it yesterday, Scotland’s Unionist leaders are paralysed by loyalty to London and its creaking devolution settlement. Which has just been found badly wanting – again.

The world could be going to hell in a handcart, but if London doesn’t agree, the devolved nations can do next to nothing that involves extra spending or borrowing cash.

How will Scotland’s Unionist leaders react?

Shrug or agree when a respected (Union-backing) think tank says it’s crazy that Scotland must wait for an English health emergency to access extra cash – from our own taxes mind, not Number 10’s generosity.

READ MORE: Treasury admits 'additional' funds to fight Omicron come from existing pledges

It’s all a bit difficult. In fact, it’s worse than that.

The Omicron funding dilemma is fast becoming proof positive that the existing devolution settlement simply doesn’t work.

Don’t take my word for it.

A surprising joint report was delivered this week by several pillars of the establishment – the Institute of Fiscal Studies, Fraser of Allander Institute and University of Stirling Management School. They say the Scottish Government should be given minimum funding guarantees by Westminster or enhanced borrowing powers to finance emergency public health measures. Likewise Cardiff and Belfast. They also think the Scottish Government’s annual borrowing limit should be doubled pronto and have called for national or regional furlough schemes to be possible – without England.

Lordy, lordy. That’s quite a set of conclusions.

They mean Kate Forbes has been quite right to complain about the absurd constraints on Scottish Government borrowing. They mean the oft-repeated claims about Holyrood having the world’s most powerfully devolved parliament is utter Horlicks. And they also mean the Smith Commission settlement hasn’t lasted six years since the indyref without springing a leak.

How do Messrs Ross, Sarwar and Cole-Hamilton respond to that?

The National: Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivers a Covid-19 update statement on the Omicron variant at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh. Picture date: Tuesday November 30, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story HEALTH

Do they contend that Fraser of Allander Institute et al are wrong?

Or keep their heads down in the reasonable expectation that few interviewers will think to ask where all of this leaves Unionism.

But make no mistake. After failing its Brexit-flexibility trial and Covid-urgency check, our precious Union has just flunked its Omicron funding test.

Now to be fair, the boffins are not exactly explaining it that way.

Och, the current devolution settlement is only a wee bit broken. Only a wee bit inadequate. Being unable to borrow in a public emergency is only a wee bit absurd and frustrating. But read between the lines. Follow the logic.

THE Scottish Government needs stronger borrowing powers than Westminster will permit.

Who in Scotland currently disagrees? And what are we going to do about it?

READ MORE: Scotland's economy grows slightly but Kate Forbes warns of Omicron threat

Just as Brexit exposed the scale of difference in cross-border thinking, so the Omicron absurdity demonstrates that Holyrood has outgrown its pinched, wee, hand-me-doon 2015 jaiket, just as it has outgrown all the rest.

It took years for Unionist parties to accept that the 2010 Calman Commission to “secure the position of Scotland within the United Kingdom” was a dud.

Then they refused to concede that the 2015 Smith Commission was also history as the Unionist parties that backed it were almost wiped out in Scotland at the very next General Election – where the SNP won 56 of 59 seats while Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats won one measly seat apiece.

It took years for Unionists to accept that the Scottish Parliament needed welfare powers to mitigate Westminster cruelty. Now they all back Holyrood’s unique Scottish Child Payment – which was doubled last month.

What a difference a decade makes.

The National: Anas Sarwar at FMQs at Holyrood thursday STY..Pic Gordon Terris Herald & Times..23/9/21.

So, how long will it take for Anas and Doug to accept that the limits placed on Scottish Government borrowing are ridiculous? Months, years? A wee sweepstake would be interesting – if we had the time.

But for Scotland, and for Unionism, time is up.

The Tale of Two Governments that opened with Boris Johnson’s delayed lockdown in March 2020 has just begun its penultimate chapter – the Holyrood funding straitjacket.

As it bursts into glorious technicolour across our lives for the festive season and beyond, the case for more financial control in Edinburgh will fast become inescapable.

And with it, the case for a second indyref to decide precisely how much control Scots actually want.

Good luck to the Unionist politicians trying to tiptoe their way around these realities this Christmas. They’ll need it.